This is a longer version of an article also published in the Financial Times.
See also Some fine sparklers for more recommendations.
All of the first quarter of my top 100 wines really sparkle. These 25+ are listed upwards in price with selected UK stockists, often Lea & Sandeman because they have a particularly wide range, and this helps to indicate relative pricing. Please note that we have given Lea & Sandeman's price for single bottles but they offer much keener prices to those prepared to pay for a total of 12 assorted bottles. Many other merchants without a retail outlet, Vine Trail for instance, insist on orders of at least 12 assorted bottles - and of course the cost of delivery varies from merchant to merchant.
See wine-searcher.com for more stockists, both in the UK and elsewhere. All wines are 12 or 12.5%.
Philippe Michel 2008 Crémant du Jura
From the Crançot co-op - an interesting choice for a mass-market supermarket. 'Bottle fermentation'. Very light but clean nose. Pretty dry and recognisably subalpine. Flirtatious. So light it is almost difficult to believe it is 12% alcohol. Very juicy and appetising. Admirable for the price. Quite frothy but very clean and bracing. Tastes Brut. Well bought!
Dom de la Taille aux Loups, Triple Zéro Pétillant NV Montlouis-sur-Loire
Gently sparkling Loire Chenin Blanc. Jacky Blot explains the name of this cuvée on the back label: No chaptalisation, no liqueur de tirage, no liqueur d'expédition. Smart, very dark bottle and stylish label. Gosh this is interesting on the nose! Smells of a damp cellar, like a successful natural wine. Apple skins and enormous vibrancy. I would love to be served this at a party! Not aggressively tart and dry, just lots of fascinating flavour. Very racy and refreshing. Impossible to spit. Persistent rather than potent.
£55 for 6 in bond Justerini & Brooks
Roche Lacour, Brut 2009 Crémant de Limoux
Not-too-frothy traditional-method blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc from the Languedoc hills. Apparently 40% of the blend is fermented in barrel. Very fine mousse. Clean, fresh, light nose. Very youthful but well put together. Not aggressively callow; attractively balanced. You can (just) taste that this was grown in a hot year in the far south rather than the north east of France but it seems great value.
£11.99 Laithwaites, currently on special offer at £9.99
Jean-Louis Denois, Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Vin Mousseux de Qualité NV France
Jean-Louis Denois is also from Limoux, and hugely skilled at making great-value, characterful fizz. Just a little fruitier, more opulent and less obviously lees-aged than the best champagnes but infinitely better than cheap champagne. His delicate Classique Brut NV is also excellent.
£12.95 Lea & Sandeman
Graham Beck, Brut Pinot Noir/Chardonnay NV Western Cape
Very well balanced South African. Creamy texture, thanks to 18 months' bottle ageing on the lees. Hugely satisfying for the price even if not the driest.
Waitrose, Brut NV Champagne
From P & C Heidsieck, this has to be Britain's best-value champagne - certainly until 6 December and very possibly even at its full price of £19.99. This particular Pinot-dominated cuvée is the best I can remember, seems to have some age on it and quite a contrast to the much more delicate Waitrose Blanc de Blancs NV from Burtin (£22.99) - also excellent.
Reduced to £15.99 (£8.99 a half) Waitrose until 6 Dec
Jansz 2005 Tasmania
Much cheaper than in Australia, this brisk, super-clean, bracing wine would make a great aperitif, and tastes younger than it is.
£18.95 Slurp, Tanners, House of Menzies, Noel Young
Benedick, Grand Réserve Brut NV Champagne
Savoury nose suggests bone-dry wine. Mouthfilling fizz. Perfectly respectable and quite an impact on the palate. Quite long for the price.
£18.95 Lea & Sandeman
Ridgeview, Bloomsbury Merret Brut 2009 England
English fizz gets better and better and Ridgeview is leading the charge. Neutral nose but some real depth. Light hazelnut flavour. Tight texture. Very respectable. Ridgeview also makes a range of wines for Laithwaites and others.
£19 Wine Society, £21.99 Waitrose and elsewhere
Barnaut, Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru NV champagne
Much more refined than the Aube Blanc de Noirs from the local co-op with which the UK (mass) market is flooded. Very appetising and great value.
£22.95 Lea & Sandeman
P&C Heidsieck, Les Pionniers 2004 champagne
In Champagne, the even years of last decade have produced some particularly successful vintage champagnes and this attractive combination of zest and evolution from a specialist in own label champagnes is particularly well priced.
