By Rose Murrray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 28 December 2019
My top twelve fizz for the bells at Hogmanay:
Central Otago, New Zealand: AKARUA BRUT NV ***STAR BUY***
(£23 Woodwinters; Luvians; NZ House of Wine; NZ Wine Cellar)
One of the best Kiwi fizz. Beautifully pure exuberant fruit character and a fine acid line, this rich savoury fizz is pure class. Made from classic grapes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in old gold mining territory of Central Otago in South Island; with 18 months on lees and 15% reserve wine from older vintages. Akarua was set up by the Skeggs family in 1990’s. This fine fizz was originally crafted for them by the world’s greatest fizz expert, Dr Tony Jordan, who died earlier this year. Further information click here
Hampshire, England: BLACK CHALK CLASSIC 2015
£35 Vino Wines; Cornelius Wines; The Whisky Exchange
One of the most exciting new entrants on the English wine scene made by winemaker Jacob Leadley of Hattingley Valley. Unusually for English fizz it has a high percentage of Pinot Meunier (34% in this cuvee alongside 49% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Noir). A delicious creamy leesy fizz, with floral appley aromas, biscuity toasty notes and long savoury finish.
Jura, France: EXQUISITE COLLECTION CREMANT DU JURA BRUT 2016 Nicholas Haeffelin ***STAR VALUE***
Aldi list several Cremants from different French regions, but their Jura Cremant is by far their best. Jura region, east of Burgundy, is a hidden gem and a great source of Chardonnay-based fizz made using the same method as Champagne. Light appley citric fruited fizz with creamy silky mouthfeel and vibrant crisp length. Bargain price for a cremant of this quality.
Itata Valley, Chile: TORRES ESTELADO TRADITIONAL METHOD PAIS ROSE NV
(£10.99 The Drink Shop; Roberts & Speight)
The well-known Catalan winemaking family Torres were one of the first to invest in Chile back in 1979. Today they are leading the way again making Chile’s first high quality award-winning fizz from the much-spurned Pais grape, also known as the Mission grape. This was the first grape to be planted in C16 when grapes arrived at Concepcion in southern Chile from the Canary Islands via Mexico. Blush colour, soft silky fruity; great value Fairtrade fizz.
Lombardy, Italy: CA DEL BOSCO FRANCIACORTA CUVEE PRESTIGE
(£39 Valvona & Crolla)
If you celebrating Hogmanay with Italians this year, this is the best cuvee to choose. A delicious blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco with 25 months on lees, made in the same way as Champagne, it has rich peachy fruits, biscuit notes and a fine long finish. It looks pretty stylish too in its dumpy bottle wrapped in gold celaphane.
East Sussex, England: BREAKY BOTTOM CUVEE GERARD HOFFNUNG 2009
(£34.95 Corney & Barrow; Breaky Bottom Vineyards)
Peter Hall first planted vines in 1974; one of the old timers in the South Downs. This cuvee, dedicated to Hall’s friend the inspirational illustrator Gerard Hoffnung, is a real match for Champagne. Rich intense bready nose, apple and apricot flavours, zesty ciric, soft creamy texture with a rich nutty finish.
Tasmania, Australia: HOUSE OF ARRAS EJ CARR LATE DISGORGED VINTAGE 2004
(£57 The Vinorium; Australian Cellar)
Definitely Australia’s best fizz. Multi-award winning fizz made by legendary Ed Carr at Bay of Fires winery in Pipers River in northern Tasmania; he buys his grapes from growers south of the island in Derwent Valley and Coal River regions. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir with very lengthy 10 years on its lees – disgorged in March last year. A rich savoury toasty fizz with truffle notes and a saline edge, still incredibly fresh and vibrant considering its age.
Champagne, France: LES PIONNIERS BRUT NV ***STAR VALUE***
(£18.99 The Co-op)
Made for the Co-op by Champagne Piper & Charles Heidsieck, this three grape blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier combines freshness, crisp racy acidity with intense citric fruits. Certainly the most impressive non-vintage supermarket cuvee currently on the market.
Champagne, France: JL VERGNON CONVERSATION BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV
(£33.99 Waitrose; Berry Bros & Rudd)
Delighted that Waitrose is now stocking one of my favourite Blanc de Blancs. Made by the talented Christophe Constant who nurtures his old vines in prestigious Mesnil sur Oger in Cotes de Blancs – the home of Chardonnay in Champagne. By using no malolactic, he keeps his Champagne flinty and zesty with rich nutty creamy texture from long lees ageing. Low dosage keeps flavours pure, vivid and precise.
Champagne, France: COLLARD PICARD CUVEE PRESTIGE BRUT NV
(£42 Swig www.swig.co.uk)
Always a favourite at tastings, this honeyed creamy silky prestige cuvee is one of the best blends from two young growers, Oliver Collard and Caroline Picard. Having married and joined together their hectares, they now have a substantial business based in the most prestigious street, Avenue du Champagne in Epernay. They only use Grand Cru Chardonnay alongside Premier Cru Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with a blend of four vintages matured in large oak foudres to add depth and complexity.
Champagne, France: ROSES DE JEANNE, COTE DE VAL VILAINE BLANC DE NOIRS EXTRA BRUT 2016
Made by talented ex-sommelier Cedric Bouchard in southerly Aube who focuses on single vineyard, single variety, single vintage fizz. He uses no oak and very low sulphur levels. Made from very low yields of 35 year old Pinot Noir vines, these are superb complex full flavoured wines with a real vinosity, depth of character and rich minerally core – tasting almost like rich white Burgundy.
Champagne, France: JACQUESSON CUVEE NO 742 EXTRA BRUT NV ***STAR BUY***
(£55 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Long established Jacquesson (founded in 1798) was originally one of Napoleon’s favourites. Recently voted third best Champagne house behind Bollinger and Krug, it is gaining credits as one of the leading small houses. Based in the evocatively-named Dizy village, the Chiquet brothers use low dosage and extended lees ageing to make very rich cuvees. This is based on 2014 vintage – they use large oak foudres to give subtle oak notes and richness. Loved its appley citric fruit, spicy undertones, creamy savoury depths with silky finish. A big hit at our recent Champagne tasting.
Join Rose’s Champagne v England tasting on 2 April at The Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh £55 www.rosemurraybrown.com