Add a little more sparkle this Christmas
Much like Santa and Rudolph, sparkling wines and Christmas tend to come as a pair. Whilst big Champagne names like Moët or Bollinger may be the obvious choice, there are lots of wonderful bubbly alternatives to consider this festive season.
Champagne can only be named as such if it’s made in the Champagne region of France. It’s created using a classic blend of three grape types: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, using a highly regulated, complex process. Many other places worldwide also use the same blend of grapes and the traditional Champagne making method to produce wonderful sparkling wines that taste very similar to Champagne - they simply aren’t labelled as such.
Explore English fizz
England is one of the countries where exceptional quality sparkling wine production is flourishing, giving Champagne a run for its money! A shift in British climate means counties like Sussex and Surrey are experiencing grape-growing conditions that mimic the Champagne region of France. Winemakers in the southeast of England are using the Champagne blend to produce lively, fresh, and elegant English sparkling wines with notes of buttered brioche and lemon nougat.
Other brilliant bubbles
Crémant is a delicious style of sparkling wine that is made using the same bottling technique as Champagne, incorporating a lengthy secondary bottle fermentation. Crémant predominantly uses Chenin Blanc grapes rather than the Champagne three, but this light and delicate grape gives these luxurious bubbles flavours of lemon and pear.
Prosecco is another style of sparkling wine - and is the fizz of choice for many. The Glera grape which typically makes Prosecco was grown in Ancient Rome and has a long and established history, although the rise in Prosecco’s popularity has only really started over the last 10 years. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is made using a tank method, leaving it sweeter, less acidic, and fruitier to drink. It’s also very versatile and pairs well with a range of cuisines, making it the perfect aperitif and celebratory Christmas sparkler.
Cheers to Champagne
However, if Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a glass or two of champers, why not swap the big names for something a little more unique? There are plenty of lesser-known Champagne houses to try that are iconic in France but are still fairly unknown in the UK.
Take Champagne Gremillet, a small, family-owned Champagne house comprising of 33 hectares of vineyards, in a small village near Troyes, which is the historical capital of Champagne. Due to its southern latitude, the grapes achieve a greater ripeness which leads to a richer fruit, and classic 'baked-biscuit' flavours mixed with characteristic toasty yeast overtones. This Champagne shows fine mousse in the glass and fresh floral aromas, with a crisp citrus finish.
Champagne Ayala is another great option. Founded in 1860, it’s had a slightly turbulent existence, never quite reaching the heights of some of the great Grand Marques, but always a very good second. It experienced a quiet period post WW2 but was given a new lease of life in 2005 when the Bollinger family purchased the estate and set about a full renovation of the winery. Today they have come full circle, returning to what they always did best. Producing drier styles of top-class Champagne, with the aim to bring back the true glory days of the 1920s. With just 15 staff on board, this is a truly boutique house producing exceptional and intriguing fizz!
Whether it’s English sparkling, Crémant, Prosecco or Champagne, cheers to a glass of fizz this Christmas!
Champagne Ayala Brut Majeur NV (£29.99)
There's a lot going on once you pop the cork and pour a glass. Citrus, floral, white fruits a little warm bread and a lovely touch of honey.
Champagne Gremillet Brut Selection NV (£23.99)
This champagne shows fine mousse in the glass and fresh floral aromas, with a crisp citrus finish. Great for celebrations, but even better when you feel like a spot of self-indulgence.
Champagne Gaston Declos Brut NV (£29.99)
From a small grower, these fine bubbles have rich biscuity and citrus flavours, refreshing acidity and a long finish - everything you could want in a Champagne!
Senti Prosecco Extra Dry NV (£10.99)
A lovely style of fizz packed with apple and pear fruit and a little leafiness adding to its charm. A citrus led palate and excellent intensity make Senti the perfect aperitif and celebratory sparkler.
Senti Prosecco Rose Extra Dry NV (£10.99)
Light and delicate with scents of strawberry and redcurrant. There is a pleasant roundness on the palate, balanced by tiny, refreshing bubbles.
Il Colmo Prosecco Brut NV (£11.99)
Extremely drinkable, with generous pear and citrus fruit lifted by a crisp and crunchy palate with vivacious bubbles. Comes in a very sleek bottle that’s guaranteed to impress!
Henners Foxearle English Sparkling Brut 2016 (£39.99)
Made by a small team of three in East Sussex, Henners is a fresh, lively, and elegant sparkling wine with vibrant acidity. Packed full of flavours like toasted, buttered brioche, accompanied by slices of fresh red apple and lemon nougat.
Domaine Baumard Carte Turquoise Cremant de Loire NV (£15.99)
Florent Baumard is at the helm of this wonderful estate and the terroir is second to none. The vines sit on blue slate and sandstone, giving the finished wine wonderful finesse. It's a sensational drop laced with pear, apple, lemon, flowers, and spices.
Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV (£25.99)
Sensational fizz from New Zealand's iconic fine wine destination - Marlborough.
All the class of a Grand Marque Champagne at a fraction of the cost with classic apple and lemon aromas and a 'bready' note derived from two years sat on its lees.
Get £50 off your first Virgin Wines order complete with free delivery, when you join their WineBank. T&C's apply. £109.88 Min spend. Min 12 bottles. To claim your £50, simply visit: www.virginwines.co.uk/
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