The Champagne region in the north of France remains the global model for quality sparkling wine production. The magic of Champagne is bound-up in terroir, specifically climate and soils, but also centuries of evolution and knowledge. Champagne is also my personal ‘desert island’ wine, and you will find many Champagne reports, as well as tasting notes on well over 300 Champagnes, here on wine-pages.com.
And yet the world of high quality, traditional method sparkling wines seems to be ever-expanding, with impressive examples from across the globe: in recent months I’ve reported on excellent sparkling wines from Argentina, Croatia and Portugal for example. So, specifically for Christmas drinking this year, here are three non-Champagne wines of excellent quality, and to suit most budgets starting at under £10.
The stand-out success for sparkling wine in the last decade or two is surely England. A couple of decades ago English wine was the butt of jokes, but that has all changed thanks to the superb quality of so many examples. Any Champagne-lover who tastes some of the top English sparkling wines surely cannot fail to be impressed. All along the English south coast, from the white cliffs of Dover to Cornwall, soils and climate in the south of the UK are as close to those of Champagne as anywhere else on the planet, with the chalk soils of the South Downs in Hampshire and Sussex a particular hot spot. I will be reviewing a broad selection of the most interesting English fizzes early in the new year, but meanwhile the outstanding example below from Exton Park will represent the class extremely well – and please note that it is available in half-bottles and magnums, as well as regular 75cl bottles.
The second wine comes from one of my favourite sparkling wine regions outside of Champagne: Franciacorta in Lombardy, northern Italy. I have reported from this beautiful region several times, the wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in a very small region entirely focused on quality. The example I have chosen here from Berlucchi is the unique speciality of the region, Satèn, all-Chardonnay wines bottled with 4 bars of pressure rather than the normal 5 – 6 bars of regular Brut wines.
Finally, a wine from a very traditional region for sparkling wines in France, the Loire Valley. In fact most wine regions of France make their own traditional method sparkling wines, often labeled as Crémant, Mousseux or Blanquette, all with second fermentation in individual bottles: look out too for Crémant d’Alsace or Crémant de Bourgogne for example.