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Al Luffingham, Manager at Majestic Wine, Marlborough, compares sparkling wines from two old world adversaries: France & Italy.

France and Italy both produce fantastic alternatives to champagne, both in terms of quality and value. The different methods used in each country produce wines of contrasting styles, with French fizzes typically richer and more complex. Their Italian counterparts are often lighter and simpler, making them wonderfully fresh and easy to drink.

France

Outside Champagne, quality French sparklers come from regions as diverse as Burgundy and the Loire Valley, and from grape varieties including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and even Gamay. The champagne method is widely used, with still wine bottled alongside yeast and sugar, which ferment to produce alcohol and CO2. The sealed bottle gives the CO2 no escape route, forcing it to dissolve into the wine and create the fizz. The wine is then bottle-aged, sometimes for many years, before the yeast is removed and the bottle sealed by cork. The richness and complexity of French sparkling wines derives from this ageing process.

Perle de Vigne Crémant de Bourgogne NV, Louis Bouillot
£11.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this has champagne taste at a bargain price. Lovely fresh nose of green apples, the palate is rich but with a good acidic backbone.

Bouvet Ladubay Saumur NV
£13.49 £11.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

This great-value Loire Valley sparkler is made from Chenin Blanc. Pale straw in colour, it has citrus and stone-fruits on the nose and a rich, dry palate.

Langlois Crémant de Loire Brut NV
£13.49 £11.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Owned by Bollinger, Château Langlois has produced a sparkling wine of stunning quality. Fantastic purity of fruit, fine mousse and a long finish.

Italy

Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region of northeast Italy using the tank method, with the wine undergoing secondary fermentation in pressurised stainless steel tanks at low temperatures before filtering and bottling. This system preserves the freshness and purity of fruit, producing wines that are light, crisp, dry and very moreish.

Prosecco Corte Alta NV
£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

With a nose of pear drops and citrus fruits, the palate is light with a sherbet lemon character. At only 11% alcohol, it’s a perfect lunchtime treat.

Prosecco Raboso Rosado NV
£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Pale salmon-pink in colour with a lovely, fruity, Peach Melba nose. The palate is crisp and dry with very gentle bubbles.

Prosecco La Marca Cuvée NV
£14.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Notes of white flowers and stone fruits on the nose are echoed on a palate that displays a wonderfully delicate and velvety mousse.

*All prices valid until 26th April 2010