A sparkling success

James Viner selects his top bottles of fizz for the festive season…


The bubbly season is here again! It has to be fizz for New Year’s Eve. As we say goodbye to 2023, it’s a consoling thought that every waking second on the planet there are sparkling wine corks being popped in expectation and celebration.

With very little time left, you can refresh your drinks cabinet with a few reasonably priced sparklers that will make your Christmas magical. A good sparkling wine is all minimalist New Year’s gatherings require, along with some fruit juice and water perhaps. So, this week it’s joyful, compelling bubbly for The Times’ effervescent Drinks Editor James Viner’s end-of-year column.

The good news is that there are plenty of decent sparkling wines on the shelf and you don’t have to pay a fortune for them, especially given festive supermarket discounts until the start of 2024. From a canny Crémant to a striking Blanc de Blancs Champagne, these are some of the finest sparkling wines to indulge in. Whether you’re hosting a holiday party or want a special bottle to ring in the new year, these tasty 8 bottles — all under 12.5% ABV — will be exactly what’s needed to make a marvellously memorable festive season.

Bottoms up. Sip and enjoy – happy new year!


  1. Specially Selected Aldi Crémant du Jura 2020, France (£8.99, Aldi)

You can still find decent-quality bubbles on a budget. Look out for French ‘Crémants,’ French fizz made outside of Champagne using the painstaking traditional method technique (Sainsbury’s does an excellent Taste the Difference Crémant d’Alsace, on promotion from now until 1st January, down from £11.50 to £10). Also nab Aldi’s irresistible, party-ready, 100%-Chardonnay bubbly from the Jura with bold, ripe, spicy yellow plum fruit and red apple notes. At £8.99, it’s the best value sparkler under a tenner out there. Carpe vinum.


  1. Bouvet-Ladubay Excellence Crémant de Loire Brut NV, France (£14.70, Justerinis)

Hit the Crémant (the next best sparkling thing to Champagne) heights with this majestic bottle from the Loire. It was made by the traditional method, which involves ageing the wine in the bottle on its lees, in this case around 15 months. Good value, even if it’s nothing like Champagne. Mainly Chenin Blanc with some Chardonnay. Superb drinking. Want to mix it up? Sainsbury’s Crème de Cassis de Dijon is a 35cl bottle of blackcurrant liqueur that’s perfect for Kir Royales. Add a teaspoon to a glass and top it up with fizz. £8 with a Nectar card.


  1. Croser Sparkling NV Rosé, Adelaide Hills, Australia (£15 Clubcard price, until 31 December, Tesco)

If Champagne blows your budget, you can affordably pep up your New Year’s Eve party with this impressive, crowd-pleasing traditional method Aussie sparkling pink wine instead. It sports a creamy disposition and has fruity notes of strawberry, pear and citrus with a little crème fraiche and cherry. Accompany with scallops, prawns or crab. Or just sip solo.



  1. Roger Goulart, Cava Brut Reserva 2019, Penedès, Spain (£15.99-£18.90, Roberts & Speight, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Wine Direct)

The liquid in the bottle is very good – a classic vintage Catalan sparkler, made using classic local grapes (Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo) and aged for 18 months. Mellow and attractively balanced with a light nuttiness and a little toast, pineapple and honey. Don’t serve ice cold. ¡Salud!


  1. Les Pionniers Brut Champagne NV, France (£20.50 offer, down from £21.50 until 2 Jan, Co-op)

Want a tasty champagne bargain? Snap up the Co-op’s delicious, discounted Pinot-forward non-vintage blend (51% Pinot Noir, 31% Pinot Meunier and 18% Chardonnay). It’s chock-full of toasty effervescent delights and has zippy acidity and a long, citrusy finish—a giveaway champers of fine-tuned energy and finesse. Dangerously drinkable.


  1. Langham Estate Culver Classic Cuvée Brut NV, Dorset, England (£24.50 mix 6, Lea & Sandeman)

An absolute standout among non-vintage English sparklers is this debonair Pinot-dominant (66% Noir and 24% Meunier) Dorset bottle, which fills the mouth without any excess acidity. Langham’s young head winemaker Tommy Grimshaw has the vinous Midas Touch. Bursting with racy, steely, white blossom and citrus fruit, it’s a delight. Exquisitely vinous and dazzling as lustrously as the star on top of the Christmas tree. I would cheerfully go to a protracted reception where this was served. Hello lobster, trout, fish ‘n chips and gougères.


  1. Waitrose Champagne Blanc de Noirs NV,France (£26.99, Waitrose)

Champagne effortlessly complements almost any festive food, including oysters (like Muscadet and Chablis). Made for Waitrose by Domaine Alexandre Bonnet in southern Champagne, this spot-on, biscuity, 100% Pinot Noir is a humdinger that will appeal to Bollinger buffs. You get a lot of bang for your buck compared to other bottles of champagne at this price. Seamless in delivery. Buy it. Makes a fine restorative Black Velvet, with equal parts fizz and Guinness, for those who may have overdone it this Christmas.


  1. Champagne Gosset, Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, France (£57.75, Berry Bros & Rudd)

Not low-cost but a filigreed, bullseye example of a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) with some age on it. A truly excellent aperitif style. Looking very good now and just the ticket for Comté, oysters and scallops. Admirably persistent and complete. Treat yourself to this sophisticated, creamy, stone fruit and brioche-laden joy. Salute 2024 in style!


=The Best Premium Wine Glass Gift=

Zalto Denk Art Universal Red & White Wine Glass (£50, Wineware)

This is the best super-fine, premium, universal, all-purpose wine glass with a welcoming thin rim. Great for sparkling wine, too. Of course, it’s not inexpensive. 10/10.


Follow James on Instagram @QuixoticWines

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