Stock Up On This Well-Priced Bubbly Ahead Of Christmas - The Gloss Magazine

Stock Up On This Well-Priced Bubbly Ahead Of Christmas

Julie Dupouy recommends well-priced sparklers … 

End of year is fast approaching and November, as a prelude to the hectic festive schedule, is a good time to enjoy a little treat under the guise of some research for your Christmas wine shopping list. Fortunately (this year in particular) having a glass of bubbly can feel special without breaking the bank. All my recommendations below cost under €40.

Champagne, the best known of all, is made using the “traditional method” which consists in provoking the refermentation of a still white wine in a closed bottle. This second fermentation is possible thanks to the addition of tirage liqueur – a mix of wine, yeasts and sugar which promotes the production of carbon dioxide in the form of fine bubbles. Once this fermentation is over, the dead yeast, or lees, are left inside the bottle for a minimum of twelve months and often far longer. In general, the longer the period of ageing “on the lees”, the more the complex pastry-like flavours will develop, and this is where prices can really start to soar.

The traditional method of production is not confined to champagne. Other great examples include Cava DO, Franciacorta DOCG, Crémant AOPs, Trento DOC, Tasmania and Nova Scotia Sparkling among other developing regions. Those wines offer very high quality alternatives to champagne, and all have unique characters worth discovering.

Cava has become the most dynamic European sparkling wine region in recent years. The heart of production is in Catalonia’s Peñedes region. Permitted grapes are numerous but the traditional grapes are Xarello, Parellada and Maccabeo. “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva” indicate an extended period of ageing on the lees, and they should offer more complexity, maturity and savoury flavours. Paraje Calificado is a single vineyard classification reserved for wines with distinctive character and quality derived from their special terroir. Extended ageing supports these more complex wines.

Organic wine-lovers should look out for wines made by the Corpinnat association – a group of renowned producers who have exited the traditional Cava DO and hold themselves to even more rigorous standards of production. They passionately believe that their wines deserve to be singled out from the crowded Cava DO classification and all indications are that the wine world applauds the move.

Crémant is a protected term used in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Morocco to produce sparkling wines made by traditional method. France is by far the largest producer and each region uses local grape varieties to produce its version. The quality of crémant in the past was very hit and miss but thankfully, knowledge, experience and renewed ambition are yielding a more consistent, higher quality product year in, year out. Hot on the heels of its successful sibling – champagne – French crémant offers outstanding quality at a much neater price.

The Charmat method consists in re-refermenting a still wine inside a tank rather than in the bottle. Once the fermentation is over, the wine is filtered and then bottled directly, containing dissolved carbon dioxide in the form of bubbles. This method of vinification is commonly used to produce less expensive, fruit-forward sparkling wines, destined for early consumption. Prosecco and Lambrusco lead the way for Charmat production. Wines are labelled semi-sparkling “frizzante” or fully sparkling “spumante”.

The recent Pet’nat (derived from “naturally pétillant” or sparkling) revolution has brought back into fashion the world’s oldest method of producing sparkling wine – the so-called ancestral method. First developed in France’s Languedoc region in the 16th century by the Benedictine monks of St Hilaire, the method consists of bottling a wine during its alcoholic fermentation. Its natural sugars finish fermenting into alcohol and carbon dioxide inside the bottle. Generally the wines are not filtered and are sold with the lees which leaves a silty deposit inside the bottle. Bottle variation can be common with this method and sometimes the “funk” can dominate, yet the most conscientious producers manage to create fun, vibrant and delicious wines.

Sparkling wine labelling does itself no favours at times. The terms “Extra Dry” or “Dry” on a label indicates the wine contains a fair amount of sugar – 12-17g/l for the former and 17-32g/l for the latter. If you are conscious of sugar intake, I would suggest looking out for “Brut”, “Extra Brut” or “Brut Zero” styles, each that bit drier than the previous.

Whatever your choice of sparkling wine, here are a few tips to coax the best from them. Make sure the bottle is chilled to eight to ten degrees celsius. Invest in a good quality stopper so that you have the option to enjoy the bottle, in good condition, over a couple of days. Serve your bubbly in tulip-shaped wine glasses instead of the traditional flutes. Yes, enjoying those pretty pearls rising is a charming sight but the aromatic complexity and character for which you have paid for has far more room to express itself in a glass with a wider bowl.

Sparkling wines are wonderfully versatile with food but stay away from pairing with very sweet desserts. Keep pairings simple: creamy cheeses, prawns with a citrus mayonnaise and even chips are all absolutely delicious with a glass of bubbly!


Gramona, La Cuvée, Corpinnat, Spain, €38, at Blackrock Cellar.

Cava Reserva Expression, Dominio de la Vega, Spain, €32;

Crémant de Bourgogne, Jean Claude Boisset, N 21, Brut, France, €33.99, at Jus De Vine, Portmarnock.

Uivo PT Nat Branco, Bruto, Portugal, €24, at The Corkscrew, Dublin 2.

Raventos I Blanc, Conca del Riu Anoia, Spain, €35;

Château Dereszla, Méthode Traditionnelle, Tokaji, Hungary, €29.95;

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This