Five Fizzes for a Celebration
Many see popping a bottle of bubbly as the most traditional way to mark special occasions. How it became so, I am not altogether sure. Certainly films, TV and advertising have played a big part in cementing it into our minds as the go to beverage when there is something to shout about. Scientific proof exists that the delivery system of alcohol within those tiny chambers gets into our blood stream faster and therefore makes us tipsier quicker. But could it be also be that there’s a little magic in those bubbles? I like to think so.
Here are five bottles to suit five budgets for those times when only fizz will do.
Tin of Sardines
Many think of Prosecco when it comes to the cheaper end of the spectrum but I feel Spanish Cava actually offers better value and more complexity. Most supermarkets do an own label around five quid but Tesco gets the most plaudits for its Cava NV and Cava Rose both at £4.99.
At this level Prosecco starts to get a look in. There’s good stuff from all the big retailers between the seven (Lidl) to ten (Sainsbury’s) pound mark. Look out for the name Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore with a vintage. They are more regulated and therefore quality is usually higher. New World sparklers from South Africa (Graham Beck) and New Zealand (Lindauer) also feature and are often on offer at Majestic Wine for less than £10. For those with a sweet tooth and fancy something with lower alcohol (most around 5% ABV) then Moscato d’Asti or Dolcetto/Brachetto d’Aqui from Piedmont (Northern Italy) are possibilities.
Your options really open up here with finer Prosecco and Cava, but France comes into the game with Champagne Method wines from all around the country. Names to remember are: Blanquette de Limoux and Crémants de Bourgogne, Jura, Alsace, Limoux and Loire. Quality improves down under with Jansz (Tasmania) & Pelorus (NZ). Stealing the show though is Champagne Veuve Monsigny Brut No. 3 from Aldi. £12.99 a bottle and as good as big names at twice and three times the price.
Now you may not know it but the UK is fast becoming a top player in ‘fizzyland’. Plus we are seeing more top producers on shelves all the time. Between £20-30 I am a huge fan of the range of cuvées from Ridgeview in Sussex. Established names like Chapel Down and Nyetimber are widely available but look out for Camel Valley and Gusbourne as well. If you must go across the channel I would plump for non-vintage: Piper Heidsieck, Louis Roederer, Pol Roger or Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noir.
Siberian Sturgeon Caviar
At the top end there’s good vintage English rosés from Nyetimber and Balfour Brut but the C word has it pretty sewn up in regards to premium bubbles. My stellar performers are Bollinger Special Cuvée NV, Ruinart NV and 2002 Pol Roger Brut at £45-65. But if you are really pushing the boat out then Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999/2000 is a beauty, not forgetting of course Krug Grande Cuvée NV and the mighty Dom Perignon, which are all north of £100.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are numerous fantastic small producers out there (Billecart Salmon is another I have mentoined in previous blogs). I have however tried to be democratic in terms of my recommendations so that wherever you live in the UK (or even beyond) you should be able to easily track these bottles down.