By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 26 December 2020
Top twelve Hogmanay fizz to bring in The Bells:
Limoux, France: MORRISONS THE BEST CREMANT DE LIMOUX NV Les Vignerons du Sieur d’Arques (12.5%)
£10 from £12 until 1 Jan 2021 (Morrisons in-store only)
Get your party started this year with affordable and approachable Cremant (pictured above). Made by the same method as Champagne, it has less acid bite, more floral notes and in this case with 12 months lees ageing it has soft delicate creaminess. This cuvee hails from beautiful Limoux in the Pyrenean foothills in southwest France, benefitting from riper grapes than you find in Champagne. Mainly Chardonnay with a touch of Chenin Blanc – its bready nose, citric fruit, creamy and rich – ideal for those who find Champagne too dry and want a change from Prosecco.
Franciacorta, Italy: CASTELVEDER BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV (12.5%)
£14.99/£24.99 Majestic Wine
Brioche, rich liquorice baked fruits with a refreshing twist to the finish – this is certainly not Champagne with its ripe fruits and low acidity, but it is a well-made example of Franciacorta. Chardonnay is now this northern Italian region’s most planted grape used to create Italy’s answer to Blanc de Blancs Champagne made using the same method as Champagne. This small 12 hectare family-owned estate was one of the first established in Franciacorta region in the mid-1970s.
Catalonia, Spain: ‘AUS’ PET NAT 2019 Cellar de les Aus (11%) ***STAR BUY***
£16.60 L’Art du Vin
Catalonia is better known for Cava, but Alella-based winemaker Mireia Pujol-Busquets makes this superb Pet Nat from local Pansa Blanco (Xarello) grown on granitic soils close to the sea. Jasmine and lemon, soft silky mousse – and low in alcohol. Pet Nat is made by bottling and sealing fermenting wine, so bubbles are trapped inside the bottle with a crown cork. Mireia’s unique micro-winery is made from recycled containers and all wines are sulphur-free. Her enchanting label depicts birds found in surrounding Serralada de Marina national park.
Burgundy, France: CREMANT DE BOURGOGNE BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV Domaine Henri Delagrange (12%)
£18.50 L’Art du Vin
One of France’s eight Cremants, Cremant de Bourgogne is the closest to Champagne in area and style. Like all Cremant it is made by the same method, but these Chardonnay grapes come from Volnay in Cotes de Beaune, riper than you would find in Reims or Epernay. Winemaker Didier Delagrange tops up his fizz cuvee with 5% Aligote, a higher acid grape grown in higher cooler Hautes Cotes de Beaune to add freshness. Hints of hazelnut and butter, full ripe fruit style, hawthorn notes and a soft creamy mousse.
Veneto, Italy: PROSECCO ROSE EXTRA DRY 2019 (11%)
UK supermarkets were falling over themselves this November to be first to stock new pink Prosecco; another way for this region’s winemakers to capitalise on their popular fizz. Previously all Prosecco had to be white. Now Italian white Glera grape, which is used to make Prosecco, is joined by 10-15% red Pinot Noir in the cuvee – and it must be Pinot Noir – no other red grape is allowed and the cuvee must spend extra time in tank for second fermentation. Mildly aromatic, hint of red fruits with the hallmark delicate mousse.
Marlborough, New Zealand: HUNTER’S MIRU MIRU BRUT NV (12.5%)
£18.99 www.laithwaites.co.uk; www.jeroboams.co.uk; £22.30 www.cockburnsofleith.co.uk
From the first lady of New Zealand wine, Jane Hunter OBE, this is my current favourite Kiwi fizz named after Maori word for bubbles. Jane was guided by great fizz consultant late-Dr Tony Jordan when she started making fizz. This traditional method Chardonnay cuvee (with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) has light yeasty nose, cashew nuts, bready undertones, elegant, mouthfilling creamy mousse with a soft texture. Today Hunters is Marlborough’s only winery from the 1970s still in the original family. Raise a glass to Jane and her hard work.
Anderson Valley, California: QUARTET BRUT NV (12.5%)
£25 www.thewinesociety.com; www.waitrose.com; www.majestic.co.uk
One of the best sparkling wines made outside Champagne. This 60/40 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend made by Champagne Louis Roederer in Anderson Valley, Western Mendocino, who bought land here back in 1982 attracted by the northerly latitude, steep slopes and diurnal temperatures. It has mouthwatering acidity, bright fruit, toasty creaminess with mellowness and mature fruits from the 15% oaked reserve wine added which enhances complexity.
Lorraine, France: BELENA EXTRA BRUT 2017 Maison Crochet (12.5%)
Well-travelled winemaker Wilfried Crochet has returned home to his family’s Lorraine vineyards with considerable experience in Champagne and beyond. He has rejected the local Cotes du Toul appellation so that he can grow Chardonnay which is not allowed in the local appellation rules. Sparkling wine is his main focus – and his first cuvee of Gamay/Chardonnay made using traditional method with substantial 18 months on lees has light bready notes, steely minerally, zippy and dry with a touch of candied fruit.
Champagne, France: CHAMPAGNE PIERRE PAILLARD LES PARCELLES BOUZY ‘XV’GRAND CRU EXTRA BRUT NV (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£29-£35 www.thewinesociety.com; www.justerinis.com
If you love Pinot Noir-based Champagne. This is a wonderful 70/30 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay example from the Paillards, one of the historic families in Montagne de Reims. XV refers to the base vintage, 2015, made with organically-farmed grapes from individual parcels (hence ‘les parcelles’) around famous Bouzy village. Rich toasty with apple blossom, rich savoury Pinot Noir fruit and spice, finishing very dry. Superbly priced Champagne.
Champagne, France: CHAMPAGNE DRAPPIER SIGNATURE BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV (12%)
£34.99/£39.99 Majestic Wine
Drappier has been replanting the forgotten old grapes of Champagne. The region used to use seven grapes in the past, but now predominantly use just three. In southerly Cote des Bar, Michel Drappier plants Chardonnay on Kimmeridgian limestone and tops up his Blanc de Blancs cuvee with 5% historic Blanc Vrai (same as Pinot Blanc) with oak-aged reserve wine. Distinctive rich sleek cuvee, elegant and honeyed (dosage 7g/l). Drappier is the first Champagne house with compensated carbon emissions.
Buckinghamshire, England: HARROW & HOPE BRUT RESERVE NV (12%)
£28 www.harrowandhope.com; www.laithwaites.co.uk
Winemaker Henry Laithwaite, son of retailer Tony Laithwaite, prefers making rich textural savoury fizz, rather than delicate floral stereotypical English sparkling wine. From 15 hectares on flint, chalk and gravel soils of Thames Gravel Terrace behind Marlow, he makes four fizz using oak for reserve wine storage to add complexity focusing on the classic grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This NV cuvee is based on great 2015 vintage has yeasty rich toasty savoury depth with ripe pure fruits.
Sussex, England: BREAKY BOTTOM CUVEE GERARD HOFFNUNG 2009 (12%)
£34.95 www.corneyandbarrow.com; £40.99 Butler's Wine Cellars & also available direct from Breaky Bottom winery
One of the best English fizz made by legendary winemaker Peter Hall, who first planted vines back in 1974. He named this Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend after the inspirational illustrator – and in my opinion is one of his best cuvees. Enticing rich toasty nose, apricot honeyed fruits, sleek citric flavours, creamy texture with a rich nutty finish. A fine example from Sussex’ South Downs.
Join Rose’s virtual English Sparkling Wine Tasting on Friday 22 January 2021 in association with Harrow & Hope www.rosemurraybrown.com