Good libations: The finest festive fizz for Christmas

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‘Tis the season to be jolly. Though that rictus grin of festive cheer can be hard to sustain when you’ve been handed a glass of warm cava at a family bash in the suburbs and have just been threatened with the promise of ‘egg nog after the cold cuts but before the charades’.

The above might sound like the kind of early ’80s Christmas that you’ll never have to suffer. But it’s worth remembering that, due to either family tradition or random circumstance, your Christmas drinks may well have been organised by someone of an age so venerable they still find beer can ‘widgets’ a suspicious new trend.

So be a good Christmas house guest (while also insuring yourself against subpar libations) and bring a few bottles with you wherever you’re spending Christmas. Keep them cold, pour them slowly and make sure the egg nog is discreetly displaced into the nearest pot plant. Here’s our guide to the best champagne and sparkling wine for Christmas.

Krug Grande Cuvée 170ème Édition

krug 170eme edition champagne

When the party gets too noisy or boring or aromatically unpleasant (there’s always someone spraying their freshly gifted aftershave about with far too much abandon) then retreat to the master bedroom, wedge a chair up against the door, turn the lights out and travel to a softer, kinder, generally more life-affirming place with the help of Krug.

This collaboration between the champagne house and Belgian musician Ozark Henry, which comes with a specially curated soundtrack accessed via a QR code, may scream ‘pointless novelty’ at first (after all, if you’re drinking a bottle of Krug, surely you’re already winning at life without any extras on top?). The music does, however, add a rather graceful felicity to the drinking experience – though the voice of composer and classical pianist Chloe Flower and British vocal ensemble VOCES8 can occasionally make you feel like you’re listening to the longest symphonic car advert of all time. The depth and richness of the sound is astonishing though, thanks to the use of 8D audio technology which only requires standard headphones to enjoy.

Krug Grande Cuvée 170ème Édition Echoes, £240,

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Ice Box

veuve clicquot yellow label brut ice box champagne

Champagne always makes a great gift but the good folks over at Veuve Clicquot have taken it one step further this season with its limited edition Icons collection. The range puts the house’s signature Yellow Label Brut centre stage, backed up by a series of innovative gift boxes, including a miniature Smeg fridge and a personalisable arrow box. Our pick of the bunch is the ice box: an ingenious gift box that transforms into a standalone ice bucket once the bottle has been removed. Made from FSC-certified cardboard, it can be used up to ten times before being recycled.

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Ice Box, £53,

Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2004

lanson noble champagne 2004

The jewel in the crown of the Lanson champagne collection, the Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2004 is a prestige vintage of the highest order. Lanson’s Hervé Dantan describes the summer of 2004 as one that ‘came with a grey and veiled sky where light and heat were scarce’ – not ideal for holidaying Francophiles but perfect for Chardonnay grapes. The result is a sophisticated, subtle and elegant champagne with a nose of white flowers, honey and citrus and a palate of rich fruit, almonds and hazelnuts. Ideal for serving alongside a fish or seafood started before the main Crhistmas Day event.

Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2004, £155,

Hattingley Valley Rosé 2019

hattingley valley rose sparkling wine

Fermented in old Burgundy barrels for seven months, there’s a rich and earthy undertow to this very impressive rosé which gave me a hint of the kind of pink grapefruit you only find served at the finest hotel breakfasts.

There’s a tad more pinot noir (58 per cent) than pinot meunier (38 per cent) in this, as well as a tiny amount of pinot noir precoce, giving a delicate, pale-pink colour that just begs to be poured as slowly as humanly possible. Indulgent and creamy, this is one to drink when the unstoppable excitement of unwrapping a pack of Calvin Klein boxer shorts has long abated. So, about 9am then.

Hattingley Valley Rosé 2019, £38,

Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs 2016

zuccardi blanc de blancs

Way, way up in the Uco Valley vineyards in the Mendoza region of Argentina comes this high-altitude sparkling number made from 100 per cent chardonnay. After 58 months on the lees, the fizz takes on a toasty, almost crunchy, tone; confident, rather than bullish, in its depth and intensity. There’s a hint of baked apple to it, too, and it genuinely tastes like a far more expensive wine than the surprisingly low price suggests. Argentina knows a thing or two about financial crises; this bargain appears to indicate that our South American friends realise that we’re suffering over here now, too. A truly benevolent wine, then.

Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs, £21.99,

Journey’s End Cap Classique Brut Reserve

journey's end brut reserve wine

Brand new from the fine and fertile vineyards of Stellenbosch, just outside Cape Town, comes the very first sparkling wine from the much-admired Journey’s End Vineyard. Another wine at an exceptionally good-value price point, barely £20 gets you a blend of two-thirds pinot noir, one-third chardonnay, that results in a thoroughly thoroughbred, brioche-accented, zesty wine. Like a moderately priced striker bundling in a brace on his home debut in the Premier League, this is one to watch with an almost prurient intent.

Journey’s End Cap Classique, £22.50,

Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé & Bloomsbury NV

ridgeview sparkling wines

Mike Roberts, of Ridgeview in Sussex, has an argument that base wine is better in England than in France. “We have the opportunity to make excellent sparkling wine because… we can grow our grapes to full ripeness, with a growing season that’s three to four weeks longer than in Champagne.”

