A Sprinkling of European Fizz for Christmas

19th December 2018

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I am very lucky to have travelled over most of the well known sparkling wine regions of Europe from small family wineries in Slovenia to the grand and bold wine houses on the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. Each area overwhelms you with character, identities, uniqueness, determination, passion and more in the quest for producing the finest sparkling wines. Dare I say, Europe holds the heartbeat of global sparkling wines.

I have had the pleasure and fortune to visit 30 times European wine regions in the last couple of years and have explored amazing sparkling wines from glorious deep red labels from Le Marche, Italy to fabulous full flavoured and bodied Cavas from Spain. No matter what country, be it in England or mainland Europe, no matter how big the winery and even whether that have their own winemaking equipment or rely on the local co-operative, there are amazing wines to discover.

Europe holds many famous sparkling wine regions to include Champagne, English Sparkling, Prosecco, Cava, Franciacorta, Cremants and more from traditional method to Charmant, rosé sparkling to frizzante – I have no real way of finding out how many labels there are, but it must easily be in the 10,000’s to choose from.

The touristic value each country and their sparkling wine regions hold is another gem to be explored with many times breathtaking views offered and amazing wine producing people to meet – Everyone loves making wine and always so proud and energetic to share the tasting splendours of their wines with fellow wine professionals / buyers.

As I have tasted many thousands of different bubbly labels I thought I would share a selection of European sparkling wines that really stood out for me and deserve their place on your Christmas table this year:

Champagne

I tasted this label during a recent visit over to the Champagne region when I popped in to see our good friends at Champagne Autréau – A fascinating and youthful wine house making some fine fizz. What really stood out for me and I can even taste it again now as I write about it, is their 1670 Grand Cru 2005.

This is now a Trophy winning wine within the Gastronomic category so what better Champagne to have on your table than this option.

Stockist for this wine is Connoisseur Estates.

Prosecco

No matter how many times I visit this region I am always WOW’d. There is no surprise that Prosecco is universally loved and has had such a surge in sales over the last few years within the UK.

What shines through to me and a label I always suggest that people should try is Villa Sandi who I have been fortunate enough to visit a few times now and have explored all their wines.

I am going to run with their Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Millesimato 2017 which to me is just divine. A fruity flavoured Prosecco yet with finer qualities, smooth and creamy and refreshing – You know you are enjoying a better standard Prosecco with this one.

English Sparkling Wine

Haven’t times changed in recent years and the qualities of English wine as a whole have progressed in so many different ways in that now many labels can now stand proudly shoulder to shoulder with their international counterparts. All across the UK, we are seeing wineries born and hitting the sales road running along with many great and highly respected wineries who have been around for decades.

For me, though maybe not what was spotted by our awards judges in 2017 as it received only a Highly Commended medal, a stand out wine to try for Christmas if you are after an English bubbly to accompany one of your food courses is the Fox and Fox Midnight Dark Dry Rosé 2011. Selected as a Fruity & Floral style wine, this Pinot Noir focused label makes it a red berry fruit focused taste explosion with a satisfying crisp dryness.

Available from Great British Wine.

Trentodoc

Just the mention of this wine label will undoubtedly conjure of images of exquisite design work, fire red branding and a fast and furious jet-setting lifestyle, but Ferrari also belongs to the sparkling wine industry too. Founded in 1902, Ferrari Trento offers a superb selection of sparkling wines from the Trentino region of Italy with vineyards scaling up the mountainside. These wonderfully located vines for me produce some of Italy’s finest traditional method sparkling wines.

Without a doubt, if you have that little bit more of a budget to spend on something special, the Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore is a must buy for Christmas. This outstanding sparkling wine offers you elegance and finesse in a glass.

Cava

What an amazing place to be producing sparkling wines with the Mediterranean Sea for many wineries in view and the wonderfully warm weather that many of us Brits admire and seek annually. Yes Spain maybe for many famous for its Rioja, but it produces some unbelievably good sparkling wine also with its famous Cava region. Expect much more from this wine region in the next few years as it looks to compete globally with the success achieved recently by Prosecco, a whole new classification to enable the finer wines to be easily discovered has been recently formed – Cava de Paraje Calificado.

A wine region that I love with a massive passion for producing exceptional sparkling wine flavours so a choice of only one for Christmas is never easy, but I will run with the wonderful memories I have of tastings the range from Codorniu who has splendid premises with amazing wine cellars and a fine introduction to Cava with their current range.

I have gone for something that is light and immensely fruity showcasing strawberry and dark berry fruit aromas and flavours and most certainly an aperitif bubbly – Anna Rosé.

Slovenia

Many will be very surprised to know that Slovenia produces some of the finest sparkling wines around in my view. So many match made in heaven instances within this country with wonderful flavours made by wonderful winemakers.

Their reputation is fast growing and though still only a few of the wines are readily available in the UK, this will undoubtedly change in the next few years. From the ones which you can buy, I am going with a winery that I was fortunate to visit not long ago, this is the Istenic Special Cuvée No. 1 Brut NV.

Available from Novel Wines.

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Christopher Walkey

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.