Adding fizz to the Christmas celebrations need not break the bank or challenge the tastebuds, weites Christine Austin
As the family heads home, there is no better way to celebrate Christmas than with a bottle of fizz. Champagne is always a popular choice but the quality of sparkling wines from around the world is so good that you can tailor your spend to suit the occasion.
As the supermarkets battle for their share of the market, there are some cracking deals around, but to save you ending up with something thin and acidic in your glass I have checked out the best tastes and the best prices. Here is my selection of the ones to buy this Christmas. Under £10
• Moscato Spumante, Aldi, £4.99. From Piedmont in Italy, this is a wine that is full of frothy fruit with a fragrant, grapey taste. Pop the cork on this mid-afternoon, with a sliver of cake or a sneaky plateful of last night’s pud.
• Cava Heretat el Padrull Brut NV Marks and Spencer, £8 down to £5.33 until January 1. One of the best good-value cavas on the market with honeyed, toasty flavours and a full rounded style. Pour it with canapés when the neighbours come round.
• Finest Pignoletto NV, Tesco £8.99 down to £6.99, and down to £5.59 on a three-bottle multibuy. This is the new taste from Italy. Pignoletto is an old grape variety, now replanted and it offers lively, tangy, peachy, sherbetty fruit in this new-style fizz from North-East Italy. Good at its full price and terrific value on offer.
• Philippe Michel Crémant de Jura, France, Aldi, £7.29. This is a terrific 100 per cent Chardonnay fizz, made in exactly the same way as champagne, from grapes grown in the Jura region of France. It has a soft creamy mousse and a fresh-tasting, crisp, dry finish. It tastes well above its price point and should be a staple for any large gathering.
• Codorníu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2011, Majestic, down from £14.99 to £9.99 on multibuy. Made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir, aged on its lees for 15 months and showing rounded brioche and raspberry flavours, this has class well above its price point. £10 - £15
• Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne down from £19.99 to £12.99 and then down to £10.39 on three-bottle Finest multibuy until December 31. There are (slightly) cheaper champagne deals out there but for sheer flavour for money this is hard to beat. Made from 70 per cent Chardonnay which gives it a real zing, with 30 per cent Pinot Noir adding richness and fruit. Stock up, it won’t come to any harm with a few extra months in bottle and will drink wonderfully in summer sunshine.
• Chandon Brut NV, Argentina, Majestic, down from £19.49 to £12.99 on multibuy. Yes, this is the same Chandon as in Moët et Chandon Champagne, but since it comes from the high altitude vineyards of Argentina, it is called sparkling wine. But the process is the same and it is a blend of the same grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. As for taste it is richer, with slightly more sunshine and toast than the French wine.
• Nicolas Feuillatte NV Champagne, Morrisons, down from £29.99 to £14.99 until January 4. Distinctly challenged at Morrisons’ full price, but on offer this is a great deal. It has light, clear, pear and apple fruit with a gentle fizz and pure, clean finish.
• Leon Launois Champagne Magnum, Aldi, £29.99. If you are planning a party then a magnum (two bottles’ worth) is always a show stopper. It is a clean, bright fizz with honeyed, lemon on toast flavours. Pour carefully and you might stretch a magnum between 18 people. £15 to £20
• Oudinot Brut NV, Marks and Spencer, down from £25 to £16.67 until January 1. Consistently one of my favourite supermarket champagnes. This always hits the right notes with ripe pear fruit, creamy, toasty notes and just enough zing to keep you sipping. Buy more than you need to last until summer.
• Chapel Down Brut NV, England, Morrisons, down from £21.99 to £16.99 until January 4. Southern England is now recognised for the quality of its sparkling wine and this one is terrific. Lighter and less toasty than Champagne, it has clean, zesty, floral note that makes it English.
• Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, down from £24.99 to £19.99 until December 30. Another supermarket champagne that consistently holds its head up in expensive company. Pure and lively with citrus and lime blossom notes. £20 to £30
• Josef Chromy Sparkling NV, Tasmania, Australia, Marks and Spencer £20. Not on offer but well worth a try. Tasmania is definitely cool climate and this fizz is full of apple blossom, green crunchy apples and warm wheat biscuit notes.
• Jacques Boncoeur Brut Reserve Champagne, Bon Coeur Fine Wines (01765 688200) £21.99. Specially blended for Bon Coeur and now with a silver medal from this year’s International Wine Challenge, this is a Pinot Noir-rich champagne with rounded, toasty notes and a hint of tarte tatin.
• Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2009, England, Majestic, down from £35.99 to £23.98 on multibuy until February 2. This is not just a home-grown alternative to champagne, in blind tastings it has beaten many champagnes for its toasty, rounded, balanced flavours, backed by a fine, citrus freshness.
• Louis Roederer Brut Premier, NV, Firth & Co, 01677 451952, £29. Continuing to beat the major retailers on price, Andrew Firth in Newton Le Willows is selling this gift-packed, gorgeous champagne at a bargain price. Stock up while he is feeling generous. Is the Economic Recovery in Sight?
• Gosset Grande Réserve Brut, Champagne, Harrogate Fine Wine £49.99. When there are so many champagne offers, why pay over the odds for this one? The answer is sheer quality. This champagne consistently out-shines some of the better-known names with weight, toast and above all, elegance.
• Bollinger La Grande Année Brut 2004, Waitrose £74. My tasting notes just say ‘wow, fabulous’. Is it worth the money? Who cares? If you don’t spend it, the kids will. But don’t share the Bollinger with them; they will only get a taste for the high life.