Tip-top fizz


This is a rather longer version of an article published in the Financial Times, with a total of 24 as opposed to 20 wines recommended.

For further recent notes on champagne and other sparkling wines, see The fizz assortment and Fizz assortment – part 2. See also the two tree articles Tip-tip reds and Tip-top whites and fortfieds.

There is no shortage of luxurious fizz here, with a few bargains at the top of the list. All these wines are around 12% to 12.5% alcohol and all but the first and the Ridgeview won a score of at least 17 from me recently, sometimes in the ultimate test of quality, a blind tasting. Those seeking a real, if light, bargain should head for the all-Chardonnay co-op-produced Crémant du Jura sold by Aldi for just £7.29. According to Wink Lorch, author of Jura Wine, this is Jura's most exported wine by far.

Marc Chauvet, Tradition NV Champagne
Well-balanced blend of all three champagne grapes from a grower in Rilly-Le-Montagne based on the 2010 vintage with 25% older wines. I gave this 16.5 out of 20 rather than 17 but it's very good value.
£24 The Real Wine Co

Artéis & Co 2002 Champagne
Intriguing new producer introduces much-needed novelty to the champagne category. The oddly accented Artéis is a sort of micro-négociant, buying up small parcels of vintage champagne from growers or small houses to disgorge and sell under their own label. Wines therefore combine maturity with freshness and this is seriously good value.
£29.95 (reduced from £35.95) Roberson

De Castelnau, Blanc de Blancs 2002 Champagne
Good value for a vintage champagne with so much age on it, and from such a fine vintage. Not the driest champagne, nor the most persistent, but a good buy from a solid co-operative.
£30.99 Click n' Drink

Herbert Beaufort, Carte d'Or NV Champagne
M&S's long-standing Bouzy grower supplies this very substantial Pinot Noir-based wine based on the 2006 vintage. So broad is this well-priced champagne, you could almost drink it with a steak.
£192 for six M&S (the equivalent of £32 a bottle)

Mumm, Demi Sec NV Champagne
I was surprised by how fine this deliberately slightly sweet champagne is. If, like many French families, you insist on serving a champagne with the sweet course, then this pungent, well-made wine should not disappoint.
£33.95 Champagne Direct and others

Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Merret Magnum 2000 England
A magnificent magnum (useful for entertaining ?) in memory of the much-missed Mike Roberts, who did so much for English wine at Ridgeview and died last month. Highly unusual to encounter an English fizz with this amount of age on it. Unfortunately, although it was disgorged as recently as August, the all-Chardonnay wine doesn't seem to have taken on an enormous amount of subtlety, but it's bone dry and super-refreshing.
£75 M&S (the equivalent of £37.50 per 75 cl)

Cédric Bouchard, Inflorescence Brut 2011 Champagne
Extraordinary grower's champagne that may be very youthful but has an exceptional combination of fruit intensity with elegance unassisted by any added sugar (dosage) when it was disgorged. Highly distinctive and very persistent.
£43.20 The Sampler

Charles Heidsieck Rosé NV Champagne
One of the most assertive pink NV champagnes around, from a revitalised producer that was already on good form. A blend of 43% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Meunier, it is quite a deep pink and very noticeably 'champagney' on the nose – very vinous with real evolution. Round, bright-fruited, long, zesty and substantial.
£43.53 Slurp.co.uk

Veuve Clicquot, Rich 2004 Champagne
Very pale indeed. Pungent, apple-flavoured and relatively dry-tasting even though it has a residual sugar level of 28 g/l. This Pinot-dominated blend is clearly very well made and might be interesting to match with rich seafood dishes.
£44.29 Amathus Drinks, also Hedonism and others

Ruinart, Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne
Good toasty nose that seems to owe much to extended bottle age. Extremely brisk and appetising. Very clean and fresh.
£47.95 Lea & Sandeman

Eric Rodez, Cuvée des Grands Vintage NV Champagne
Intense and very deep-flavoured. Serious stuff! Very delicate in build but this clearly has many different ingredients. I'd love to taste this blind alongside Krug Grande Cuvée! The Rodez example would probably be a tad simpler but I'm sure it would not be disgraced.
£50 Berry Bros & Rudd, £63.90 The Sampler

