From €17.80, $25.75, 2,034 yen, 189.95 Danish krone, £22.75, 269 Norweigan krone, CA$49.90, AU$56
The stranglehold that the word 'champagne' has over the world of sparkling wine is both absurd and unjust. Most people would scramble to buy a top-rated vintage champagne at under £25 (see Andy Howard's report on the Co-op today for a rare example) but when it's a sparkling Vouvray, even one made by one of the region's best producers, one scored 17.5 by Julia, and indeed a previous vintage garnered 18 points from Jancis, interest wanes. Madness!
Hence this wine of the week – to implore everyone reading these words to snap up what is not just a relative bargain, but one of the true unsung beauties of fizz: Huet's brilliant pétillant Vouvrays, both the Réserve and non-reserve versions.
They are made from the Chenin Blanc of the Loire (rather than Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier) but otherwise resemble champagne in every way but one. They are bottle-fermented, lees aged for three and six years respectively, and given a Brut dosage of around eight grams of sugar per litre.
However, as indicated by the term pétillant, they are fermented to roughly half the pressure that traditional bottle fermentation usually achieves. To some that might conjure a thought of semi-flat wine, like carbonated drinks left open too long, but the fizziness was no less effusive to the eye and palate when I tasted these wines recently.
Regardless, production methods alone don't equate with excellence – as witness the plethora of champagnes which adhere to the appellation guidelines yet are hugely underwhelming. Equal if not superior in importance are the raw ingredients.
As the back label reveals, all the grapes that go into Huet's wines, whether sparkling or still, are grown biodynamically and harvested by hand. But most importantly of all, they result in wines with fantastic complexity, intensity and length.
Both of them have a powerful honey and apple aroma accompanied by classic biscuit and cereal notes from long lees ageing. The Réserve is fuller and richer than its younger sibling, and seems to have developed a steely note on the palate, too. Both proudly display the signature high acidity of great sparkling wine, and have a fantastic soft, creamy texture that is no doubt thanks to the lower pressure.
The result is that these Huet pétillant Vouvrays are superb wine by any measure, but especially when compared with champagne – and deserve every bit as much attention.
In the UK, you can buy them via their importer Armit's retail website, where the 2009 Réserve costs £30.34 and the 2010 costs £24.34 – or use the wine-searcher links below to find alternative retailers, some of which are even cheaper!