Our resident Young Wine Writer of the Year, Majestic Covent Garden Manager Andy Lloyd, spreads some seasonal cheer, taking you through the very best of our festive fizzes in his own inimitable style.
I recently went to see a comedian who I was at University with. There’s always one, isn’t there? He started off by putting himself in our shoes. “Hope it’s not rubbish,” he thought we might be thinking, “I’ve brought friends, you know, and if it’s rubbish, they’ll all blame me.” It won’t be rubbish, he reassured us, and thankfully it wasn’t.
The sentiment strikes a chord now, writing this. Christmas bubbles will most likely be bought and shared with family, friends or colleagues. This is a wonderful tradition but leaves a nagging sense of responsibility hanging over the buyer. “Please, please… don’t let it be rubbish.”
There is so much choice it can seem bewildering. Brand names, styles, vintages. Then there is the little matter of price to factor in, and beyond price, good value. But simplify it down and things seem clearer. There are numerous ways, but I see four sections into which I crowbar nearly everything. First there is the good quality sparkling wine that doesn’t cost the earth section, or GQSWTDCTES for short. This is what Prosecco and Cava were born for. My choice would be the Prosecco di Conegliano, easy-going, refreshing and eminently drinkable.
Next is the premium sparkling section – or ‘Champagne by any other name’ section. Wines in this group often punch well above their weight. Pound for pound, I rate them as some of the best value sparkling wines available. Green Point NV is a cracking starting point but move onto Cloudy Bay Pelorus ‘05 for a dazzling sparkling wine worth far more than its price tag.
Champagne under £20 has its own section because it is so popular. It has one huge advantage over the premium sparkles – it is the real deal, the true Champagne. Jacquart NV, Canard Duchêne NV (and Nicolas Feuillatte NV) are the standard-bearers in this bracket, the old firm, and they continue to offer the highest quality Champagne at the best prices.
Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry NV, Italy
£11.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Prosecco La Marca Cuvée NV, Italy
£14.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Codorniu Reina Maria Cristina 2006/07, Spain
£17.99 £14 .99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Green Point Brut NV, Australia
£17.99 £16.49 or £10.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV, New Zealand
£19.99 £19.49 or £12.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Cloudy Bay Pelorus 2005, New Zealand
£23.99 £22.49 or £14.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Veuve Joubert Réserve Spéciale NV
£27.99 £20.99 or £13.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Jacquart Brut Tradition NV
£26.99 £24.99 or £14.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Canard-Duchêne Brut NV
£26.99 £25.49 or £16.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Then there is the brands section, usually starting to battle it out between £20 and £30. To my taste, which has a preference for a weightier flavour experience, Bollinger is in a class of its own. The stylish nature of the finish just lingers on and on. On the lighter, more elegant side of the scale, Taittinger and Perrier-Jouët are the names I look out for. That is how I see it anyway, but it’s all subjective. As comedians will tell you, every crowd is different. One of the greats, Eric Morecambe had it figured out. “What do you think of it so far? Rubbish.”
Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV
£35.99 £31.99 or £23.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
£44.99 or £29.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Belle Epoque 1999/2002, Perrier-Jouët
Bollinger Special Cuvée NV
£44.99 £39.99 or £29.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Bollinger Rosé NV
£67.50 £60.00 or £39.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Bollinger Grande Année 1999/2000
Taittinger Brut Réserve NV
£39.99 or £26.65 when you buy 2 bottles*
Taittinger Rosé NV
£49.99 £45.00 or £29.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
£49.99 or £37.49 when you buy 2 bottles*
*All prices valid until 1st February 2010