This is a longer version of an article also published in the Financial Times.
This is a longer version of the first of my four-part Financial Times
selection of best buys of the season. There are 22 sparkling wines and champagnes in the FT
but there are more here. Take advantage of some great fizz deals at this time of year. I have cited the best UK price and stockist of which I'm aware; apologies if stock has sold out since my researches. Use winesearcher.com to find prices and stockists elsewhere. I've tried to give single bottle prices (two-bottle prices for some Majestic deals) but each retailer has a slightly different terms and conditions. Delivery charges and minimum order requirements may be applied by retailers without bricks and mortar outlets.
Everything below is a champagne unless another appellation is cited after the vintage, or after 'NV' for non vintage. Wines are listed in ascending order of lowest known price in the UK. They are all likely to be 12-12.5% alcohol unless otherwise noted.
Vilarnau NV Cava
All Catalan varieties, super clean with good density. Aged 18 months on the lees by this subsidiary of sherry company González Byass.
£7.99 AP Harvey of Coventry and other independents
Gobin, Perles de l'Angelier NV France
Dosage 14 g/l. Recognisably made from Muscadet with nutty, fresh, ripe distinctive fruit. Something a bit different. 11.5%
£10.99 Amps of Oundle and other independents, according to the importer:
Ann et Vin, Newark-on-Trent
Bowland Forest Vintners, The Inn at Whitewell, nr Clitheroe
Cheshire Smokehouse, Morley Green, Wilmslow
Imbibros, Farnham, Surrey
Define Food & Wine Sandiway, Cheshire
Duncan Murray Wines, Market Harborough
Reserve Wines, Didsbury, Manchester
The Vineking, Reigate & Weybridge
J Wadsworth, St.Ives, Cambs
J Laurens, Le Moulin Brut NV Blanquette de Limoux
There's an attractive bit of development on the nose. Very fresh and really quite special for the money. Delicate on the palate. Look out for other bargains from this Languedoc producer.
£12.50 Ditton (though note that this merchant requires you to buy six bottles)
Dom de Montbourgeau NV Crémant du Jura
This has a pretty, retro label. Good tang - recognisably Jura - Chardonnay with bite. Clean and revitalising. Less aggressive than a cheap champagne.
£12.50 The Wine Society
Teo Costa, Madre Natura Rosé NV Vino Frizzante
100% Nebbiolo, no added sulphites, makes a very gentle, unusual, rose-scented Piemontese fizz that would make a most distinctive aperitif. 10.5%
£16.50 Vini Italiani of London SW7
Forget-Brimont, Brut Premier Cru NV
From the village of Ludes. Open and relatively simple but proper stuff. A tiny bit sweet but reasonably delicate and a lot more refined and fun than the average own-label champagne selling at this price. Well integrated and ready to roll. Nicely balanced even if on the appetising end of the spectrum. Tiny bead. Neat finish.
£21.57 Justerini & Brooks
Barnaut, Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru NV Champagne
Bouzy and big and brawny. Not that complex but not expensive, especially at the special offer price that lasts until Christmas.
£23.95 Lea & Sandeman
Pascal Doquet, Horizon Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
This organically certified grower's champagne has a lightly nutty nose and is chock full of flavour. A steal considering J&B's margins. I don't think I would guess that it is all Chardonnay; seems slightly richer than many Blanc de Blancs.
£24.07 Justerini & Brooks
Ridgeview, Bloomsbury Merret 2010 England
Signature wine from the estimable Ridgeview (the wine we served when launching the new World Atlas of Wine
in New York). Very frothy. Edgy in terms of acidity. Very clean but pretty tart. NB this is more expensive at Waitrose than most of their own-label NV champagnes … by no means disgraceful but not cheap!
Chartogne-Taillet, Ste-Anne Brut NV
Very racy, direct, clean and breezy. Really neat and concentrated without being at all heavy. This, the flagship blend from this champagne grower in Merfy, in an unusual corner of the region, is a great bargain.
£25 The Wine Society also Fine Wine Direct
Huet Petillant Brut 2007 Vouvray
Based on Chenin Blanc and one of the most welcome variations on the fizz theme: richer and more complex than many champagnes. Pale straw with a steady bead. Young, fresh, floral apple juice. Delicate and rapier-like acidity. Very vibrant. Bracing at the moment.
