Thirsty work

Kidderminster Shuttle: Thirsty work Thirsty work

Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris looks at some stellar sparkling wines - all at £20 and less.

By Sam Wylie-Harris, Press Association


Bubbly at its best

One of life's glistening pleasures, there's no doubting a good champagne offers the ultimate taste sensation.

However, if you're after the indulgence without the hefty price tag, it's worth looking beyond the heart of Champagne and towards wines, still made by the traditional method, but from other regions of Europe and the New World.

Possibly the closest thing to the real deal, Simonnet Febvre P100 Blanc de Noir Cremant de Bourgogne, France (£15.95, www.privatecellar.co.uk) is an exceptional cremant made from pinot noir, the same grape primarily found in Champagne Bollinger. Completely delicious from beginning to end, it's toasty on the nose with good body and weight and hazelnut and apple notes following through with delightful freshness on the finish.

Italy's answer to Champagne is Franciacorta, hailing from the Franciacorta region in Lombardy and made in the traditional method using champagne grapes. Try Majolini Franciacorta Brut, Italy (£20, www.batwine.co.uk), with a gold vermeil label for glitzy occasions and a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. With a white flower nose, the finest mousse, spiced white peach and candied fruits on the fresh, floral finish, this delectable sparkle is all about Italian finesse.

The trend for prosecco normally reaches fever-pitch at this party time of year, and the best tasting supermarket own-label prosecco - a market flooded with extra dry styles of the glera grape - is Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano Magnum, Italy (£13.99 from £18.99, from November 20 until December 24) which is a brut style (dry) with less sweetness. This impressive magnum (the equivalent of two bottles) is made for Sainsbury's by a small winery near Conegliano in the heart of the Veneto region of northern Italy - and let's face it, one bottle is never enough. With a floral nose, terrific apricot and citrus flavours, a soft mousse and a creamy finish, one magnum will quickly disappear in a flourish of crystal flutes.

Dressed in white, Perlezza Prosecco Brut, Italy (£7 from £9, from December 5 to January 1, 2014) would be an ideal serve for a winter wedding. Meaning pearls, Perlezza is a glera gem from SPA that should be snapped up while on special offer. Uncomplicated and in a brut style, this The International Wine & Spirit Silver Award Winner has aromas of crisp apple and peach combining with light and delicate citrus notes for a dry, fresh and fruity fizz.

A good cava can satisfy a thirst for champagne but, with so many knock-down deals and bland styles, you must quaff carefully. To savour the best of this Spanish grape variety, be guided by price and stay clear of anything under a fiver. For a delicious example, try Tempus III Cava Brut, Spain (£9.99, www.virginwines.co.uk) which is made from a single variety, macabeo, and produced outside of Penedes, traditional cava country. Fresh and fragrant with a hint of brioche on the nose and a creamy texture with a lemony richness, it's a really good all-rounder that can be sipped casually before lunch, or paired with party plates of canapes, smoked salmon blinis and savoury snacks.

Chile likes to try its hand at most grapes, and with an attractive lipstick pink label, Cono Sur Sparkling Rose, Chile (£9.50, www.slurp.co.uk) is as pleasing on the palate as it is to the eye. A salmon pink rose made from 100% pinot noir, these fine beads of bubbles are fresh, dry and delicate with summer fruit flavours, and totally over-deliver at the price.

Wine wisdom dictates that if you pop the cork on a premium sparkling wine from one of the most exciting regions Down Under, you could be in for a big surprise. And if Krug is on your wish list but you can't afford the King of champagne, Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvee 2007, Australia (£21.99, www.frazierswine.co.uk) could be the next best thing. These fully matured golden bubbles share a similar mouth-filling weighty fruitiness, blessed by a whiff of freshly baked bread and an undercurrent of tropical fruits on the sumptuous, rich finish. A blend of chardonnay and pinot noir made in the methode Tasmanoise (Aussie for traditional method champenoise), Jansz is a total joy and offers seriously good value.


:: Best buy

Bring out the Beaujolais.... An Eighties favourite that makes its mark this time of year, Marks & Spencer have given their 2013 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, France (£7.49, or two for £12, until end of December, Marks & Spencer) a makeover and bottled this light, juicy red wine into a lightweight, fully recyclable PET, cutting the carbon footprint by 30%.

A traditional French export that we used to race to drink, Marks & Spencer are hoping this year's gamay grape will win back fans and remind them of the rustic charms of a youthful Beaujolais Nouveau.


:: Liquid news

Gin palaces are in season... A highlight in the drinks awards calendar, The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) has announced this year's winners from its rigorous tasting which spans seven months and involves more than 300 judges from 30 countries.

Now in its 44th year, 2013 was a strong year for spirits, especially the gin category with a 20% increase in entrants. England was the driving force behind the rise of artisan micro-distilleries producing quality gin in small batches.

The Gin Guild awarded Adnams Copper House Distilled Gin (£26.99, 70cl, www.adnams.co.uk) as the trophy winner. This gin is made in a hand-made copper pot still using the London Dry Gin method and was launched only three years ago.

For more info visit www.iwsc.net/home

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