Fighting talk indeed but borne out by both his Fitzrovia Rosé and Bloomsbury NV. The former contains bubbles that contain that devilishly hard trick of gently tickling your Adam’s apple in a way that makes you feel like you’re being massaged on a balcony overlooking Capri; the former is one of those wines that screams ‘a party is imminently about to begin whether you want it to or not’ thanks to coquettish flirtations with melon and honey and a finish as refreshing as a morning swim in the Serpentine.

Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé, £35,; Ridgeview Bloomsbury NV, £30,

Codorniu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noir 2017

cordoniu ars collecta wine

Cava is always the poor relation, isn’t it? Mostly this summation is fair; Spanish sparkling wine is all too often made in industrial quantities and is relegated to the back of the Christmas drinks table, along with the novelty bottle of 15 per cent chocolate porter festive stout.

But Codorniu is the oldest cava producer in Spain, with a history dating back 470 years. So, if anyone has had the time to get a superior cava onto the market, it’s them. The very small production shows in the quality of this wine, made with pinot noir from Costers del Segre. It’s intensely fizzy but with a delightfully velvety finish on the palate. A genuine surprise that is making me feel increasingly uncomfortable about my long-held cava snobbery.

Cordorniu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noir, £24.40,

Knightor Blanc de Blancs 2015

knightor blanc de blancs 2015

From its miniscule four-acre vineyard, right next to the Eden Project in deepest Cornwall, Knightor has been making vintages since 2010 and its still, sparkling and aromatised wines have developed a keen cult following; the Spiritualized or Wet Leg bands of the UK wine circuit, if you will. 

Its whites are made from Riesling, Bacchus, Madeleine Angeline and various other Brit-drizzle-and-cloud friendly varieties. All are excellent but none have yet matched its pure-Chardonnay vintage Blanc de Blancs; one of the absolute best in show for UK sparkling whites with a supple body, achingly smooth texture and more tropical notes than a timpani band on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Absolutely outstanding.

Knightor Blanc de Blancs, £37,

Berryland Barrel Fermented Cider Brut 2019

berryland barrel apple cider

And, finally, there are few things more felicity-inducing than getting slightly tipsy on quality cider and also knowing that you’ve donated to the most deserving of charities.

Ten per cent of the cost of this Ukrainian cider goes towards charities helping Ukrainians survive against Putin’s war. Aged in oak barrels, the apples in this sparkling cider come from orchards in Makarisvska Buda, near Kiev. It’s lower in alcohol than the migraine-inducing ciders here, but the taste is sublime; clean, dry and with a nose perkier than Elton John’s bank balance.

Berryland Barrel Fermented Cider, £17.99,

Fiol Rosé Prosecco

fiol rose prosecco

‘Come on in, take a seat, help yourself to nibbles.’ It’s the time of the evening when you’re not quite ready to break out the most expensive vintages in the cupboard. This Treviso rosé, however, is a sociable, lively starter for ten to make the awkward small talk with Uncle Tony (‘still in the insurance game down in Swindon then?’) bearable. Made with 85% Glera grapes and rounded off with Pinot Noir, this is a rosé with a gym-toned taut swagger to it, redolent of pears, apples and the kind of warmth you will only experience at this time of year if you’re headed to the Caribbean come Boxing Day.

Fiol Rosé Prosecco, £19.99,

Black Chalk Classic 2017

black chalk sparkling wine

There’s that sweet spot of the festive gathering, quite early on in the evening, when you can still have halfway intelligent conversations and before people start bickering about climate change and somebody shouts for Alexa to play Fairytale of New York far too loudly. Before that carnage, break out a bottle of Jacob Leadley’s extremely self-assured English sparkling wine straight from the chalk lands of Hampshire.

The small production, locally-sourced combination of the Big Three fizz grapes (do you need me to tell you again that they are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier?) work their magic with a decidedly Anglo hue here. Rather than simply an emulation of champagne, there’s a defiantly English crispness to this wonderful wine, imbued with short, sharp, pleasant jolts of honey and vanilla.

Black Chalk Classic 2017, £35.99,

Paul Langier Champagne Brut NV

paul langier champagne

You know you’re leading a privileged life when you can refer to a champagne as ‘no nonsense’. But, to those of us who value good bubbles over home décor and car insurance then Paul Langier is, and this isn’t meant to sound pejorative, the PG Tips of the fizz world.

Utterly reliable, always pleasurable, when nuance and cutting edge isn’t required and you just want the biscuit and mousse hit of ‘proper’ champagne, then this is the best choice in the fridge bar none.

Stylish without being intimidating, the more relaxed approach to drinking this champagne is matched by the process in which it’s made; the wine is aged for 18 months on its lees – which is three months longer than many champagnes. The ideal champagne to give as a gift to a beloved long-standing friend who also enjoys the reassuring delights of a PG Wodehouse novel and a really chunky polo neck jumper.

Paul Langier Champagne Brut NV, £24.99,

Read more: The best luxury Christmas hampers

The post Good libations: The finest festive fizz for Christmas appeared first on Luxury London.

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