Don’t get me wrong – if you hand me a glass of bubbly my mood will surge by approximately 3000%. Maybe more. It’s just if you ask me to buy some Champagne I might sort of laugh in your face. “HOW MUCH? But I could buy SHOES with that. ARE YOU MAD?!”
Since working for a wine company over the past five years, I’ve been lucky enough to drink a lot of sparkling wine. I love it, from the light, spritzy, appley stuff right down to the rich varieties with a ‘mousse’ that’s all biscuity and crisp. Granted, some of it has been bloody awful. On the other hand, some of it has been so good I’ve had to polish off the bottle while no one’s looking. And the one fact I’ve learned is that the verdict I’ve come to has never been helped one bit by the fact that the bottle I pour it from has the word ‘Champagne’ scrawled on it.
I don’t think you need to buy Champagne at all. If you want to, if you have enough money that it doesn’t really matter that you’re paying more than you really need to, or if there’s a particular characteristic you’re after that you can’t get anywhere else – then go for it. But if you’re looking for decent, refreshing, pleasingly complex wine with a bit of sparkle, you do not have to spend Champagne prices. Here are three faves which leave my pockets a lot smilier:
1. Blanquette de Limoux
Light, bright, and fragrantly fruity. Great for a light-hearted reception, or a celebratory lunch.
Tesco Finest does a nice version for £9.96, or an even lighter variety (only 6.5%) comes from The Wine Society at £8.95 (you have to be a member to buy from this one though – but as I explained before, it tends to be worth it price-wise.)
Most people who think they know about sparkling wine wrinkle their noses up when you say the P-word. Cheap filth, you know. Well, you clearly haven’t tried this one from The Wine Society. £8.95 per bottle, and it is bee-autiful. The ‘frizzante’ bit means it’s only lightly sparkling, and it has lovely aromas of pears. I have this on Christmas morning most years.
Why not get out there and experience it in the heart of Prosecco-land, (or as most people call it ‘Italy’). This Guardian article tells you how.
3. Vouvray Petillant
If you want the rich, biscuity style you find with good Champagnes, then you need look no further. The 2005 by Domaine Huet has been aged on the lees (that’s yeast and other particles that are left over from fermentation) for four years, giving it greater complexity and texture as well as yeasty aromas in the fine mousse. This wine also has gorgeous bruised apple fruit and a long, luxuriant finish. Real finesse at only £14.95 (from The Wine Society), or £24.50 from Berry Bros.
Image taken from nImAdestiny‘s photostream.