Make it a sparkling Christmas! Richard Esling December 1
This year more than ever we need to bring a little sparkle into our lives. Its been a tough year and this Christmas will be like no other we have ever experienced.
All the more reason to cheer ourselves with a lively bottle of sparkling wine and look towards the future and better times. With a definite light at the end of the tunnel, some celebratory bubbles are in order, even if the party is only for two! Once opened, good quality sparkling wine keeps well throughout the day when kept in the fridge, so perfect for lunch, with some left over for supper.
Here are a few of my recommendations for a sparkling Christmas 2020. For me, you can almost never go wrong with champagne – the drink of kings for centuries. The Wine Society has been buying Alfred Gratien Champagne for over 100 years. Made with great attention to detail in small oak barrels, it is aged for at least three years, giving extra depth, complexity and length of flavour. The Society’s Champagne Brut is £34 per bottle, with a very generous discount (30 per cent plus) on six bottles.
Next come a couple of champagnes for an even greater treat. The champagne house of Bruno Paillard is one of the lesser known brands that makes outstanding wines. Made from the top Grand Cru classified vineyards, Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs from pure Chardonnay, is an absolute gem. Aged for a minimum of four years on the lees, it has a low dosage on disgorgement, being Extra Brut with a wonderfully dry, complex finish. Purposefully made to have a gentler fizz, it is a delicate and elegant champagne, with citrus and buttered brioche notes and a sophisticated, mineral finish. £67.95 online from the Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt.
For an equally large helping of style, try Champagne Taittinger Prélude, also from Grand Cru vineyards. Taittinger is one of the last great Champagne houses to remain independent and is one of my favourite champagne brands. Stylish, elegant and complex, it is a harmonious blend of equal parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, aged for five years on the lees. Still keeping its fresh and floral character, it has a very long flavoursome finish. Order the lobster, salmon or free-range turkey at the same time! RRP of £56 but some great on-line offers if you search – e.g. £39.50 from The Champagne Company.
Moving away from the classic region for top sparklers, England is increasingly making a name for itself on the world sparkling wine stage. New on the market and coming from our own vineyards of Sussex, is the award-winning Roebuck Estates Classic Cuvée 2014. Best in Show in the Decanter 2020 Awards, it is £35 direct from the estate, with free delivery on six bottles or more. Fine, elegant and well-balanced, with a distinctive apple, citrus and buttered toast character. Blended from grapes grown in different vineyards across Sussex, it is another English triumph.
Finally, from North-Eastern Spain comes a very unusual and interesting sparkler Mar de Frades Brut Nature - the first traditional method, sparkling Albariño from the Rias Baixas region. Albarino is one of my favourite Spanish white grape varieties, and it works well as a quality, bone dry sparkler. Made with great precision, the early picked grapes are fermented slowly at low temperature. Ageing on the lees is just 10 months to preserve the fruit character. Made in a maritime climate, you can almost taste the freshness of the sea. Presented in a blue bottle, £27 from The Great Wine Company. Fabulously different aperitif, or with seafood.