Tesco Cava Brut, Spain NV (£5.85, Tesco) That cava is much the best-value sparkling wine around is seen as both a blessing and a curse by winegrowers in the Catalan region of Penedès where almost all of it is produced. Certainly, it’s a blessing for those of us on a budget this party season, since we can procure a tasty, lime-on-toasty, authentically bottle-fermented fizz like Tesco’s for less than £6. Not so good, apparently, for some of the very best Catalan sparkling wine producers, who have been choosing to bottle their wines without cava on the label, convinced that its cheap reputation is a drag on what they can (and should) charge if they want to make a decent living. I can see their point, and fizz from the likes of Gramona and Recaredo, both of whom are part of the rival Corpinnat association set up by a group of breakaway upmarket producers in 2015, deserves to be seen for what it is: fine sparkling wine with its own, distinctly Mediterranean identity.
Cave de Turckheim Cuvée Brut Crémant d’Alsace, France NV (£13.49, Waitrose) Over the past couple of years, the cava governing body has put a lot of work into tightening up cava’s rules, introducing new categories for its top wines based on longer minimum ageing and single-vineyard sites in a bid to prevent any more of its top producers jumping ship. Alta Alella is one such producer that has remained loyal to the cava brand, and its Alta Alella Cava Mirgin Blanca Gran Reserva 2017 (£22, winefreedom.co.uk) a fine example of the dry, expressive, herbal-inflected elegance of cava at its very best. Over the years, producers of crémant sparkling wines in France have faced a similar uphill struggle to their Catalan counterparts, forever being compared unfavourably to the king of French bottle-fermented fizz, champagne. Recent years have seen enormous improvements in the quality emerging from crémant producers in Alsace, Burgundy, the Jura, and the Loire, but wines such as Turckheim’s engagingly creamy Cuvée Brut remain outstanding value.
Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs, West Sussex, England NV (£36, wistonestate.com) Other competitively priced champagne-alikes worth looking out for this Christmas include a pair from two consistent Southern Hemisphere producers: the racy, subtly nutty Jansz Premium Cuvée NV from Tasmania (£13.49, Waitrose) and the apple pie-scented Graham Becks Blanc de Blancs from Robertson in South Africa (£19.99, or £17.49 as part of a mixed six, Majestic). England’s sparkling wine scene is living up to the hype, with the incisive citrussy Ridgeview Bloomsbury (£22.49 until 1 January, Waitrose); the scintillating Wiston Estate Blanc de Blancs; the super-refined Simpsons Flint Fields Blanc de Noirs 2018 (£45, simpsonswine.com); and the luminous Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2018 (£59, gusbourne.com) some recent favourites. From Champagne itself, The Co-op Les Pionniers Brut NV (£19.50, The Co-op) is still the best of this region under £20; the softly bubbled Gimonnet Cuvée Gastronome 2016 (£40, thewinesociety.com) is made for drinking with Christmas starters; and the astonishingly deep, resonant Krug Grand Cuvée 170ème Edition Brut (£195, Waitrose) is the one to have if somebody else is paying.
Source : The Guardian