Three Fizzes for a Sparkling Christmas

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

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.

Exton Park Brut Reserve

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.

christmas sparkling wineThe 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.

Three Fizzes for a Sparkling Christmas

(2017) A wine I have followed for some time, this is a blend of 40% mature Chardonnay from the oldest vineyards with 60% Pinot Noir, all planted on the chalk soils of the South Downs. The mousse is creamy and fine and there is still that touch of pastry and biscuit to the sheer lemony fruit character on the nose, opening onto a palate that has added an extra degree of intensity since my last tasting it seems. The sumptuous character of the fruit and a modest 7g/l of dosage just blurs the steely edges rather nicely. Long and with a lick of salty minerality in the finish, it really is very fine indeed. Distribution for this wine is now very good - use the wine-searcher link - and half bottles at around £17.50 and magnums at around £60 are also available.
(2017) Franciacorta's unique 'Satèn' style is a favourite of mine: all-Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs wines bottled with a lower pressure than in regular Brut styles, for a particularly soft and luxurious feel. This gold-tinged wine has brioche and apple pie aromas, a fine creamy yeastiness, and on the palate lovely enveloping texture, ripe, ripe fruit but terrific acidity, a zest and tang to leave it super fresh too. Note there are no UK stockists of this particular Satèn cuvée at time of review, but the Brut is selling for £22.00. The quoted stockist in Italy sells this at €16.40 (£14.48), with free delivery if spending €199 or more. Satèn from other excellent producers are in the UK: try the example from Barone Pizzini (Vintage Roots), Ferghettina (All About Wine) or Biondelli (Berry Bros.) for example.
(2017) With over 900 stores in the UK, Iceland is a significant retailer, yet one that very, very rarely features on these pages because, frankly, their wine range has always been rather pedestrian. This wine, however, exclusive to Iceland in the UK, is a little cracker. A traditional method sparkling wine from the Loire Valley, it is mostly about fresh citrus fruit on the nose, but there is a little bit of custard cream richness, and the palate has a ripe fruit sweetness to offset the racing apple acidity and crispness of the mousse. Quite long, stylish, and very smart for the price.

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