Champagne, cava, prosecco, English sparkling white wine. Confused? Here's how to get it right
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without bubbles. But with 10 zillion options vying for a place in your festive fridge, which bottle should you take home?
2015 was the year that our collective zeal for Italian prosecco reached its zenith (Brits spent £41m on own-brand versions of the stuff this year). But it was also when bright, fresh English wine started to be taken seriously (HMRC has seen a 41% increase in applications to produce English sparkling wine this year). And let's not forget the original. The fanciest. Bone-dry, golden-toned champagne.
You're going to need a little help picking the best bubbles for Christmas.
Luckily for you, we've tapped up Sainsbury's champagne buyer Emma Monaghan (AKA the woman with the world's best job) for her expert advice. Here's what she says:
First up, let's talk basics
Prosecco – This is a lovely lighter style of fizz. It's fresher and fruitier than champagne and cava, which makes it easier to drink and therefore great for parties. It's also the fizz of the moment, very trendy and obviously a cheaper alternative to champers.
Cava – From Spain, cava is a great all-rounder. It’s much cheaper than champagne (about £6 a bottle) but made in exactly the same way, so the flavour profile is similar with those yeasty notes that come from the second fermentation in the bottle.
Champagne – Naturally, the king of fizz, and the price reflects that. It can only be made in the Champagne region of France, and only from certain grape varieties. It has delicious brioche notes from its extended time ageing in bottle.
English Sparkling – The home-grown stuff is having a great time at the moment as consumers are coming to realise its excellent quality. It tends to have similar traits to champagne as the climate of southern England, where most of the vineyards are, is very similar to that of the Champagne region in France – although the notes are more appley rather than lemony. And buying it helps the English wine industry, which is a good thing.
And which fizz is best for which occasion?
For Christmas nibbles and antipasti platters: prosecco wins
Shellfish starter or any fried fish: try cava – the acidity cuts through the oiliness
Smoked salmon: perfect with blanc de blancs champagne. The citrus notes work beautifully with the strong flavour
For pudding: try asti, the sweet sparkling white Italian wine
Time to work out what's right for you, based on your tastes
"If you're into crisp, fresh whites, like pinot grigio, then go for prosecco," says Emma. "If more complex whites, like chablis or Pouilly-Fumé are your bag, then champagne will be your favourite. And if you err on the sweet side, it's got to be a demi-sec cava."
Like this? Then try these:
- Everything you need to know about English wine
- This is how to open a bottle of Champagne... with your iPhone
- Have you tried pet-nat? It's the new Prosecco, don't you know
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