December 8th: Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne

Asda Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne review

Wine Advent Calendar December 8th: Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne

It’s my daughter’s birthday today which calls for FIZZ. I know it’s Thursday but I can’t think of a better excuse. Look, tomorrow’s Friday so I’ll do fizz again. That’s a good excuse too.

I’m coming down from a couple of weeks of mega-tasting prosecco and champagne and cava and all sorts of things that have bubbles in them. Partly for my Christmas print columns, partly for a mega taste test double page piece on Christmas bubbles and partly because – well I like bubbles.

Tell you what though – two things.

I pour bubbles down the sink when I’m in proper tasting mode and don’t really think what I’m doing. But one morning this week I woke up and reflected on how bloody lucky I am. I can do this thing, taste amazing fizzy wines to enjoy at Christmas (and some not so amazing truth be told) and then construct some words and put them in a certain order that makes sense and share them with someone like you (whoever you are – hello, you still there?)

But some people can’t afford food at Christmas, let alone fizz. That’s very humbling and its worth a moment of reflection. Help someone like that if you can,  if only by gifting a smile.

The second thing – on a lighter note – this fizz is one of the nicest I’ve tasted in that cacophony of bubbles. A blast of bubbles.  A fizzangeroonie of fizz.  A woosh of oooooohs.

It’s here. I’ll tell you more and explain the hearts in a minute.

Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne

What is it: It’s a champagne from Asda. Yes, Asda. 

Where’s it from: All champagnes come from Burgundy in France. By French wine law, they’re not allowed to come from anywhere else, although other sparkling French wines can be made in the same way. Here’s the geography stuff.Asda Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne review

I’ll tell you some more: I’ve already mentioned in this wine advent calendar countdown that I took some fizzies to a staying-in girlie night (see Aldi’s sparkles from December 2).  I was fed up of pouring wines down the sink, so I wanted to share the love / the life-changing luck / and I like making my pals my guinea pigs and sharing some nuggets of wine info whether they listen or not.

At the end of the night I gave them some little sticky hearts to pop on the wines they loved the best and Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne came out tops. By far. I’ll save the Skinny Prosecco verdict for another blog #absolutelynostars #defiantlynostars

The grapes:  Three grape varieties can be used in Champagne – this is a blend of two of them pinot noir (78%) and chardonnay (22%). They were hand picked from vines averaging about 20 years old.

What of the taste?  I can be boring and give you my descriptions, but I’ll share my girlie mates’ words because they don’t have to prove themselves as wine critics. They tell it like it is.

Very sharp, nice and dry. You can tell it’s not prosecco.
Real bubbly. Easy drinking. Nice aroma. Lip smacking good!
Real depth to the smell. Could sit and sniff it all day. Citrus and apples, cinnamon.
Ticks all the boxes. Very sparkly – loads of bubbles. Smells of vanilla – very easy drinking – I’ve now fallen out with cava!
Vanilla, brioche, apple crumble.
Lovely aftertaste tangtastic but a little dry for me.

Tickles your nose, sharp, lovely. Top of the pops. Leaves your mouth in a state of ecstasy.
Keeps the fizz well. If they could put that smell in a candle I would buy it!!

That enough for you?

The small print: It is 12.5% abv. This Asda champers is £15 as I write (Christmas prices) – it has an RRP of £19.75.

The best bit: I didn’t tell you it was an award winner – I didn’t tell the girlies either. Yes indeedy – Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne picked up two cracking awards this year including Great Value Champagne under £22.

 

Six Italian wines from the Co-op (and one Trophy winner!)

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fiano 2014

THE Co-op white wine Truly Irresistible Fiano 2014 has picked up the Great Value White under £7 trophy from the International Wine Challenge.  I spent an afternoon with the man who brought the wine to the shelves,  the Co-op’s Italian wines buyer,  Ben Cahill.

First, I asked Ben what he would say to people who don’t buy Italian wines.

He said: “Italy is not renowned for its wines – people think cheap gluggable whites or chianti – but the quality has improved immeasurably. There’s been a renaissance; over the last 30 years Italy has enjoyed an absolute revolution.”

He said: “Now’s the time to try Italian wines if you haven’t already. If I had less than a tenner to spend on a bottle and I wanted something exciting then Italy is the first country I’d make a beeline for.

“The majority of reds  are  food friendly and the quality of whites has gone through the roof.”

Ben Cahill Co-op wine buyer
Ben Cahill

Italian wines: Here’s three whites and three reds from the Co-op’s range

The Co-operative Orvieto Classico (£5.49) This is definitely an alternative to pinot grigio as it’s just a bit more interesting (well, most things are). It is crisp, clean, revitalising, with more body, and  more rounded than pinot grigio, slightly  honeyed, almondy with a good balance between acidity and fruit.  If you like a PG and fancy a change, but not too much of a change, go for it.

Gavi La Luciani (£7.49)  This is very pretty and feminine, with a contrast between floral notes and stony minerality. A touch of lime lingers at the back of the mouth after you swallow, giving both an extra bite and a mouth-watering moreishness. It’s a wine to have in the fridge ready to chink chink on a sunny day.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fiano (£6.99) Golden in colour, quite rich, with aromas which hopscotch between citrus, herbs, and flowers. I’d recently cooked a risotto with this (I drank some too!) and it was interesting to see how the same vintage – 2014 – had developed. It has more weight than the gavi and the orvieto, and felt  comfortable in its soul.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Barbera d’Asti (£6.99)  This has a fair amount of tannin and structure but wasn’t mouth drying. It had a slight smokiness, with aromas of cherries, bramble fruit, wild blackberries, dried leaves and a hint of savoury. So much going on!  

Bibbiano Chianti Classico (£9.99) Ben has brought this wine exclusively to the Co-op. Bibbiano supplies top-notch restaurants and he explored further and developed a partnership which has seen a slight tweak on the blend, but with the same winemaking expertise behind it.  It is a great  example of its type for less than £10. It would be fantastic with tomato-lashed spaghetti.

Villa Annaberta Amarone della Valpolicella (£17.99) I love the story of amarone wine. Time and skill is invested in making it, hence the price tag, but it’s worth it. Grapes are dried on racks before being fermented and the result is a wine that is very rich, almost a port, with  a slightly unctuous weight in the mouth. Enjoy with cheese instead of port – or simply sit in a comfy chair in front of a fire and wallow in selfish tranquility.

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First published in the saturday extra magazine February 2016

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