There is no sound more satisfying to the ear than the pop of a Champagne cork, quickly followed by the steady glug of a glass being poured. Along with jingle bells, choristers and your great aunt’s racist mutterings, it’s one of the quintessential sounds of Christmas.
As thoughts start to turn to which Champagnes and sparkling wines to buy for the family Christmas, we’ve stepped in to taste our way through more bubbles than taking a dip in a Jacuzzi after eating a plate of beans. Merry Christmas, say cheers to the wines you’ll be cheers-ing with…
Perfect for: Pretending you're flying first class!
Given we now live in Brexit Britain, so it’s only right to start not with a fine Champagne but an English sparkling wine. And, as we all know, they can be just as sparkling. Hattingley Valley seizes the zeitgeist with the tag-line ‘Unapologetically British’ and it’s got nothing else to apologise for either as the Hampshire vineyard Classic Reserve is a brilliant, appley, nougaty number and ideal for Christmas drinking. They serve it as the house bubbles onboard British Airways’ first class, so at £30 a bottle, it’s a lot cheaper to order than to book a return flight!
£30 per bottle
Perfect for: Looking like you know your shizz
Billecart-Salmon just celebrated their 100th birthday and yet you’ve never seen a centurion so bubbly. The upmarket Champagne is smarter than an owl winning a spelling bee, and smooth to taste. This Christmas, mix things up a little with this cuvee, a Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose. of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, the blend’s method goes back for seven generations.
£61.60 a bottle
Perfect for: Buying Bollinger without paying Bollinger prices
Bollinger’s got a little sis, and she’s hot! And chilled. Ayala has been taken on by iconic Champagne house Bollinger, and under Chief Winemaker Caroline Latrive has gone from strength-to-strength. If you love a glass of Bolly, your heart might be about to be stolen by Ayala. Expect delicate citrus, blossom and white peach notes, and a price that’s significantly below its better known sibling for a similar vintage.
£34 per bottle
Perfect for: Getting one over on the French
Champagne needs to start checking its rear-view mirror because English sparkling wine is racing up behind it, and (secret squirrel, please) often it’s actually better! One of the grand marques of so-called ‘British Fizz’ (why did they call it this?) is Chapel Down. The Kentish winery have managed to bring much needed consistency to the process, and Chapel Down is an excellent alternative to a similarly priced bottle of something well established and French. Oh, and it’s cheaper.
Recommended this festive season would be Sparkling Bacchus, which takes the normally still variety Bacchus grape, with added bubbles, brings out an unlikely tropical palate, with tones of pineapple, grapefruit and elderflower.
£17 per bottle
For something a little more upmarket (and a little less Capri Sun) then the go-to should be Three Graces 2015. The 2015 vintage Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes combine to create a festive classic with notes of baked apples, fresh strawberry and shortcrust pastry.
£35 per bottle
Perfect for: The budget!
Aldi, yes genuinely. The low-cost shop is not exactly the first place you’d expect to look for decent Champagne, and £11.49 isn’t necessarily the price-point you’re planning for. Which is great, because you can treble your Champers-spend (or, obviously, cut your costs, but seriously..?) Aldi’s best-selling Philizot & Fils Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut is actually jolly tasty.
£11.49 per bottle
Perfect for: Impressing your pretentious uncle (and getting granny squiffy)
The Rothschilds love Champagne so much that the three Rothschild barons came together in 2007 to create Champagne Barons de Rothschild (see what they did with the name there). The Champagne has gone from great to greater in the intervening decade, with their non-vintage Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut offering notes of pear, red apple, nectarine, lemon peel, smoke almond, orchard blossom, buttery pastry and freshly baked bread.
The wine uses Chardonnay mainly from Grand and Premier Cru sites of the Cote des Blancs, blended with Pinot Noir from from Verzenay, Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Ambonnay, all aged on the lees for at least three years and a further six months after disgorgement.
Sold at Harvey Nichols, this is a Champagne that will get your granny pissed and impress your pretentious uncle.
£56 per bottle
Perfect for: Being even more classic than The Snowman
When it come to cracker jokes or Champagnes, the classics are always the best. And what could be more classic than Moët & Chandon? Pronounced Moët to rhyme with poet, and not ‘Mow-eh’, the Champagne is ubiquitous for good reason, it’s utterly and consistently decent. It also has such a strong brand, that it impresses every time.
£28.98 per bottle
Perfect for: Flying the flag!
Nyetimber are here to give all the traditional Champagne marques a run for their money, and they’ve been incredibly effective at creating consistent, high quality sparkling English wine. Covering price points for most wallets, the Classic Cuvee is ideal for serving at Christmas drinks parties. Meanwhile serve a bottle of Cuvee Chérie as an ideal pre-Christmas dinner drink. But the real treat is the 2010 vintage 1086 Rosé. 2010 was a perfect year and the silky, crystalline taste means that at £175 a bottle it’s not especially cheap, but worth it if you want to spend and impress.
Classic Cuvee MV – £27 per bottle
Cuvee Chérie – £37.99 per bottle
1086 Rosé 2010 – £175 per bottle
Perfect for: Downright showing off!
Let’s not pretend to ourselves that serving sparkling wine is anything but a tiny bit show-offy. So let’s embrace that with a full on golden bottle! Looking like something from the set of a Bond villain’s lair, or what Lewis Hamilton keeps in the glove box of his F1 car, Bottega Gold prosecco just looks cool. And, what’s more, it tastes great too.
£24 per bottle
Perfect for: Getting ahead of the game
English wine is evolving fast, with new names coining their way into consciousness as Moet & Chandon, Bollinger, Pol Roger and the like did a hundred or more years ago in France. Squerryes is one ‘brand’ that you are likely to hear more from, an English vineyard within striking distance of London but creating wines that compete on an even footing with anything from Epernay.
The Vintage Brut 2014 is a wonderful example of English Sparkling wine, grown in the North Downs and the nose gives off hints of green apple, summer meadows and freshly baked bread. Or in other words, it’s great!
£32 per bottle
Perfect for: Saving pennies for presents
Try something a Lidl different this Christmas. The budget supermarket’s sparkling wine is perfectly priced for anyone on a budget, but may well be worth checking out if you’re after quality too. Cremants are famously often just as good as Champagnes and the Loire Valley is famous for some of France’s best wines.
£7.99 per bottle
Perfect for: being perfect!
What will I personally be serving this Christmas? Pol Roger. Always have, probably always will. With Tiger-Woods-like consistency, you know exactly what you’re getting, what it’ll taste like and that it’s going to be excellent. It’s affordable, has that perfect yeasty taste and looks incredibly elegant. Not only was it good enough for the royal wedding, but Winston Churchill swore by it.
£34 per bottle