John Wilson’s top 10 sparkling wines of 2019
Critic’s choice of Champagne and sparklers, from €10.50 to €215
Festive fizz: any sparkling wine will help create a real sense of fun and excitement at your get-together
With the party season about to go into overdrive, now is the time to stock up on wine. Any sparkling wine (it doesn’t have to be Champagne) will help create a real sense of fun and excitement at your get-together.
Here, you will find my top 10 bottles of fizz, ranging in price from €10.50 to €215. I have deliberately avoided prosecco, not because I don’t like it (although there are some pretty awful examples out there) but because so many more really interesting sparkling wines are available.
And while it might be too expensive for large parties, for smaller gatherings there is nothing to compare with good Champagne to get the ball rolling. I include four in my list.
Don’t limit yourself to pre-dinner. Champagne and other sparkling wines are great with all sorts of food. Seafood will do nicely, but also try them with chicken or pork
If you are looking for something different, I also have a pet nat, a red sparkling wine, a sparkling Australian, and a Loire Chardonnay. If your budget is tight, there are two very tasty sparklers, both widely available, for less than €13.
While sparkling wine does make a great party wine or aperitif, it will taste so much better with a few nibbles to balance the acidity. I am addicted to gougères, those gorgeous cheesy choux pastry buns – happily they make a great match for Champagne. But any kind of light carb will line the stomach.
Don’t limit yourself to sparklers pre-dinner though; Champagne and other sparkling wines are great with all sorts of food. Shellfish and other seafood will do nicely, but you could also try them with chicken, pork and other meats.
While your sparkling wine should be served chilled, please don’t leave it for hours in a freezing cold bucket of ice. Good sparkling wine served in proper wine glasses at about 8-12 degrees Celsius will taste so much better.
1. M&S Cava Brut NV, 11.5%, €10.50
A very approachable sparkling wine with fresh, easy pear and apple fruits. A very friendly price, too. Perfect for parties and those mini-celebrations.
From Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.com
2. Aldi Exquisite Crémant d’Alsace NV, 12.5%, €12.99
The Aldi Crémant de Jura has been a firm favourite of mine for the past five years. Sadly, this has been discontinued, but in its place we have this very tasty, fresh, fruit-driven Alsace blend; a great alternative at the same price.
From Aldi, aldi.ie
3. Tuffeau 2017, Blancs de Blancs Brut Nature, 12%, €19.50-€19.95
This is one of my favourite good value bottles of fizz, streets ahead of prosecco. This Loire Chardonnay offers abundant fresh, crisp, pure green apple fruits, with a toasty note and a long clean, dry finish. Serve by itself or with nibbles.
From Cass & Co, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, cassandco.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W, greenmanwines.ie; 64 Wine, Glasthule, Co Dublin, 64wine.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Eleven Deli, Greystones, Co Wicklow, elevendeli.ie; Deveney’s, Dundrum, Dublin 14.
4. Ponente 270 Podere Cipolla 2017, Lambrusco dell’Emilia, 12%, €21
A vibrant purple-pink colour, frothy and exuberantly fruity – all crunchy blackcurrants, damsons and redcurrants, with a dryish finish. Perfect with cold meats, cheeses and other nibbles, or to make a statement fizz to serve at a party.
From First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, firstdraftcoffeandwine.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W, greenmanwines.ie; siyps.com; Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, and Galway, sheridanscheesemongers.com; Cass & Co, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, cassandco.ie
5. Uivo PT Nat Pinot Noir Rosé 2017, Portugal, 11.5%, €24
This is a pet nat, a wine that has refermented in the bottle. The palest pink colour, lightly sparkling, with delicate, fine red cherry and redcurrant fruits.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, Ely64.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie; Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6; redmonds.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W, greenmanwines.ie
6. Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée 2012, Australia, 12%, €35
Tasmania makes some seriously good fizz – this has lovely, moreish, rich, ripe strawberry fruit, subtle brioche and toasted hazelnuts, lingering nicely on the palate. A dead ringer for posh Champagne.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
7. Beaumont des Crayères Grande Réserve Champagne NV, 12%, €36.95
A very seductive, elegant Champagne with a lovely creamy texture, light red fruits, a touch of lemon peel and a lingering finish. Excellent value for money, and perfect for kickstarting any celebration.
From O’Briens, obriens.ie
8. Lombard Brut Nature, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV, 12%, €45
A very stylish, bone-dry Champagne, with crisp, refined lemon sherbet and lightly biscuity apple fruits. Heaven with oysters, but great with all kinds of nibbles.
From Dunnes Stores, dunnesstores.com
9. Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne NV, 12%, €70
Its rivals Bollinger, Roederer and Ruinart are all on song at the moment, but so is Charles Heidsieck. It released a magnificent Blanc de Blancs earlier this year (€105 a bottle), but you can’t go wrong with the Brut Réserve, an excellent, discreet Champagne with textured peaches and pears, overlaid with toasted nuts and brioche.
From Numerous outlets
10. Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne NV, 12%, €215
If money is no object, then the latest edition of Krug Grande Cuvée (a new edition is created from scratch every year; this is the 168th edition) is the wine for you. The ultimate Champagne, it is wonderful, complex and powerful, with waves of toasted hazelnuts, apples, pears, dried fruits and lemon peel; rich yet refreshing. Drink it on its own or with seafood.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, jusdevine.ie; O’Briens, obrienswine.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie; Gibney’s, Malahide, Co Dublin, gibneys.com; Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, Co Dublin, and at Avoca in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, and Dunboyne, Co Meath, mitchellandson.com.