Veuve Clicquot 2004 Champagne
Lots of vegetal reduced character on the nose – not unpleasant. A very solid substantial drink with relatively low acidity. Not that fizzy – champagne for food?
£50.50 Tanners

Bollinger, Grande Année 2004 Champagne
I tasted this blind alongside many other famous-name vintage champagnes and found it outstandingly interesting and complex. It is clearly relatively mature on the nose with lots of development and polished autumn-leaf characters. Fascinating wine that is probably too interesting to throw back at a reception. Complete and compelling.
£56.95 Roberson and quite widely available

Gusbourne, Late Disgorged 2007 England
Another English wine that has been treated to extended ageing, this one from a promising newcomer had nearly six years on lees and then extended bottle age. The complexity of aroma and the persistence of the palate suggests the extra ageing is worth it, although of course it is characterised by England's trademark crisp acidity.
£56.95 Field and Fawcett, £58.95 Lea & Sandeman, £59.99 Selfridges

Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2004 Champagne
Neat nose with a good balance of all ingredients – not excessively tart, nor excessively dosed. Not the most dramatic wine but a very solid, all-Chardonnay bet. Quite a gentle texture.
£70 Berry Bros & Rudd

Lanson, Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1998 Champagne
Mild bruised-apples nose. Tight texture. There may be something a little sour about this but there is masses of personality and integrity. Tight bead. Bone-dry finish. Fairly uncompromising.
£71.50 The Champagne Company

Nyetimber, Tillington 2009 England
Brave wine that was launched as England's first ambitiously priced, single-vineyard fizz. I have witnessed how convincing it is for those who taste it without preconceptions.
£75 Berry Bros & Rudd

Bollinger, Grande Année Rosé 2004 Champagne
Lots of fresh green elements on the nose. Tight texture with something very slightly yeasty but very refreshing and confident. A wine with a real beginning, middle and end.
From around £77, quite widely available

Fleury Père & Fils, Sonate No 9 Extra Brut NV Champagne
Wild and exciting (biodynamically grown). The complexity of the aromas really lifts the wine out of the ordinary. Bone dry but with masses of wild-flower character and great texture. Admirable tension.
£80 Berry Bros

Ca' del Bosco, Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2005 Franciacorta
Proof that Italy's finest fizz can be very bit as good as a champagne at the same price. 55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Blanc, 20% Pinot Noir. This top bottling manages to be both rich and delicate. There's a certain softness but also real zestiness and refreshment. All the grapes, including Pinot Blanc, for this blend are fermented in barrique but there is no trace of oakiness, just sheer class. Beautifully tiny bubbles.
£82 Vini Italiani

Laurent Perrier, Grand Siècle NV Champagne
The current version of Laurent Perrier's very discreet top blend is based on 1997, 1999 and 2002 vintages. Fine, lacy, tight-knit and very flirtatious. Fine and complex. No spring chicken, but it delivers. I suspect the Oddbins cuvée may be the next, slightly younger one. [RH checking NB]
£90 Oddbins, £110 40 M&S stores

Krug Grande Cuvée NV Champagne
You can check out the precise history of this blend by entering the back label code, ID 413073, on krug.com. Unusual, obviously oak-aged nose. Lots of personality in this complete, hugely complex wine whose ingredients range from 1990 to 2006. Very fine, gentle mousse.
£109.50 Champagne Company, £125 Roberson and elsewhere

Ruinart, Dom Ruinart 2002 Champagne
Really lifted nose with a lovely silky texture. Despite the low dosage (6.5 g/l) there's a certain richness of fruit underneath. This is a very good vintage! Still extremely tight with lots more to give.
£120 Roberson, low stock

Bruno Paillard, NPU 1999 Champagne
Modestly named Nec Plus Ultra, this equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was aged for 12 years on the lees and then given a dosage of just 4 g/l. The result is a most unusual champagne, bone dry but not austere, with the merest suggestion of its time in oak, a sort of long-aged light honey character. A sort of trembling, vibrating wine that demands attention. This is far from an aperitif wine; it's one to discuss.
£136.32 Exel Wines

For more recent notes on champagne and other sparkling wines see The fizz assortment and Fizz assortment – part 2.