Drink: Six of the best sparklers to sip this festive season
Velvet’s wine columnist Giles Luckett has been in the business for more than 30 years and worked everywhere from Harrods to Laithwaites. This month, he’s popping the cork on six festive sparklers. . .
It’s Christmas! To celebrate, here are my top six celebratory sippers for the festive season.
I’ll start with what has to be the best value fizz in the UK. The Co-Op Cava (£7.50) is a characterful, fulsome wine that combines tradition with modernity to offer a sparkling that’s rich and yeasty with a trace of salt with plenty of green apple, pear, melon, and rhubarb. At this price, it’s affordable enough to keep parties swinging, but it’s also serious enough to be enjoyed with white meats or fish.
While Cava is great value, that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of creating fine wines. Take the Roger Goulart Gran Reserva 2019 Josep Valls (Hic!, £19). This vintage Cava shows the depth, complexity, and nuance that the finest Cava can offer. Mid-gold, the nose is suffused with peaches and apricots with rich notes of honey and almonds. The palate continues these themes, adding a refreshing strawberry and raspberry tone and just a touch of savoury minerals. Great with food – everything from smoked salmon canapés to fruit tartlets – it’s also lovely on its own with company.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without Graham Beck paying an extended visit, and this year, it’ll be the Graham Beck Rosé (Waitrose, £16.99) that we’ll be enjoying. While the Brut (Majestic, £16.99) is a firm favourite, with food, I find the rosé has the edge. Rose-petal pink with red-gold highlights, it is firm, elegantly proportioned and offers lovely flavours of summer pudding complete with a creamy yeastiness to the finish. Every bit as good as any Champagne under £30, this is a wine for occasions.
When it comes to Champagnes, I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the last couple of years exploring Champagne’s various styles. I’ve had the weird (aged under the sea, barrel fermented, and one with more residual sugar than my mum’s jam), and I’ve had the wonderful. The Gosset Grande Réserve (The Wine Society, £49.31) falls firmly into the latter category. If you’re not familiar with Gosset’s wines, then you’re missing out. They are astonishingly pure, precise wines with an intensity that demands attention. The Grande Réserve is pale, has tiny bubbles, and a vibrant, zesty, grapey nose with a hint of honey. In the mouth, it’s taut and elegant, offering apple, Comice pear, whitecurrants, and a clean oyster shell and lemon finish. Try this with smoked fish pate or the turkey.
Rosé champagne is one of the great joys of my life, and one I keep turning to is the Taittinger Rosé (Tesco, £42). This is a wine that’s changed significantly over the years – and I don’t just mean its smart new label. When I first tasted it at Taittinger in 2002, it was rather delicate and best enjoyed on its own. My latest encounter bore a much deeper colour, and the nose offered intense notes of wild strawberry and raspberry conserve on toast. It tastes richer too, there’s a greater depth of redberry fruit, there are nectarine notes, and the yeasty finish is creamier and more persistent. A beautiful and delicious wine, partner this with white cheeses and or pork.
I’ll finish with a festive flourish in the form of the Dom Perignon 2013 (Cambridge Wine Merchants, £215). I tasted this beauty recently, and it was sensational. Soft, plump, and rounded gorgeous white berries, Mirabelle plums and peaches, and a backbone of minerally raspberries, it’s drinking extraordinarily well given its youth (this will age for decades). Yes, it’s expensive, but this legend of a wine is worth every penny. Give it an hour open and serve with… nobody else around?!
Here’s to a fine festive season. More in 2024!
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