Lauren Denyer, Wine Educator at WSET says it’s time to pop the corks, the festive fizzy season is upon us. There is no better way to celebrate than with some delicious glasses of bubbles!
Champagne or Prosecco will be on the shopping list for most but the range of super sparklings is huge. Look a bit further and you can find mouth-wateringly beautiful wines and get some bang for your buck.
Italy is known for Prosecco but they make fabulous Champagne-style wines too. There are two main regions that do this; Franciacorta and Trentodoc. These wines are made using the traditional method (the way Champagne is made) and mostly with the same grape varieties as Champagne; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These wines are fruity and biscuity with soft persistent bubbles and a lovely toasty richness on the palate. They are rarer but check with your local Italian deli or specialist wine shop to see if you can get your hands on some. You won’t be disappointed!
Perhaps a little easier to get hold of is Cava. The reputation of Cava has suffered a little because a lot of it is not that exciting. However there is plenty of really good stuff out there! The trick to finding it is to check out the label. Cava de Guarda Superior is a relatively new labelling term which means the wine has aged in bottle with yeast (as Champagne does) for at least 18 months, usually a lot longer, giving the wines great complexity. These are also organic wines. Look out for Reserva and Gran Reserva on the labels too. The local Spanish varieties used give the wines personality and currently these styles of Cavas are criminally underpriced. So take advantage and impress your friends with these delicious wines, perhaps paired with some Spanish inspired Christmas tapas bites!
Pet Nat (Pétillant Natural) wines are very on trend at the moment. These wines will usually sport a very funky, creative label and can come from anywhere and be made from any grape variety. They look fab on the table and if you like more artisanal beverages, like craft beers and ciders then Pet Nat wines, with a gentle fizz from a continued fermentation in the bottle, may be right up your street.
South Africa makes some super sparkling wines too. Their Method Cap Classic wines are also made like Champagne and cost a fraction of the price. With riper orchard fruits and a hint of bread these are real crowd pleasing wines.
There are also a lot of no-alcohol sparkling wines on the market and the quality of these is getting better and better. For those that are not drinking this festive season there are now ample opportunities to toast and enjoy a glass of fizz.
A misconception with sparkling wine is that it is a pre-dinner or party drink. Most of these styles of wines mentioned above have high acidity and complexity so you can drink them with your starters, and if you fancy even with the turkey! The bubbles give body and the acidity cuts through the fatty elements of the dish. Cheese is also a great pairing for these wines.
English sparkling wine is known for its really zesty acidity so is fabulous with rich and fatty foods. These wines are also made using the traditional method and the same grapes as Champagne so offer a great range of flavours. Mostly citrusy, with apple and creamy notes, and hints of brioche these wines are great with food. Think salmon en croute or with the slightly sweeter demi-sec styles tarte tatin/apple pie.
A wonderfully Italian seasonal pairing is Asti with panettone. Moscato d’Asti is a light, sweet, aromatic and gently frothing wine from the north of Italy. It has very low alcohol so is perfect for those guests watching the alcohol intake. The soft panettone cake and mild bubbles along with the great fruity flavours make this a lighter Christmas dessert alternative.
Lauren Denyer, Wine Educator at WSET