How to enjoy a sparkling Christmas

How to enjoy a sparkling Christmas

Times Drinks Editor James Viner has rounded up five highly recommended sparkling wines that are sure to make any party go with a bang!

Move over Prosecco! From a brilliant homegrown sparkling pink wine, through to Cava, Champagne and a sophisticated bottle of dealcoholised Aussie bubbly, here are five special festive sparkling wines to try…

1) Must-try savoury & delicious supermarket traditional method giveaway Spanish bubbly

Specially Selected Vintage Cava 2017, Spain

Aldi, £6.49, 11.5%

The word ‘cava’ means cellar in Catalan and the term was slowly embraced by producers in the ‘70s and ‘80s. When the DO was created in 1991, the name was officially accepted to refer to those sparkling wines made using the traditional method of producing the bubbles by a second fermentation in the same bottle in which it’s sold. This vintage Cava is an ideal budget Christmas bottle for (mini) family get-togethers or when the Covid-19-tested neighbours come around for a socially-distanced sherbet. A serious bargain, it’s super-fresh with focused appley acidity and lively bubbles. Pairs beautifully with Cantonese dishes, tandoori chicken, sushi, oysters and smoked salmon.

2) Bold and beautiful bargain NV champers made by Piper-Heidsieck

Les Pionniers Brut NV Champagne, France

Co-op, £19, 12%

This is my favourite high street own-label Champagne. It’s at once reassuringly biscuity, creamy, zesty, toasty, crowd-pleasing, deluxe and highly quaffable. Ideal as a lip-smacking aperitif – or enjoy with fish and chips, a decadent plate of oysters, gougères, salted crisps, cashews, fresh/smoked salmon, lumpfish caviar blinis or rillettes de la mer on slivers of baguette. Really looks the part too with a fetching new label.

3) Vintage champagne to serve at the festive feast and toast the new year

Tesco finest* Vintage Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs 2015 Champagne, France

Tesco, £26, 13%

This is a 100% Chardonnay (‘Blanc de Blancs’) vintage Champagne with an expressive, classic nose of honey, late-season apples, nectarine, nougat, crystallised lemon, dried apricot and nuts. It’s a refined wine from a warm vintage that holds its head well above many other costlier big-name bottles. Star match for grilled seafood, smoked salmon starters, camembert and – surprisingly – blue cheese. One to pour when toasting the New Year at midnight!

4) Must-try minerally English sparkling vintage rosé wine created by Barbara Laithwaite & her winemaker son Henry

Wyfold Vineyard Brut Rosé 2017, Berkshire, England

Laithwaites & BBC Good Food Wine Club, £26.99 mix 12, 12%

Tasted blind, I recently enjoyed a bottle of this ravishing traditional method pink sparkler en plein air with a colleague and it blew my mind. Given the trademark lively acidity, it was recognisably a top-quality cool-climate wine. Made from 51% Chardonnay, topped up with 28% Pinot Noir and 21% Pinot Meunier, you get a mineral and summer fruit-laden festive mouthful. Brisk, well balanced and persistent, this seduces and slices its way through the palate. A gorgeous sparkling wine with plenty of citrus and biscuity pizzazz. Aperitif o’clock. Would also be a treat with sushi (hello again tempura prawn nigiri at Kitsu, Tunbridge Wells!). Produced on a high, cool, south-facing vineyard established on gravel and flint over chalk in the Chiltern Hills in 2003, just to the west of Henley-upon-Thames, it makes for joyous drinking.

5) Crisp and fruity dealcoholised sparkling wine substitute

Edenvale Sparkling Cuvée NV Alcohol Removed, Australia

Laithwaites, £4.99, 0.5%


’Tis the season to be merry, but that doesn’t have to involve boozy beverages

When it comes to ‘Low and No’ drinks I always reach first for a superior no-alcohol beer – Germany’s Lucky Saint Unfiltered Lager (Tesco, £1.50 Clubcard price, 330ml, 0.5%) was a revelation and it was the same when I tried this lemony alcohol-free Semillon-based Aussie sparkling wine at a virtual press tasting last month. This fruity sparkler is really worth seeking out, especially for guests who are driving or teetotallers, since it has been dealcoholised and made in the traditional way. Contains less than 0.5% abv, a level comparable to that found in natural fruit juices. Try it with canapés, oysters or spicy cuisine. A great option for Dry January, too. Abstemiousness doesn’t mean missing out on taste.


Support local English winemakers

Celebrate the holiday season with sparkling wines from the following top 6 – mainly local – producers (there’s not space to mention everyone):

Hambledon Vineyard, Hampshire; the country’s oldest commercial vineyard). Wine to try: Classic Cuvée Rosé NV (£35, Hambledon)

Herbert Hall, Marden, Kent. Wine to try: Vintage Brut 2016 (£34.95, case of six, Lea & Sandeman)

Langham Wine Estate, Crawthorne, Dorset. Wine to try: Culver Classic Cuvée Brut NV (£25.75, case of six, Lea & Sandeman)

Nyetimber, West Chiltington, W. Sussex. Wine to try: Classic Cuvée NV (£37, Nyetimber)

Rathfinny Wine Estate, Alfriston, E. Sussex. Wine to try: Rosé Brut 2018 (£36, Rathfinny)

Squerryes Winery, Westerham, Kent. Wine to try: Vintage Brut Reserve 2018 (£32, Squerryes)


Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year to you and yours. Cin cin!

Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine



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