The lowdown on Italian sparkling wines
In the run up to Christmas, wine expert Kate Hawkings picks out the best Italian sparkling wines for bargain bubbles, Boxing Day, and the big day itself
Check out our guide to Italian sparkling wine and find expert wine tips from Kate. Next learn the lowdown on oaked wine and madeira wines and for last-minute present inspiration, check out our best wine gifts. For a memorable accompaniment to your sparkling wine, check out our Boxing Day buffet ideas.
About Italian sparkling wines
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some sparkling wine as part of the proceedings. Many of us will reach for prosecco for affordable bubbles but Italy makes many other sparkling wines that are well worth considering for leftfield festive fizz.
The choice of proseccos now is almost overwhelming, from bargains that would best suit mixing with orange juice to make Christmas morning buck’s fizz, to those made in a more serious, drier style – look for the DOCG mark of quality on the label. Tesco’s Finest valdobbiadene DOCG is a snip at £9.50, for example.
Franciacorta is the champagne of Italy, a region in the north that has stringent rules on production and whose wines can be equally good (and expensive) as their French cousins. My favourite brand is the costly Bellavista, but cheaper options are available from good retailers. Further south, lambrusco is the sparkling wine of the Emilia-Romagna region, often decried as cheap, sweet red fizz fit for nothing but student parties but traditionally made lambrusco, fruity but dry, can make a really thrilling, unusual choice, and would be a hit with those who prefer red wine to white. It makes a great match for turkey but is also a happy partner for any rich, earthy food, or alongside Boxing Day leftovers.
Moscato d’Asti is a much underrated sparkling wine, made from the muscat grape in the region around Asti. Sweet and gently fizzy, and at a gentle 5.5% alcohol or thereabouts, the Italians drink it as an aperitif but it’s also lovely as a light palate cleanser to have after the main Christmas feast, and it goes brilliantly with any fruity dessert or a soft blue cheese.
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My top tip for stress-free wine buying is to plan ahead and use a good online retailer that covers all booze bases. The ever-reliable Wine Society costs a one-off £40 to join, you get £20 off your first order and the service is second to none. It’s a non-profit organisation so offers fantastic value for money, and it also has loads of tempting gift ideas – postage for everything, even just one bottle, is free.
Italian sparkling wines to buy
Araldica Moscato d’Asti 2021/ 22
- Available from Majestic (£10.99)
Aromatic with ripe peach and rose petal notes, sweet but refreshing (serve it very cold). Only 5% ABV so this would work as a luxurious brunch wine with a selection of good pastries, or as a lighter alternative to traditional port at the end of a big meal. A perfect match for fruity puds.
Vecchio Moro Lambrusco Grasparossa Rinaldini
- Available from The Wine Society (£12.31)
An incredible deep inky-purple colour, loads of autumnal blackcurrant and plummy fruit, meaty but supple red wine tannins and a savoury, herbaceous backbone all carried in this bright, breezy fizz. It’s sure to raise some eyebrows but it’s an easy, versatile wine to love.
Ca’ di Rajo Lemoss Col Fondo 2021
- Available from Wayward Wines (£15.75)
Made from the glera grape (as is prosecco), this is fermented with natural yeasts and is slightly cloudy, with savoury, bready notes alongside its zippy, lemony fruit. Dry and fresh with soft, creamy bubbles, and only 10.5% ABV so it’s perfect to kick off a boozy feast, or to accompany a fish and chips takeaway when you can no longer be bothered to cook.
Classic kir royale
Bargain bubbles are a no-brainer to have on standby in the fridge – look for offers on entry-level prosecco or cava that can easily be elevated to make stand-out cocktails at the drop of a hat. Add a dash of crème de cassis to make a classic kir royale (this also works with peach schnapps and other fruity liqueurs); make a spritz with Aperol or (more bitter and appetising) Campari; drop a sugar cube, a splash of brandy and a dash of Angostura bitters into a flute and top up with the fizz; or mix it with cranberry juice and triple sec to properly get into the Christmas colour spirit.
For more festive drink inspiration have a look at our top Christmas cocktail ideas.
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