A couple of months ago I was talking to a wine merchant about its Christmas wine hampers. “You might want to rename the party one…” I suggested.
One of the many tricky things about this year has been the inability to plan, but it’s clear parties are off the agenda.
And on the agenda? Treating ourselves to a few good bottles, perhaps. Because even if we don’t yet know where we’ll be for Christmas or who we’ll be spending it with, we do know that no one is going to be trying to quench the thirst of the 5,000 from the rapidly depleting contents of their kitchen fridge.
If Christmas gatherings are set to be smaller, perhaps the drink could be more sybaritic – out with the “party fizz” and in with a good bottle of champagne? The ones I’ve written up here are superb – I have a particular soft spot for the two blanc de noirs as I love this style of champagne in cold weather.
Best champagne and sparkling wine for Christmas 2020
The Society’s Cava Reserva Brut NV
Spain (12%, The Wine Society, £8.95)
For some time now cava has been much better value than prosecco and this one is pitch-perfect. No one will be needing party wines this year but it’s a good pick for a cheaper fizz.
Cave de Turckheim Crémant d’Alsace NV
Alsace, France (12.5%, Waitrose, £9.99 down from £13.49 until Dec 1)
Made from pinot blanc and pinot gris, this is a sprightly iteration of crémant d’Alsace – refreshing, with an uplifting lightness and a delicate floral note. A change of pace from heavier chardonnay or pinot noir-based sparkling wines.
Jean-Claude et Didier Aubert Vouvray Mousseux Brut Réserve NV
Loire, France (12.5%, yapp.co.uk, £16.50)
The chenin blanc grape makes all kinds of wines in Vouvray – still, sweet and sparkling. Here it’s coaxed into a sparkling wine that tastes of ripe pears and pear tart; a nice change of pace.
STAR BUY Co-op Les Pionniers Champagne Brut NV
France (12%, Co-op, £19)
The best supermarket own-label champagne. Period. I notice a bizarre snobbery amongst many drinkers who are happy to buy Aldi champagne but won’t touch anything with a Co-op label on it. More fool them, because this is seriously good and the 2012 vintage version is excellent too.
Devaux Augusta Brut Champagne NV
France (12%, Majestic, £20.99/£27.99 mix six/single bottle price)
Devaux is a name few know but it’s worth committing to memory because it quietly produces very good champagne – Devaux is also behind Majestic’s excellent pale pink Oeil de Perdrix. This smells like pastel de nata and warm brioche brushed with apricot jam.
Morrisons The Best English Sparkling Vintage 2010
Sussex, England (12%, Morrisons, £25)
A really excellent, rich and toasty English sparkling wine that majors on chardonnay but is also made with 33% pinot noir and 8% pinot meunier. Morrisons says it can’t disclose who’s behind Rolling Green Hills Ltd, the company that made it, but documents lodged at Companies House show that Eric Heerema is involved – and he owns Nyetimber.
Adnams Rosé Champagne NV
France (12%, Adnams, £25.99)
H. Blin is the name behind this richly full-bodied rosé champagne, which unusually majors on pinot meunier (70% of the blend). Comforting and broad, with a softly perfumed nose that’s all pink florals and brioche with hints of red berries woven through. Lovely!
R&L Legras Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Chouilly NV
France (12%, Lea & Sandeman, £29.95/£32.95 mixed case/single bottle price)
R&L Legras is a family grower – meaning they’re a producer who grows the grapes (rather than buying them in) as well as making the wines. This is serious quality for a very reasonable price – pale, lustrous, elegant all-chardonnay champagne.
Champagne Chauvet Brut Nature NV
France (12.5%, Private Cellar, £30)
A very attractive champagne from a family-run domaine, this is actually a blanc de noirs, made with 90% pinot noir and 10% pinot meunier. Very dry, lovely and toasty and with a hint of black cherries.
STAR BUY Gonet-Médeville Blanc de Noirs Champagne Brut 1er Cru NV
France (12.5%, Lea & Sandeman, £32.95/£35.95 mixed case/single bottle price)
For me blanc de noirs – made only with black grapes – is true winter champagne, sappy, structured, with a faint tinge of black cherries, a wine you can imagine drinking on a frosty day. This one has incredible finesse and charm. A real find.
STAR BUY Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Vintage Grand Cru Champagne 2012
France (Waitrose, £34.99)
Rumour has it that Waitrose might soon be ticking on to the 2013 vintage which I haven’t tasted but I can attest that this creamy and elegant cooperative-made champagne is superb – an under-the-radar blanc de blancs from an excellent vintage.
Fleury Organic Blanc de Noirs Champagne Brut NV
France (Waitrose, £35)
Fleury is not just organic it was also the first champagne producer to be certified biodynamic. This blanc de noirs – made with 100% pinot noir – is rich but tightly packed, a gleaming, dense
Champagne Boizel Brut Reserve NV
France (12%, The Wine Society, £35)
A very beautifully balanced champagne that majors on the pinots (it’s 55% pinot noir and 15% pinot meunier) but with a good dollop of chardonnay too. The grapes come from 50 different crus and the result is a very elegant and lovely wine indeed.
Champagne Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV
Pol Roger is one of the most elegant of the grand marques and the much-loved white label is absolutely a point at the moment.
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2015
England (12.5%, gusbourne.com, £59)
On the low-lying, coastal lands of Kent, Gusbourne has been polishing and improving the quality of its sparkling wine. This blanc de blancs is notably keen, with a scintillating energy.