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Wednesday 19 October 2011

Weekly Wine: You Don't Have To Spend To Sparkle

A while ago, we had a Champagne tasting at work and I was allowed to take home one of the half-empty bottles (and by 'allowed' I mean 'snuck it out of the room when no one was looking.') That night - at the end of a hectic week - I got home, ran myself a bubble bath and drank a glass of the Champers while I soaked. It felt deliciously decadent - and just the tonic. But we can't always afford such luxury, right?

WRONG. Champagne is just a word on the label. Oh okay, and a production method. But lots of other sparkling wines use the same or similar method of production and you can find classy, elegant sparklers for far fewer pennies that give some Champagnes a real run for their money.

So: the science bit (this isn't a shampoo advert, honestly) - Champagne is made using the Traditional Method, in which first a still wine is made and then bottled along with a cocktail of stuff (sugar, yeast nutrient and the like) that sets off a 'second fermentation' to make the wine sparkling

Champagne mastered this art of bottle-fermenting, but it's also used by Cremant, Cava and Saumur to name a few.

So, if you get the bath running I'll start listing a few of my favourite sparklers:

Saumur AC
As well as being made in the Champagne style, this Saumur is made by sparkling wine gurus Gratien & Meyer. They've been doing their thing since 1864, and practice really has made perfect. Refreshingly fruity and dry, this is even tasty with food. It's £7.99 from Majestic, perfect for a mid-week treat.

Cremant de Loire AC
One of my all-time favourite types of fizz. Although different grapes from what you'd expect in Champagne, being made from king-of-the-Loire Chenin Blanc actually works really well for this Cremant from N. D. John: the waxed-lemon flavours of this grape are the perfect match for the bready, yeasty flavours you'd expect from many Champagnes. It's £10.75.

Most people think Cava is cheap and nasty, and to be honest that can sometimes be the case. But not always: the Sumarroca Cava is a total gem and came top of wine writer extraordinaire Jane Macquitty's list of sparklers this year. She described it as toasty and complex, and I very much agree, but it also packs in tons of fruit. It's only £7.50 from The Wine Society, and always disappears too quickly in our household.

For something different altogether, Prosecco really is a great place to look for value. It's made in a different way to Champagne and the other sparklers I've mentioned - the second fermentation happens in a tank rather than in bottle, so the bubbles aren't always quite as fine - but it's not just fashionable fizz. If you pick one from a good area - such as the hilly Valdobbiadene area in the heart of Prosecco, like this Oro Puro Prosecco from Waitrose - then you can find fruit galore and great balance. It's the perfect lightweight alternative, (and Valdobbiadene is fun to say too). If you want to try a bottle, it'll only set you back by £9.74.

If you like bubbles in your glass as well as in the bath, then tell us about your favourite fizz! You can have a natter on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Image taken from _FXR's photostream under the creative commons license.


  1. I can't seem to comment with my google profile, it keeps saying I don't have access. So trying as anonymous instead...

    We had some Sacchetto Moscato the other day (bought with my Naked wines voucher, so thank you lovely domestic sluts!), which was like a sort of fizzy desert wine almost - it was really sweet but fizzy. It was a bit of a bargain too at £9 for it's deliciousness with cake.

    Would that have been made the same way as prosecco? (I'm guessing becaue the word sounds similar!) This is all really interesting stuff! :)

  2. Hiya,

    Sacchetto Moscato is like the sister wine of their Prosecco, and you're right that they are made in a very similar way although not quite identical. It sounds like their Moscato is similar to Moscato d'Asti, which is fermented in tanks like Prosecco but the difference is the still wine they start off with is sweet and lighter in alcohol (so you can enjoy more of it!)
    Glad you've been enjoying it - it's an absolute fave of mine too!


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