£22.99 Co-op, selected branches (has been on promotion at £19.99)
Laurent-Perrier NV champagne
At the special price offered by Roberson, this may be the best-value grande marque champagne on the UK market. The current cuvée is particularly fresh and zesty. Racy and well balanced.
Chartogne Taillet NV champagne
Bravo to quality-conscious growers like this who give consumers maximum information on the back label such as exactly what went into the blend (80% from the 2006 vintage, 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir). Very fresh on the nose yet with deep flavours. Serious stuff from the village of Merey. Exceptionally persistent. Great value.
£25.15 Vine Trail, £27 Wine Society (£22.50 each if 6 bought), £38.99 Selfridges
Agrapart, Les 7 Crus NV champagne
Blend of 2008 and 2007 from seven different well-placed vineyards, made with some oak. Light and delicate. Really lively. Whisper -and yet satisfying. The dosage was a modest 7 g/l and the disgorgement date is given to help consumers and wine trade distinguish the bottling from others with the same name.
£27.50 Vine Trail, £29 Wine Society (£24.17 each if 6 bought) £39.99 Selfridges
Pierre Peters, Cuvée de Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV champagne
The base year here is 2006 but over 35% of the wine is, as the name suggests, from older reserves, maintained in a solera system and encompassing 16 vintages. The all-Chardonnay fruit is sourced mainly from top villages on the Côte des Blancs. Very complex and interesting for the money.
£28.95 Berry Bros
Larmandier-Bernier, Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Non Dosé Premier Cru NV champagne
This grower does not put a foot wrong. This is their most delicate wine, balanced on a tightrope admittedly but with no sign of any wobble. Lovely. But I also admire their slightly more rustic Tradition Extra Brut Premier Cru NV (£28.50) and their very dry and demanding Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blancs Non Dosé Premier Cru NV (£34.50).
£29.95 Lea & Sandeman
Tarlant, Brut Nature NV champagne
The most satisfying of Marks & Spencer's admirable collection of growers' champagnes. Not aggressively dry, despite absence of dosage. Quite robustly textured (thanks to the oak casks).
£30 M&S selected branches
Egly-Ouriet, Tradition Grand Cru NV champagne
Long aged. Very 'natural' apple-peel aromas. Very pure and unadorned. All top Montagne de Reims villages. Extreme champagne with a very dry finish. Lots of potential.
£38.95 Lea & Sandeman
André Roger, Vielles Vignes NV champagne
Very deep-flavoured, mature wine from venerable grand cru Pinot vines - the sort you could drink with food.
£40 Jascots.co.uk Gosset, Grand Réserve NV champagne
Beautifully balanced blend based on 2005. I preferred it to Gosset's current vintage champagne. Very nervy and muscular. Not too sweet, not too tart.
£43.50 Lea & Sandeman, £54.99 Selfridges
Pol Roger 2000 champagne
Great energy on the nose, still very youthful with lots of potential. Explosive, and drier than some Pol blends. The 2002 Rosé (£64.99 Selfridges) is one of the best pink champagnes.
£44.95 Lea & Sandeman, £45 Wine Society Vilmart, Cuvée Creation 1999 champagne
Champagnes from the opulent last vintage of the twentieth century are at their peak now. This marvel from a much admired Montagne de Reims grower is oak aged and Chardonnay dominated.
£71.44 Gauntleys of Nottingham
Bollinger, Grande Année 2002 champagne
Good old Bollinger pioneered giving useful information on the back label. This wine, made from the produce of 16 premier and, especially, grand cru villages is especially intense and savoury.
£65 Wine Society, £74.95 Lea & Sandeman and elsewhere
Dom Pérignon 2002 champagne
I can't remember a vintage of this famous wine that showed better on release. Sumptuous.
£112.90 Noel Young, £119.95 Lea & Sandeman, £140 Selfridges
Krug, Grande Cuvée NV champagne
I recently tasted two (remarkably different) bottlings of this celebrated, intellectual champagne blind alongside various vintage-dated Krugs and preferred them to some of the latter.
£131.50 Lea & Sandeman
Louis Roederer, Cristal 2004 champagne
Very intellectual and dense, but playful and dancing too. You can enjoy it already, although it clearly has great potential. Grows on the finish. Very luxurious.
£140 Wine Society, £161.95 Lea & Sandeman, £180 Selfridges