Festive fizz, strong and sweet wines 2023

fizz by Kyoshino

A hand-picked selection of great wines that is also published by the Financial Times.

Far too little top-quality champagne is sold by the single bottle in the UK today. Perhaps these packs of three, six or even 12 bottles are aimed at investors not drinkers? Noble exceptions as bricks-and-mortar retailers of fine champagne are Hedonism and, especially, The Whisky Exchange in London. And while I’m ranting, the British wine trade virtually ignores Sauternes and many other sweet wines. Admittedly an increasingly proportion of grapes grown in Bordeaux’s Sauternes region are now being made into dry wines.

Supermarket sherries (along with The Wine Society one below) are still one of the UK’s best wine buys, despite recent duty hikes.

Wines are listed within these groups in ascending order of price per cl.


All these are either 12% or 12.5% alcohol except for those marked otherwise.

Bird in Hand, Sparkling 2023 Australia
A simple, pretty, off-dry Pinot-based fizz at a good price.
£10 Waitrose, £15 Tesco

Mirabeau, La Folie Sparkling Rosé NV Vin de France
This tank-fermented attempt at a fizzy Provençal rosé is far from a direct competitor to champagne but is relatively inexpensive, is widely available and comes in quite smart packaging.
£14 Tesco

Tissot-Maire, Blanc de Noirs Brut NV Crémant du Jura 13%
Looks very respectable. 100% Pinot Noir. Clean and light on the nose. Good biscuity, well-balanced appeal on the palate. Not amazingly long or complex but excellent value, as Jura fizz tends to be.
£15.70 Corney & Barrow

Twee Jonge Gezellen, Krone Borealis Méthode Cap Classique 2021 Tulbagh 11.5%
Made in South Africa in the image of champagne. Very convincing perfume with some suggestion of maturity already. Really quite a satisfying drink – especially for the money – with a bruised-apple character.
£16.99 Majestic

Antech, Jean Lafon Rosé Brut NV Crémant de Limoux
Chardonnay with Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc made, like all Crémants, by the traditional method. Aged for at least 24 months in bottle. A very pale pink wine with an intense perfume and refreshing small bubbles.
£17.99 Majestic

Clotilde Davenne, Extra Brut NV Crémant de Bourgogne
Another wine made just like champagne, this time from Chablis country. The Pinot Noir grapes that constitute 40% of the blend, based on the 2018 vintage, are from 50-year-old vinesA decent, dry aperitif at a good price.
£19.95 Stone, Vine & Sun

Langham, Corallian Classic Cuvée Brut NV England
This Dorset winery’s Chardonnay-dominant blend, based on 2020. Really impressive nose, with so much character! Racy and toasty and rich, yet super-clean on the end. So bready it’s almost like a fino sherry! Persistent.

£27.50 Lea & Sandeman

Thomas-Hatté, Brut NV Champagne
Really rewarding flavours and depth for the money. Not for long keeping but a rare bargain from Champagne. Also available in other sizes, from half to double magnum.
£28.95 Stone, Vine & Sun

J M Labruyère, Prologue Extra Brut NV Champagne
Smells quite evolved, with excellent acidity and a really distinctive bruised-apple flavour. A good mouthful for the money but not for keeping.

£34.85 Corney & Barrow

Drappier, Brut Premier Cru NV Champagne
Fair value in today’s champagne market and neither too young nor too old. Complete. 

£38.99 Majestic

Veuve Fourny & Fils, Vertus Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru NV Champagne
50-year-old vines and a blend of 2020 with about 35% of the three previous vintages. Delicate despite the oak influence. Gently rather than aggressively sparkling.

£39.50 Hedley Wright Wine Merchants, £39.60 Xtra Wine, £41 Vin Cognito

Bonnaire, Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru NV Champagne
100% fine Chardonnay made by Paul Clouet of the eponymous brand.
Broad and pleasing for drinking now. 

