Much has changed in the wine world during the past year, due to the necessary constraints put upon us all in an attempt to control the ravages of the virus. Working from home, Zoom meetings galore, webinars and ‘virtual tastings’. From a social angle, it has been a tough year, but at least there are some moves towards relaxation of the rules, with restricted numbers allowed to meet in gardens for a glass of something from Monday March 29 (fingers crossed!).
Another saviour has been our ‘bubbles’! So with these limited get-togethers in mind, here are four suggestions of bubbles for your bubbles! There’s nothing quite like a chilled glass of fizz to lift the spirits, alongside the first flowers of spring and birdsong in our gardens.
South Africa is not, perhaps, the first country that springs to mind when thinking of quality, champagne-style sparkling wine. However, Simonsig, one of the most respected producers in the Cape, has been making sparklers from the traditional champagne grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for 50 years. Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel was the first South African wine made by the traditional method (champagne), known as Méthode Cap Classique. The wine develops great depth of flavour and rich, buttered brioche notes from long ageing on the lees. Brut 2018 available from The Wine Society at £12.95.
Moving back to this side of the globe, much nearer to home is Albourne Estate, a family-owned boutique vineyard and winery overlooking the South Downs, not far from Brighton. Made also from champagne grape varieties by the traditional method, their Multi Vintage sparkler is refined and elegant, with delicious orchard flavours of Williams pears and cox apples, with lightness and freshness. Great value Sussex sparkling wine at £20 from The Wine Society, currently on offer at £25 off a case of six.
Crossing the Channel (if only we could!) and down to the Iberian Peninsula, Cava is making a bit of a comeback. Having ‘lost the plot’ some years back, quality is now very much on the up. Again made by the traditional method, Spanish Cava represents particularly good value for money. Made by the traditional cava grape varieties of macabeu, parellada and xarel-lo, Cava Sumarocca El Gran Amigo Gran Reserva 2016 is astonishingly good for the price. Aged on the lees for three years before disgorging, it has a nutty, toasted brioche character, with red apples and citrus notes. Delicious, dry, perfectly balanced and very appealing. Great price at £10.95 per bottle from The Wine Society and ridiculously inexpensive on the current offer of £8.75 when buying six.
Last and by no means least, is the wonderful Champagne Taittinger, one of the last great independent champagne houses. All their wines exude style, finesse and elegance, the Brut Reserve NV available at an unmissable £28 from Waitrose (normally £38). Consistently fine, flawless champagne, one of their other styles is Taittinger Nocturne, a Sec rather than Brut, so just off-dry. Soft, mellow, rich, ripe fruit and subtle sweetness. Wonderful Easter bubbles to sip long into the night. Tesco £35 (offer if you buy six) or a treat half-bottle at £23.50 from champagnedirect.co.uk