Livewire - December 20. 2013

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By Colin Burbridge

There is no such thing as bad Champagne, but the price will, to a degree, reflect the extra care taken during production and therefore extra flavour and quality.

For luxury at a great price try Janisson & Fils Grand Cru Brut at £22.99 from Aldi. A delicious complex champagne with a taste that lingers. Aromas of toasted hazelnut, pear, white flowers, and a lovely soft mousse make this an easy drinking affordable bit of luxury.

Feeling patriotic? Try Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2010 from England from Ocado at £24.99. English Sparkling wine gets rave reviews and is beating Champagnes in blind tastings. Ridgeview is based in Ditchling Common, Sussex and planted to traditional Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier selected through advice from Epernay (Champagne). A light gold colour with a fine mousse, citrus aromas,hint of melon and honey. The Chardonnay gives it a crisp fruity freshness and the characteristic toasty notes.

Many find Champagne a little too sharp, sparking indigestion at first sip. Hence the meteoric rise in recent times of Prosecco. This Italian bright spark, made in a slightly different way from Champagne is always a little sweet (even when described as Brut– Dry). This makes it a great party wine, marrying easily with spicy nibbles. One favourite is Prosecco Zonin from Majestic, just £7.99 if you buy two or more.

Old friend Spanish Cava seems to have been pushed out of place by its Italian cousin but remains a popular budget alternative. Made in the same way as Champagne, but with a fresher, livelier style. One of my regulars is Freixenet Vintage Especial, the 2011 currently available through Tesco wine direct at a bargain £6.99! Clean light yellow appearance, off-dry sparkler, crisp and fresh with some sweetness. Strong small bubbles and melon and peach fruitiness make it a great quaffing wine. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

n For tasting and other events locally see www.thelancashirewineschool.com or call (01253) 301934.