£43.25 The Whisky Exchange

Laurent-Perrier, Brut 2012 Champagne
Neat and creamy. Very lively and with more tension than some 2012s. Not a bad price for a champagne of this quality.
£54.99 The Bottle Club, £55.99 Virgin Wines, £59.99 North & South Wines

Bruno Paillard, Cuvée 72 Extra Brut NV Champagne
So-called because aged for 36 months on lees and then the same in bottle. Disgorged in 2018. Crystalline. Very fine. One of the most refreshing champagnes with no shortage of finesse.
£51.77 Gourmet Hunters

Lanson, Le Green Bio-Organic Extra Brut NV Champagne
Made exclusively from biodynamically certified grapes picked in 2018, from their biodiverse experimental vineyards. A house on the move. This vibrant wine straddles the line between big house and grower style.
£55 The Champagne 
Company, £55.50 The Bottle Club

Bruno Paillard, Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut Grand Cru NV Champagne
The aroma smoulders and the whole is explosively refreshing. A world away from a supermarket Blanc de Noirs. Very ripe, intense fruit presumably accounts for the fact that, if served this blind, I would guess a higher dosage than 3 g/l. A robust, classic wine that could well go with many an intricate dish.
£69.90 Hedonism

Mumm, RSRV Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru 2015 Champagne
RSRV reserve wines represent an exciting new chapter for this house. This would make a very appetising aperitif. Streak of lemon barley water. Not cheap though.
£72.75 The Whisky Exchange

Louis Roederer, Brut Nature 2015 Champagne
Their single-vineyard, dry wine with the Philippe Starck label. Complex, alluring nose. A confident champagne as medicine – I felt healthier after tasting this!
£78.43 Vinified Wine

Pol Roger, Brut 2016 Champagne
Very tight, dense nose with some honey and orange notes on the palate. This could be one of those youthful champagnes worth aerating before drinking.
£85 Hedonism

Bollinger PN AYC18 Brut NV Champagne
A real connoisseur’s champagne based on 2018 Pinot Noir from Grand Cru villages, this family house in Aÿ’s fourth geographically designated Pinot Noir with Bollinger’s usual mushroomy, lightly oaky, very savoury stamp. Very much a food wine. Long and thought-provoking.
£86 The Finest Bubble, also Bordeaux Index
, £95 Hedonism

Billecart-Salmon, Cuvée Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009 Champagne
This is certainly not austere but there's not much sign of the richness of the vintage either. This is still extraordinarily taut for a 14-year-old grand cru wine aged for 12 years on lees. Very tightly wound – so don't serve this too cold. Admirably persistent.
£141.50 Berry Bros & Rudd, £150 Hedonism

Rare, Brut 2008 Champagne
The prestige spin-off brand from Piper-Heidsieck, with a fancy golden framework around the bottle. This fully mature grand cru blend is good though: smoky, Chardonnay-dominant nose. Shows off the density and solidity of the vintage. Good for drinking now.
£141.75 Berry Bros & Rudd, £170 Hedonism

Laurent-Perrier, Grand Siècle No 26 Brut NV Champagne
This stunning blend of 2012, 2008 and 2007 vintages somehow manages to be both tight yet approachable, dense in terms of flavour concentration yet filigree in terms of texture. As usual, it's so Chardonnay! Enormous finesse. This would make the most luxurious aperitif.
£195 The Whisky Exchange


Sánchez Romate, Don Jose Medium Dry Oloroso NV Sherry 17.5%
Sad to see such a well-aged wine from an old family company being sold so cheaply. Rich start, dry finish.
£9.95 The Wine Society

Lustau, Waitrose, Torre del Oro Palo Cortado NV Sherry 19%
Lustau, Waitrose, Emilio Lustau No 1 Dry Oloroso NV Sherry 20%
Lustau, Waitrose Don Gaspar Dry Amontillado NV Sherry 18.5%
Ridiculous value for these dry, long oak-aged treasures. The Palo Cortado is slightly richer and more concentrated than the other two.
£13.49 Waitrose

González Byass, Tesco Finest [Aged] Fino NV Sherry 15%
Benefiting from six rather than the usual four years in the solera, so it’s more interesting but arguably a little less refreshing than many a fino. Tangy, dry, pungent and great value.
£7.25 per half Tesco

Symington, Tesco Finest 10 Year Old Tawny NV Port 20%
Reddish tawny. Not that much nose and a little bit hot and aggressive but, chilled, this would be wonderful with cheese. Great value.
£8.75 per half Tesco

