TO champ or to sparkle? That is the main consideration this week as I recommend suitable Bank Holiday beverages.
Let us celebrate the end of August in style having due regard to value for money and note the improving quality of sparkling wine some of which is home grown. To that end I tasted two English sparkling wines and one from New Zealand.
Limited production tends to keep prices high for English wines, so I was pleased to avail myself of 25 per cent off six bottles of wine at Sainsbury’s in order to purchase a Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut at the reduced price of £12 75.
Grapes are sourced from Kent, Essex and good old Sussex for this crisp sparkling wine with lively acidity and fine persistent bubbles. At this price it is a no-brainer and should not disappoint with its fresh citrus flavours, hints of strawberry and brioche on the finish. In my quest to evaluate English sparkling wines I headed due north to leafy Boxhill to Denbies wine estate.
I selected their original sparkling wine, namely Denbies Greenfields, an elegant fizz made from whole bunch hand-picked grapes. Its baked apple aromas are enhanced by a toasted character and it is rounded in the mouth with generous fruit and purity of flavour. The only downside with this good wine is the price of £25 which is not over competitive compared to budget champagnes.
My last sparkling wine from NZ proved to be another bargain basement buy from Morrison’s reduced from £20 to £10! The Cloudy Bay Pelorus not only looks good, tastes even better and is, in my view, the Rolls-Royce of champagne alternatives. This is an aperitif style of sparkling wine with lemon, hazelnut and brioche flavours to the fore and a delight to sample.
Turning now to Champagne, it is worth bearing in mind that over 70 countries, including Australia and China, have signed up to an agreement that Champagne can only be used on labels for products of the Champagne region of France and hence its exclusivity. I decided to sample one from Sainsbury’s and two from M&S all enjoying a 25 per cent reduction in price on any six bottles purchased.
Supermarkets’ own labels can put some people off, but I have to say that Sainsbury’s Champagne Blanc de Noirs at a post reduction £12 was a pleasant surprise with its balanced acidity, hint of toasted biscuit and richness and is my wine of the week and one you can present without fear of offending any guest!
Popping into M&S I spotted an Oudinot brut down to £12, whose creamy texture made it a good buy at that price. I then scaled the heights and purchased an Abdel Charlot brut for a reduced price of £24 and noted its richness, its lush caramelised hazelnut flavours and at this price worth a punt for its distinctive taste. What have we learnt? Shop around, look for offers and taste for yourselves. Footnote: Bargain reds from Sainsbury’s — Argentinian Malbec now down to £4 (oh, so smooth) and Baron de Las Vinas Rioja for under £6 . Enjoy!