BUT DON’T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT.
Times are tight so if you can’t afford Champagne for New Year’s Eve, don’t panic, just grab your passport! With most winemaking countries producing sparkling wine you can now buy a cracking array of fizz and, save a fortune t’boot.
The Kings of Bubble, Champagne (Deutz NV, £35) and English Sparkling Wine (Albury NV, £30), are generally a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. They initially make a dry still white wine which is then poured into bottles with a pinch of sugar and yeast; the result is a ‘second fermentation’ which produces a little more alcohol and carbon dioxide – the fizz. Most sparkling wines are made in exactly the same way, often from the same grapes. There is one big difference of course, a smaller price tag!
Champagne Houses have been making bubbly in the New World for decades (Moet et Chandon’s ‘Chandon’, Argentina, £12.99) but the locals have also long realised their potential for top fizz. Chile (Montes, ‘Sparkling Angel’ £15.50), South Africa (Graham Beck, £11.99), Australia (Jansz, £16) and New Zealand (Lindauer, £14) are now very happy hunting grounds for the bubble seeker.
Back in Europe, Cava, the Spanish sparkler offers amazing value. Made in the same way as Champagne but from Xarello, Macabeo and Parallada grapes you can pour a crisp Cava (Cordorniu Brut NV) for £8 and often Vintage Cava for not much more (Codorniu Grand Plus 2015, £10.99).
I’m not a fan of cheap Prosecco but this sparkler from Glera grapes grown in vineyards behind Venice in north-east Italy has taken the world by storm. That said, when it comes to Prosecco it’s worth paying a few quid more. Look for the words Valdobbiadene, Superiore and DOCG on the label – better (hillside) vineyards, better grapes, equals better wine (La Gioiosa Valdobbiadene DOCG, £9.99). By the way, Prosecco is made by the Charmat Method, where the second fermentation produces bubbles in a closed tank as opposed to the bottle for Champagne.
Staying in Italy, a bottle of Franciacorta from the Lombardia region of northern Italy will herald 2018 in fine style. Chardonnay is the major player (with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc) in this wonderful Champagne alternative. It’s not cheap but often has a price tag £10 lower than the Kings of Sparklers.
Shooting back into France opens up a fizz fest. Loire Valley Sparklers have lost a few headlines in recent years which is a pity as Cremant de Loire (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay) from the limestone vineyards around the castle topped town of Saumur is well worth searching out (Wine Society, £11.95).
Burgundy often means big price tags but the sparkling wines of this famous region offer great value; classy Chardonnay based bubbly for little more than a tenner, (Cremant de Bourgogne, £10.99).
Cremant de Limoux from high altitude limestone vineyards in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, (90% Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc) will lift any celebration (Les Graimenous Brut 2015, £14.50).
Alsace’s Cremant d’Alsace (Waitrose, £10) hails from vineyards tucked into the north east corner of France, just up the road from Champagne. Little known in the U.K., it’s interesting to note that after Champagne it’s the most popular sparkling wine in France. ‘So, it’s well worth a try!
To add even more NYE festivity pour sparkling rose versions as the evening unfolds and, as the cheese appears after midnight surprise your guests with a bottle of red Oz Sparkling Shiraz (Jacob’s Creek, £10). Another tip this year; serve your sparklers in normal wine glasses – flutes are so yesterday.