Tesco Cava Brut, Spain Nv (£5.85, Tesco) Considered the best value sparkling wine, this cava is seen as both a mixed blessing by winegrowers in the Catalan region of Penedès where almost all of it is produced. Sure, it’s a boon for those of us on a budget this party season when we can buy delicious fizzy, bottle-roasted like Tesco’s for less than £6. Not good, it seems, for some of the best Catalan sparkling-wine producers, who choose to bottle their wine without cava on the label, convinced that its cheap reputation is a drag on what they can (and must) charge if they want to live a decent life. I can see their point, and effervescents from the likes of Gramona and Recaredo, both part of the rival Corpinnat association set up by a group of separate premium producers in 2015, are worth seeing for what they are: fine sparkling wines with their own distinct, Mediterranean identity.
Cave de Turckheim Cuvée Brut Crémant d’Alsace, France NV (£13.49, Waitrose) Over the past two years, Cava’s board of directors has put a lot of work into tightening the rules for Cava, introducing new categories for its best wines based on minimum longer aging and individual vineyard locations in an effort to prevent more top-of-the-line wines. Producers jump ship. Alta Alella is one such producer who has remained loyal to the cava brand, and Alta Alella Cava Mirgin Blanca Gran Reserva 2017 (£22, winefreedom.co.uk) is a fine example of the dry, expressive, herbal elegance of cava at its best. Over the years, producers of creamy sparkling wines in France have faced a similar uphill struggle as their Catalan counterparts, being forever compared to the bottle-fermented king of French Champagne. Recent years have seen huge improvements in quality stemming from great producers in Alsace, Burgundy, the Jura and the Loire, but wines like the delicious Cuvée Brut from Turckheim are still fantastic value.
Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs, West Sussex, England NV (£36, wistonestate.com) Other competitively priced Champagnes worth seeking out this Christmas include a pair from consistent Southern Hemisphere producers: Tasmania’s Jansz Premium Cuvée NV (£13.49, Waitrose) and the apple pie-scented Graham Becks Blanc de Blancs. From Robertson in South Africa (£19.99, or £17.49 as part of the Majestic Six Combination Set). England’s sparkling wine scene lives up to the hype, with Citrussy Ridgeview Bloomsbury (£22.49 until 1 January, Waitrose); the sparkling Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs; The Simpsons Flint Fields Blanc de Noirs 2018 Ultra HD (£45, simpsonswine.com); And the luminous Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2018 ($59, gusbourne.com) are some recent favourites. From Champagne itself, the Co-op Les Pionniers Brut NV (£19.50, The Co-op) is still the best in this area at under £20; Gimonnet Cuvée Gastronome 2016 (£40, thewinesociety.com) made to drink with Christmas hors d’oeuvres; And the surprisingly resonant, resonant Krug Grand Cuvée 170ème Edition Brut (£195, Waitrose) is even better if someone else pays.
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