When it comes to festive fizz there is far more besides champers. Here’s our alternative guide
Everyone loves a glass of fizz during the festive season. If there’s ever a time of year to pop open the bubbly, it’s Christmas. But while it’s easy to reach for the well-known Champagne brands when doing your Christmas shop, there are plenty of other festive fizz options, many of which will be kinder on your wallet.
From traditional method sparkling wines that give the many branded Champagne houses a run for their money, to fresh and fruity cheaper alternatives, here’s our alternative guide to a Champagne Christmas.
Champagne alternatives from around the world
Champagne can only be called Champagne on the bottle if it’s been made in the Champagne region of France. But many other sparkling wines are made in exactly the same way – using what is known as the ‘traditional method’ whereby the second fermentation (the bit that makes the wine fizzy) takes place inside the bottle.
Many English sparkling wines are made this way, as are other sparkling wines from across the globe such as Cremant from France, Cap Classique from South Africa and Cava from Spain.
For anyone who likes their fizz full of flavour this Blanc de Noirs from Simpsons in Kent is the perfect festive treat. Made from 100% Pinot Noir Clone 115, this fuller bodied English sparkling wine offers generous red fruit flavours but remains bone dry with hints of flaky pastry thanks to 27 months aging on its leas and four months under cork. A really elegant wine for Christmas Day.
Simpsons owners Charles and Ruth Simpson also own a vineyard in the Languedoc, where they also produce traditional method sparkling wine. The blanc de blanc 2020 is made from 100% chardonnay grapes that were picked early to retain zingy acidity and only lightly pressed to ensure minimal colour extraction. This fun and flirty fizz, available from Naked Wines, is citrus heavy with hints of stone fruit and a great option if you’re on a budget and prefer a lighter style of sparkling wine.
Producing great sparkling wines since the 1980s, Graham Beck is the biggest name in South African Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine. This 2017 vintage pink sparkling, made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, has a creamy mousse, flavours of ripe strawberry and raspberry and would pair well with smoked salmon canapés before your Christmas lunch.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive bottle of traditional method sparkling wine to brighten up your Christmas tablescape, this organic cava from Barcelona is just the ticket. A non-vintage blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, this fun and interesting fizz has fine bubbles and flavours of crisp apple and ripe pear. Plus, it’s available from Ocado so it’s easy enough to add a bottle to your supermarket shop.
Non-traditional alternatives to Champagne
Sparkling wine can also be made in the non-traditional way when the second fermentation takes place in a tank. Also called the Charmat method, this is how Prosecco is made and produces a lighter, fresher and often fruitier style of sparkling wine. It’s a quicker and cheaper way of making sparkling wine therefore the end result is often more budget friendly than traditional method sparkling wine.
House Coren was one of the first English sparkling wine producers to go down the Charmat route with their debut wine, Boco. Initially made from grapes grown across the south of England, in the future House Coren’s wines will be made using grapes grown on vines planted in 2020 at their West Sussex-based vineyard. The 2020 vintage currently available is a blend of 42% Reichenstiener, 29% Chardonnay and 29% Pinot Noir and is pale in colour with ultra-fine bubbles, citrus and stone fruit aromas and a peach and raspberry flavour.
From the drinks company which owns Kingscote and Seddlescombe vineyards in Susssex is this fun and frisky brut, non-vintage charmat method sparkling wine. Made from grapes grown in Essex it is a blend of the three traditional Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), as well as Bacchus, giving it a distinct English elderflower flavour.
This English sparkling wine is marketed as one to lift the spirits and raise a smile. Its light and refreshing bubbles and lemon, elderflower and cut grass flavours are perhaps more fitting to spring than the depths of winter. However it works well with poultry and goats cheese and has such an elegant mousse that we feel it’s rather fitting for a special occasion like Christmas.
The original Prosecco wasn’t the sweet, fruity, bubbly we know today. Prior to 1895, it used to be made in an unfiltered and unfined way called Col Fondo, meaning ‘with the bottom’ in Italian (referring to the leftover lees sediment). Figgie Daniel is part of a new range of more experimental wines made at Sandridge Barton in Devon and has flavours of sour pineapple, lemon rind and elderflower with yeasty characters from the lees sediment. It’s certainly bound to be a talking point around the Christmas table with every sale 25p is donated to the Dartmoor Preservation Association to preserve the natural habitat of wild horses on the moor.
The quirky alternatives to Champagne
There are plenty of other alternatives to the more traditional festive fizz available these days. From sparkling cider to sparkling red wine and even wine in a can, there’s plenty to choose from should you want to mix it up a little.
Many ciders are made in the same way as Champagne with a second fermentation in bottle to give it a natural fizz. This one from Sussex has been made from 100% freshly-pressed Bramley apple juice, which after a primary alcoholic fermentation has been left on its natural yeast lees to develop body and complexity before the second fermentation. Anatomy also undergoes 12 to 24 months lees ageing to give it a taste that many describe as like apple Champagne. One to serve with canapes or a starter like mackerel pate.
From the same farmers who make Woolton wines in Kent is this sparkling cider, which has also been made in the traditional method. Made with Broxwood Foxwhelp apples, which have been milled and macerated for 36 hours before pressing, it is then fermented slowly for three months before Zari and a 2017 blend of Woolton cider apples is added followed by a further six months on the lees prior to disgorging. At 6.8% ABV it makes a great lower alcohol alternative to sparkling wine but packs a punch when it comes to flavour. Goes great with herby roast chicken or turkey, charcuterie and cheese.
Bound to divide your guest, this limited release Sparkling Red Reserve is new for 2022 and is one of Ridgeview’s most innovative wines to date. Made from the Sussex vineyard’s finest hand-picked pinot grapes, fermented on their skins it’s rich, ruby red in colour with delicate aromas of cherry and vanilla, with pomegranate and forest fruits on the palate. Subtle hints of sweet peppery spice and a long, lingering finish make for a mouth-watering match with rich festive flavours and indulgent winter dishes – think duck or goose and English blue cheese.
Canned spritz, various prices
You might think canned wines only have a place at picnics and festivals but if don’t want to crack open a whole bottle of fizz then they’re a great single serve option when you’re at home too. For English sparkling wine in a can, pioneers The Uncommon are our usual go-to but for an unusual ‘twist’ on the traditional Christmas sherry, Croft Twist is a British take on the refreshing Andalusian ‘rebujito’, blending natural, freshly made elderflower, lemon and mint cordials with Croft Fino and water, all gently sparkled. It’s available from Ocado at £2.50 per can.