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.


December 7th: Denbies Redlands 2014

Denbies Redlands 2014 review

“Wine Advent Calendar December 7th: Denbies Redlands 2014

My dad used to say that he didn’t forget anything, but sometimes he just didn’t remember. I know what he meant. Let me explain.

My reasoning behind this advent calendar countdown is in part to give a Christmas nod to wines I’ve tasted in my wanderings and haven’t written about; and to give a heads-up to samples I’ve received but not  reviewed elsewhere.

This week a reader of my print column emailed me.  Yippee. I have at least one. Nicola (that’s her name) was asking where she could buy an English red wine as she’d drawn a blank.

Nicola said she had wanted red as Christmas presents because that’s what her family drinks. No problem, I said, and began to search for good red wines to help her out.

Then Denbies Redlands 2014 popped up in the searches followed by a #doh from me. I remembered I was sent this wine last Christmas when it launched into Waitrose, but I ran out of print space and kept the bottle  for another time to  review.

Here we go. This is that time.

Denbies Redlands 2014 review
Denbies Redlands 2014

Denbies Redlands 2014

What is it: It’s an English red wine.

Where’s it from: Denbies Wine Estate is based in Dorking,  Surrey. Find out about the estate here.

I’ll tell you some more: I’d suggested to Nicola that she might prefer a white wine. In England and Wales whites can be fabulous. Our climate is changing and the growing conditions for our grapes are improving. In parallel our wine making skills and investment are also on the up.

I’ve never been a fan of English reds. Saying that, the lovely but temperamental pinot noir grape, which prefers cooler climates and goes into a massive sulk if it gets too warm, is our second most planted grape variety behind chardonnay. Have a look at some stats from the English Wine Producers  here.

The Denbies team has said they are “passionate about England’s Denbies Redlands 2014ability to produce first class still wines” and they “have worked hard in the vineyards and winery over the past ten years to push the boundaries”.

The grapes: Pinot noir is half of this wine’s blend, with rondo and dunkelfelder having an almost even split of the remainder.

What of the taste? I’m just off to open the bottle. I’ll be back.

Denbies Redlands is a ruby red and you can see your fingers through the wine in the glass and read words on the other side. It has jammy aromas, a bit like Beaujolais, with a hint of savoury creeping in at the back. It tastes of red fruits and cherries with some spice. Tannins aren’t overpowering and the acidity is good.  Pinot noir does its thing here. It is a wine which doesn’t posture and pose bossily but the fruit flavours disappear quickly and it feels a bit “manufactured”.  I’m left wanting some more personality.

The small print: Denbies Redlands 2014 is 12% abv and is screwcap. It is £12.99 in Waitrose and can be bought online here.

As an aside: I sent this list of 2016 award-winning English reds to Nicola and guess which wine I spotted there. Yes, Denbies Redlands 2014 – a Decanter silver winner.