Craft 3 Sparkling Brut, South Australia, Australia NV (£10, Marks & Spencer) Although there has always been sparkling wine made all over the world, it’s only really in the past couple of decades that France’s – and by that I really mean Champagne’s – stranglehold on the posh bubbly market has loosened. For all that the quality of wines has improved, I’m not sure all these new kids on the sparkling block have really managed to make an immediately identifiable regional style. Handed a glass of one of them on New Year’s Eve, how many of us would be able to guess that M&S’s pair of Antipodean fizzes – the Craft 3 or New Zealand’s Mount Bluff Brut NV (£15) – had their origins Down Under rather than on the Montagne de Reims? Rather fewer, I think, than would be able to do so for comparable still wines. How much that really matters is moot, since both offer a classy glass of fizz for a very good price.
J Laurens Crémant de Limoux Les Graimenous Brut, France 2017 (£13.99, Roberson Wine) One genuinely distinctive style is the one that’s made sparkling wine a regular event for British drinkers rather than something we only get out on celebrations: prosecco. Does that take some of the shine off drinking it on New Year’s Eve? Possibly, although my love of Campari spritz, which works just fine with a decent cheapie, such as Morrisons The Best Prosecco NV (£7) alongside the essential red bitter, never goes out of style and will certainly make an appearance on Tuesday night. Other distinctive sparkling styles can be found in Catalonia (the toasty, herby Juve y Camps Gran Reserva de la Familia Cava; £20.90, Fortnum & Mason), Slovenia (the stone fruity Istenic Special Cuvée No 1, NV; £21.99, Novel Wines) and Limoux in France’s southern Languedoc, home of the fantastically good value, apple pie-flavoured Les Graimenous.
Gonet-Médeville Blanc de Noirs 1er Cru, Champagne NV (£40.95, Lea & Sandeman) And if – even now, when you could have a splendid English fizz, such as the electrifying Sugrue Pierre The Trouble With Dreams 2014 from West Sussex (£43.50, Hennings Wines) – it still has to be Champagne on New Year’s Eve, there has never been a more diverse selection of styles. You could go for an established older big name house currently on the top of its game, such as Louis Roederer, the makers of the peerless Cristal, whose Brut Premier NV (£46, Waitrose) is silky and gorgeously rich yet balanced with fine lines of acidity. Or you could go for one of the many grower-producers who have emerged in the past 20 years to shake up the grandes marques, such as the quite thrilling (and pound for pound, in the Champagne context, remarkable value) blancs de noir from Gonet-Médeville, with its laser-guided richness and lipsmacking, saline finish.
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