£25 Berry Bros
Pierre Gimonnet, Cuis Blanc de Blancs Brut Premier Cru NV
Delicate texture but some autolysis on the nose. Real savour and refreshment. Beginning, middle and end to this proper wine - very much more interesting than many champagnes at the same price.
£25 The Wine Society
Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2008 England
One of the most toothsome English fizzes with some real depth to it.
£26.45 Berry Bros
Pol Roger NV
A banker of a family-owned champagne. Price will go up once this retailer has sold all the bottles in this particular batch, which suggests it may have some bottle age.
£29.95 Lea & Sandeman while stocks last
Doyard, Cuvée Vendémiaire Extra Brut NV
This is an organically grown Blanc de Blancs blended from three different vintages, partially fermented in oak barrels and aged for seven years in bottle. Very superior indeed with a lovely creamy texture and beautiful harmony. Not especially fizzy.
£29.95 Old Bridge Wine
Agrapart et Fils, Les 7 Crus Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
From the seven villages where Agrapart owns vines, initially aged in old oak barrels. Complex, well-settled nose and lightly soft on the finish but with lots of interest on the way. Grapefruit peel on the finish after much throat-warming.
£31 The Wine Society
Huré Frères, Mémoire NV
Unfortunately this is not available in the UK but it's almost worth driving to Champagne to pick up some of this exceptionally complex, satisfying wine made from a solera of different vintages. A bargain considering the quality.
€41.50 from Les Caves du Forum in Reims, 429 krone from the Swedish monopoly
Ruinart, R de Ruinart Brut NV
Bready nose with some real interest. Solid stuff - something to get your teeth into, in a good way. Very clean and neat and tastes as though it had quite a bit of age on lees.
£37.50 Lea & Sandeman, £44.95 Jeroboams
Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs NV
Grand Cru Chardonnay from le Mesnil, Oger, Avize with a full 48 months on yeast. Signature bottling of this house, a sister to Salon, based on 2006. Quite a bit of age on the nose. Racy and quite delicate on the palate. Well made - just the right quality of fizz. Quite long.
£37.95 Corney & Barrow
Deutz, Rosé NV
One of the most impressive non-vintage pink champagnes I have come across recently. Good dry finish. Pale rose red with real solid matter on the palate.
£39.95 Winedirect.co.uk and many other independents
Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru NV
Still one of the finest non-vintage champagnes from a fine, biodynamic grower. Very broad and rich compared with the other growers' champagnes. Quite incredible to think that this is an Extra Brut in view of the richness on the palate. Clean, refreshing, fabulous! Very persistent. (The photo above is taken from the Berry Bros website.)
About £40 Berry Bros, Lea & Sandeman and others
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV
The spearhead of a campaign by the new owner of this house to reposition it firmly upmarket. This cuvée, based on 2007, is very good, with 40% reserve wines up to 10 years old. (Berry Bros are still selling the previous blend at
About £40 Haynes Hanson & Clark, Noel Young, Bordeaux Index, Harrods, Define, Shills of Cockermouth, Hay Wines, Bennetts of Chipping Campden, The Vineking, Lockett Bros, Valvona & Crolla, The Old Bridge Wine Shop, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason and other independents Pol Roger 2002
Floral nose. Bready notes and very attractive. Pretty full bodied - this would be a wine to serve with food.
About £40 J&B, The Bordeaux Cellar
Louis Roederer 2006
Very firm, savoury and dense, with lively acidity and a fine bead. Not massively intense, nor bone dry, but very competent.
£44 Berry Bros, £45 The Wine Society
Bollinger, La Grande Année 2004
Hint of oak on the nose. Very winning and interesting. Extremely savoury. But with some flirtatious lift on the finish. Very persistent.
£60 Lea & Sandeman, £65 Noel Young (£10 off until 3 Jan), £80 Berry Bros and others
Nyetimber, Tillington Single Vineyard 2009 England
Winemaker Cherie Spriggs offers record pricing with this all-Pinot bottling from an unusually ripe vintage. Quite deep bronze pale gold. Heady, well-developed nose. Lightly appley and definitely with more interest than most English fizz. Not the driest. but it does have some autolysis and interest on the nose. Clean finish. Delicate bead.
£75 Philglas & Swiggot
Use wine-searcher.com to find stockists near you.