Here’s how to sparkle in style this party season, without blowing the budget. Sam Wylie-Harris toasts the rise of budget-friendly bubbles.
Popping corks is one of the jolliest ways to get the party started, but while we all have our go-to favourite fizz, we can’t always afford to splurge on the most famous and fanciest champagnes (even though Dom Perignon may be in our dreams).
That needn’t dampen the festive spirit, however. With so many other brilliant bubbles bursting onto the scene and offering superb value, there’s no reason to feel like you need to hold back and put the brakes on those fab fizz-fuelled nights. And as much as we love prosecco on tap, there’s a stream of other sparkling wines vying for our attention too.
To make those glasses tinkle without having to be cash-rich, here are seven more purse-friendly celebratory bottles to toast the season…
1. Vuestro Spanish Sparkling Wine, Spain (£6, or two for £11 throughout December, Co-op stores)
A just-released sparkler, this Spanish gem is to the drinks aisles what Zara is to fast-fashion. Instantly appealing – we love the stylish label – it’s a crisp, lively blend of airen, viura and verdejo grapes, which lend the wine its fruity freshness. With lovely soft beads of bubbles, citrus-edged rounded fruit and a refreshing finish, it’s a brilliant buy and bang on the money.
2. Tesco Finest Pignoletto, Vino Spumante Brut, Italy (£8.50, Tesco)
An Italian variety from northern Italy, pignoletto has been cited as the new prosecco – and while it’s reminiscent of the gentle, blossomy and peachy notes of the glera grape (that makes prosecco), it’s dryer than its more famous cousin, with juicy apple and pear flavours and a floral, fresh finish. Delicious on its own, it also pairs beautifully with thinly sliced parma ham and will be guzzled down in no time.
3. Miguel Torres Estelado Extra Brut Organic Sparkling, Chile (currently reduced to £10.49 from £11.99, RobertsAndSpeight.co.uk)
It’s always fun to kick up one’s heels up and discover new grapes, especially when it’s from the much-acclaimed Miguel Torres estate with brand new ‘green’ bubbles in the offering.
Pronounced ‘pie-eece’, and meaning country in Spanish, pais was one of the first grapes to arrive in Chile in the 16th century. Little known outside its birthplace, today it’s making top quality wines – and this first-class fizz has a caramelized nutty note with beaming citrusy fruit and an exhilarating finish.
4. Bouvet Ladubay Bouvet Saumur Brut NV, France (£12.99 each, or £9.99 Mix Six, Majestic)
If you’re looking for the next best thing to champagne, lovers of beautiful fizz frequently suggest a Cremant de Loire made with the same traditional method – and we think these affordable sparkling wines from the Loire Valley can be just as pleasurable.
Proffering value and quality, Bouvet Ladubay are the most awarded sparkling wine house in France (outside of Champagne), and this classic brut style has plenty of orchard fruit charm. Made predominantly from chenin blanc, it’s super fresh with floral, fruity aromas and hints of honeysuckle, peaches and apple blossom, that glide along to a long, harmonious finish.
5. Greyfriars Sparkling NV Cuvee, England (£18.50, GreyfriarsVineyard.co.uk)
While the English bandwagon of award-winning bubbly is quickly gathering pace, celebrating Christmas with the best of British can be pretty pricey – so this is a terrific opportunity to enjoy the best value English sparkling wine our verdant vineyards have to offer.
A blend of traditional champagne grapes (chardonnay, pinot noir and meunier), there’s a toasty complexity on the nose with hints of almond leading to crisp citrus flavours – and a racy acidity that cries out for party fish and chips and creamy dips and crisps.
6. Co-op Les Pionniers NV Champagne, France (£18.99, The Co-operative stores)
Sometimes, the best way to win in the fizzy stakes is to go with the critics’ choice, especially if you’re overwhelmed by the choice of champers on display. Awarded a Which? Best Buy, this great value own-label champagne was described as “elegant and well-balanced” by the panel of experts.
“We’re delighted to be raising a glass this Christmas to an excellent Best Buy champagne for less than £20, proving you don’t have to pay through the nose for delicious fizz,” says Which? magazine editor, Harry Rose. We’ll drink to that!