Christmas fizz which isn’t prosecco or champagne!

glass of bubbles, christmas fizz

Prosecco and Champagne can take centre stage at the office Christmas party, family gathering or girlie night  – but here’s some other Christmas fizz ideas which will fit the bill.

Provetto Spumante Bianco Brut (10.5% abv £4.99, Bargain Booze) This wine achieves the wow factor when used as a cocktail mixer. It’s a great way to add some festive sparkle to party drinks such as bellinis and mimosa-style creations. It’s not over-complicated but for a fiver it can be a fizz that gets the party started.
Christmas fizz score: 2/5

SPAR Cava Rosado (11.5% abv, £6) When you’re in a rush and you need a pink fizz you won’t go far wrong if you pick up this in your travels. It’s a pretty little thing, a strawberry pink, with soft aromas of fresh strawberries and just an edge of complexity which a cava brings to the party. In fact, why not take it to a party. For £1 more, buy SPAR’s Perlezza Rosé, which is a blush of pink bubbles to please any hostess.
Christmas fizz score: 3/5

The Society’s Cava Brut Reserva (12% abv, £8.25, www.thewinesociety.com) One of my friends said this wine was her “new fave”. You can’t beat cava. I love it. This crisp appley number is made from the traditional cava grapes parellada, macabeo and xarel-lo with a touch of chardonnay. It is rounded, squidgy and scrumptious – and at the same time remains elegant, in balance and with long-lasting flavours.
Christmas fizz score: 5/5

Codorniu Gran Crémant Vintage Brut Cava (11.5% abv £9.99 the Co-op) This wine has been developed exclusively for the Co-op. The label shouts class – then it has a complex, soft, fruity character which just can’t be mirrored by a simple prosecco. A fleck of toast nudges past pears and stone fruit on the nose, and to taste apples, lemons and stone fruit are soft but vibrant.
Christmas fizz score: 4/5

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Langlois Brut Crémant (12.5% abv, £13.50, winetrust100.co.uk) A wine with mmmmm factor.  This bottle of bubbly heaven is better than many of the champagnes on the market and costs a lot less, so you could even be cheeky and treat yourself to two bottles. It has a lovely creamy taste that will pop your cork. The label is owned by Champagne Bollinger.
Christmas fizz score: 5/5

The Chalk Valley English Sparkling Wine (12% abv, £14.99, aldi.co.uk and selected Aldi stores) This is an exclusive blend developed between Aldi’s wine team and Denbies’  winemakers. It has good citrus and apple aromas with a hint of spring flowers and a crumble of brioche; to taste it is tongue-tingling dry with a hint of creamy texture and apple flavours balance well with a shiver of acidity.
Christmas fizz score: 3/5

Montes Sparkling Angel (12% abv, £15.50 www.oddbins.com) This is the first sparkling wine made by Viña Montes and they’ve used the traditional techniques which create champagne. It is a blend of pinot noir (70 per cent) and chardonnay it spends 36 months on the lees to create complexity. It’s a wine of two halves – the nose has the dry intensity of walnuts and toast; then to taste it is much lighter, with fresh citrus and subtle stone fruits.
Christmas fizz score:3/5

First published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals December 2016

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express 

Wine Press: Call My Bluff Wine Tasting fizzes perfectly

A few years ago there was a TV quiz show, Call My Bluff. My mum and dad loved it. I remember the 70s brown and beige shirts and the quizmaster technology included a simple bell.

A team would give three definitions of a word; but only one was true. Another team had to guess which.

Bring that up to 2015, add gaffer tape, wine, human guinea pigs, yours truly, some lovely helpers, and what you have is a Call My Bluff wine tasting.

We disguised wine bottles with the tape and split my guinea pigs into teams.

Call My Bluff wine tasting
Call My Bluff wine tasting with yours truly

I like fizz so I pretty much went all out on the stuff.

With the first wine I said: “I’m sauvignon blanc, and I’m from Marlborough in New Zealand.

“I was recently described as having a ‘very catty aroma’ and being ‘the spring onion side of sauvignon’.”

I threw in a Bluff line: “My homeland is France and this is the first time that French winemakers have turned me into Champagne”.

FALSE!!! Sauvignon blanc would never be used in a Champagne.

Freemans Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Freemans Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

This was Aldi’s Freemans Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99). Did my guinea pigs like it? Well yes, most of them did. Though for some, the jury was out.

Next: “I’m a prosecco. I’m one of the best you can get. My grapes are grown on steep limestone hills between two villages. They are so special I have a high DOCG status. I have apricot and citrus and you can even taste a little bit of the limestone if you concentrate really hard. I’ve won awards. I’m so proud of myself.”

If you find a prosecco marked DOCG it is indeed one of the best.

In this case it was multi-award winner Sainsbury’s Conegliano Prosecco, Taste the Difference (around £11). My guinea pigs really loved this one.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013

Moving on. My clue on Codorníu Gran Cremant Vintage, Brut (several retailers, RRP £9.99) was: “Just like Champagne, three dominant grape varieties are used to make me: paralleda, macabeo and xarel-lo. Each of them is difficult to say, but each of them makes me special. I don’t know why people like prosecco more than me, as I have more flavours and tasty layers. You might be able to smell citrus, honey and almonds.”

call my bluff wine tasting
Death by Powerpoint

Several guinea pigs didn’t think this was cava at all, but my made up Bluff description, of a sparkling chardonnay “bright and zesty with a ping of lemon and scrunched red apples”.

Next, an ooh-ahh of a Wine Bluff reveal. I said: “I have a golden hue. I have a nice crisp and intense flavour of lemon and honey. I’m an award-winning champagne at less than a tenner.”

A bluff line included… “you might think I have a smell of peach – that’s the peach trees which grow very close to the vineyard.” (Ha! See how easy it is to make it up!)

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut Philizot Aldi
Veuve Monsigny Champagne

The wine reveal was Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut by Philizot (£9.99) and it was praised by the guinea pigs; A tenner for a really lovely drop of champers.

We turned to another of my faves. “I’m the Gracie Fields of the champagne world. I taste of brioche and toast and citrus with little hints of stone fruit.”

A bluff line included: “If I was featured in Hello! magazine I’d have a footballer boyfriend and a villa in Marbella. I’m more full in the face than most champagnes with stewed apples and cinnamon sticks.”

My guinea pigs worked out that this didn’t smell of cinnamon and some rightly guessed it was The Co-operative Les Pionniers NV Champagne, £16.99 and very nice it is too. My clue was that Gracie Fields is from Rochdale, which is also the birthplace of the Co-op movement.

Sometimes you have to live inside my head.

Published in the saturday extra magazine April 25, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express