Looking for Champagne alternatives for Christmas? Our wine expert Kate Hawkings gives us advice on the new upcoming sparkling wines and prosecco alternatives to be drinking over the festive period. From Pignoletto Brut and Lambrusco to Moscato.
The festive season without fizz? Unthinkable. Champagne is the obvious option if the budget allows, while prosecco or cava are the go-to choice if purse strings are tighter. But there are so many other great sparkling wines out there that can deliver brilliant bubbles for your buck and make a change from the usual suspects.
Champagne can only be called champagne if it’s made in that region, but France produces other great sparkling wines that are made in the same way and command much lower prices. Look for ‘crémant’ on the label, from Bordeaux, the Loire, Limoux, Alsace or Jura.
When it comes to glassware for fizz, champagne flutes are what most of us reach for, although standard wine glasses are perfectly fine too and will, in fact, better suit wines with some complexity because they allow the aromas to express themselves in the space at the top of glass. My top tip, it pains me to say as I’m a demon for spotless glassware, is that glasses for sparkling wine are better for being slightly grubby. Carbon dioxide in the wine needs to collect on a spot of grime in order to be released as bubbles. Polish your glasses with this in mind, keeping the sides dazzling, but leaving a little smear on the bottom. Here’s to a fizzing Christmas! @KateHawkings
Bottles to try this month…
Italy’s prosecco has led the march in the massive growth of the sparkling wine market, bringing affordable bubbles to all, but so often they’re too sweet and/or with punishing acidity. Other regions of Italy, though, are making some splendid sparkling wines that are coming to our attention, with pignoletto being hotly tipped by many to be the ‘new prosecco’.
Cleto Chiarli Pignoletto Brut Waitrose (£9.99, waitrose.com)
This knocks many similarly priced proseccos into a cocked hat. Aromatic and peachy, with bright bubbles and a dry finish, it’s a great party wine and would be good with spicy canapés – try it with our super easy mar hor recipe.
Vecchio Moro Lambrusco Grasparossa Rinsaldini (£11.50, thewinesociety.com)
Lambrusco has a reputation for being cheap and sweet. This dry wine, though, is totally different – it’s refreshing with dark and crunchy fruit. Pair it with a Boxing Day buffet of cold meats and salads.
Aldi Exquisite Collection Cremant du Jura (£7.99, aldi.co.uk)
This award-winning wine is a total bargain, standing up well against others at double the price and more. Made from 100% chardonnay in the tiny Jura region in eastern France, it’s got just the right balance of acidity and fruit, and makes a great aperitif with or without nibbles.
Pinot Meunier is rarely planted in South Africa, but this wine is on a par with costly vintage champagnes. It’s rich and complex, with layers of toast and roasted nuts -fantastic value for a wine of this quality.
Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley 2016 Moscato (£11.75, ocado.com)
This easy-going wine (only 4.5% ABV) boasts flavours of strawberry and rosewater, with a lovely citrus freshness to keep its underlying sweetness in check. Ideal at the end of a meal or, perhaps even better, to have with a festive brunch – it’s good with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.