Niepoort, Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage 2019 Port 19.5%
Vigorous deep crimson. Nutty, interesting nose. Unexpectedly smooth all the way through until the very end, which is dry and has fine tannins. Notes of balsam and roses. Could well withstand blue cheese. But would also be interesting with Christmas pudding.
£19.99 Waitrose

Quinta do Noval, Unfiltered Single Vineyard Late Bottled Vintage 2017 Port 19.5%
Racy, claret-like and refined. Persistent. Proper, hand-crafted – or rather foot-trodden – estate wine.
£21 The Wine Society, £23.30 Master of Malt, £27 Ocado, and, from £29, from other merchants

Graham's, Quinta dos Malvedos 2012 Port 20%
Top-quality single-quinta vintage port continues to offer great value. Peppery, spicy and floral. Just a great, pure vintage-style port that you could serve this Christmas if you decanted it. Great stuff!
£28.50 Winestore Eccleston and, from £30, many other independents as well as Tesco

Quinta da Romaneira, 10 Year Old Tawny NV Port 19.5%
Nutty and thoroughly satisfying. Very clean, vibrant and fresh. This won’t weigh you down at the end – or beginning? – of a meal.
£29.50 Lea & Sandeman

Kopke, Colheita 2005 Port 20%
Waitrose have a range of Kopke’s delicious wood-aged ports. Colheitas are tawnies that are a blend of wines from the same year. This one, with 110 g/l residual sweetness, is like liquid Christmas with its nuts and spices.
£31.99 Waitrose

Sandeman, 30 Year Old Tawny NV Port 20%
An old favourite super-smooth mix of orange peel and dried fruits that’s not overpriced considering its age.
£68 The Crafty Vintner, £70.10, £71.99 The Bottle Club Vin, and many others

Blandy's, Verdelho Colheita Meio Seco/Medium Dry 2010 Madeira 20%
Really exciting medium-dry, Atlantic island wine that will last forever in an opened bottle. To be savoured before, after or during holiday meals.
£70 The Wine Society

Barbeito, Single Cask 13E Vinha do Agostinho Verdelho Colheita 2007 Madeira 19%
From a little plot of these precious vines recently discovered by the innovative winemaker Ricardo Diogo of Barbeito within a Negra Mole vineyard. Notes of orange peel and dried fruits with a beautiful balance between sweetness and acid. A bit like the most delicate, refreshing liquid marmalade. Goes on and on on the palate.
From £60 per 50 cl Valhalla’s Goat of Glasgow, £62.50 Cork of the North


Producteurs Plaimont, St-Albert 2018 Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh 12.5%
Useful wine that has character and backbone and is really refreshing but definitely sweet too. A success! Appetising, classic answer to Jurançon, from Armagnac country.

£22.75 Corney & Barrow

Ch Broustet, Tesco Finest 2018 Sauternes 13.5%
A steal for an oak-aged wine made from fully nobly rotten, mainly Sémillon grapes. Very smooth and silky and already enjoyable. Pear syrup with just enough freshness.
£13.50 per half Tesco

Ch Lamothe Guignard, L'Ouest de Lamothe Guignard 2010 Sauternes 13.5%
A snip unearthed by buyer Jane Masters MW. Real weight and maturity on this wine – classic Sauternes with a little saltiness after all the sweetness.
£14.99 per half Majestic

Union of Vinicultural Cooperatives of Samos, Solera Muscat NV Samos 15%
75% is from the 1995 vintage, topped up successively with younger wine from this Greek island. Lots of sweetness and peachy pleasure but it’s a bit of challenge for the teeth.
£23 per half The Wine Society

Ch de Fargues 2001 Sauternes 14%
Fully mature, top-quality Sauternes available by the bottle and half – as rare as hen’s teeth in the UK. Owned by the Lur Saluces family, once of Yquem.
£93.20 per bottle, £49.60 per half Wilkinson Vintners

Longer tasting notes, scores and suggested drinking dates in our 250,000-strong tasting notes database. International stockists at Wine-Searcher.com.

Image by Kyoshino via Getty Images.