There’s no doubting a good champagne offers the ultimate taste sensation, but if you’re after the indulgence without the hefty price tag, it’s worth looking beyond the heart of Champagne itself.
Simonnet Febvre P100 Blanc de Noir Cremant de Bourgogne, France (£15.95, www.privatecellar.co.uk) is an exceptional cremant made from pinot noir, the same grape primarily found in Champagne Bollinger. It’s toasty on the nose with good body and weight and hazelnut and apple notes with delightful freshness on the finish.
Italy’s answer to Champagne is Franciacorta, hailing from Lombardy and made in the traditional method using champagne grapes. Try Majolini Franciacorta Brut, Italy (£20, www.batwine.co.uk), with a gold vermeil label for glitzy occasions and a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. With a white flower nose, the finest mousse, spiced white peach and candied fruits on the fresh, floral finish, this delectable sparkle is all about Italian finesse.
The trend for prosecco reaches fever-pitch at this party time of year, and the best tasting supermarket own-label prosecco – a market flooded with extra dry styles of the glera grape – is Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano Magnum, Italy (£13.99 from £18.99, from November 20 until December 24) which is a brut style (dry) with less sweetness. This magnum (the equivalent of two bottles) is made for Sainsbury’s by a small winery near Conegliano in the heart of the Veneto region of northern Italy.
With a floral nose, terrific apricot and citrus flavours, a soft mousse and a creamy finish, one magnum will quickly disappear in a flourish of crystal flutes.
Dressed in white, Perlezza Prosecco Brut, Italy (£7 from £9, from December 5 to January 1, 2014) would be an ideal serve for a winter wedding. Meaning pearls, Perlezza is a glera gem from SPA that should be snapped up while on special offer. Uncomplicated and in a brut style, this The International Wine & Spirit Silver Award Winner has aromas of crisp apple and peach combining with light and delicate citrus notes for a dry, fresh and fruity fizz.
A good cava can satisfy a thirst for champagne but, with so many knock-down deals and bland styles, you must quaff carefully. To savour the best of this Spanish grape variety, be guided by price and stay clear of anything under a fiver. For a delicious example, try Tempus III Cava Brut, Spain (£9.99, www.virginwines.co.uk) which is made from a single variety, macabeo, and produced outside of Penedes, traditional cava country. Fresh and fragrant with a hint of brioche on the nose and a creamy texture with a lemony richness, it’s a really good all-rounder that can be sipped casually before lunch, or paired with party plates of canapes, smoked salmon blinis and savoury snacks.
Chile likes to try its hand at most grapes, and with an attractive lipstick pink label, Cono Sur Sparkling Rose, Chile (£9.50, www.slurp.co.uk) is as pleasing on the palate as it is to the eye. A salmon pink rose made from 100% pinot noir, these fine beads of bubbles are fresh, dry and delicate with summer fruit flavours, and totally over-deliver at the price.
Wine wisdom dictates that if you pop the cork on a premium sparkling wine from one of the most exciting regions Down Under, you could be in for a big surprise. And if Krug is on your wish list but you can’t afford the King of champagne, Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvee 2007, Australia (£21.99, www.frazierswine.co.uk) could be the next best thing. These fully matured golden bubbles share a similar mouth-filling weighty fruitiness, blessed by a whiff of freshly baked bread and an undercurrent of tropical fruits on the sumptuous, rich finish. A blend of chardonnay and pinot noir made in the methode Tasmanoise (Aussie for traditional method champenoise), Jansz is a total joy and offers seriously good value.