Sparkling wine is presenting champagne with more and more of a challenge. If price is no object, Selfridges has a very good champagne range but for value plus quality, Lea & Sandeman (020 7244 0522) is difficult to beat. It can offer even better prices than those below for orders of six bottles or more. Vine Trail (0117 921 1770) specialises in the glory of champagnes from small growers rather than big houses.
Valli Unite, Brut & The Beast 2011 Piemonte
Pale honey colour for this unusual, very lightly sparkling northwest Italian. Appley and then so powerfully umami that I was transported to Japan. Very light and refreshing, this is a wine you could drink any time. Fades fast but such fun! 13%
£11 Aubert & Mascoli, www.aubertandmascoli.com, 020 7252 3460
Berry’s NV Crémant de Limoux
Blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and Pinot Noir from Antech in the Pyrenean foothills. Low-key, lightly appley nose. Nice texture. Some real satisfaction and interest. Good balance. Not too tart. Gentle. 12%
£11.95 Berry Bros, www.bbr.com, 0800 280 2440
Seventy-five per cent Muscat with Clairette Blanche. Grapey nose and light, medium-sweet palate with lower acidity than, for example, a typical Moscato d’Asti. An entertaining mouthful of lively grape juice and nicely refined mousse. An afternoon wine? 8%
£12 The Sampler, www.thesampler.co.uk, 020 7226 9500/020 7225 5091
Vitteaut-Alberti, Blanc de Blancs
NV Crémant de Bourgogne
Light, fresh, very delicate. Not bad at all for the money. Simple with a fairly fast fade but not aggressively anything. 12%
£13.50 Stone, Vine & Sun, www.stonevine.co.uk, 01962 712351
J Laurens, Les Graimenous 2010
Crémant de Limoux
Attractive typographical label. Very pure, clean, direct. Quite simple – as one would expect for such a young wine – but it seems great value to me. Mountain stream stuff. 12.5%
£13.95 Roberson, www.robersonwine.com, 020 7381 7870
Ch Rives-Blanques 2010
Blanquette de Limoux
Mainly local Mauzac grapes that taste of cooking apples. Quite explosive and a tad frothy but an excellent example of this characterful grape. Slight chew on the end. 12.5%
Triple Zéro 2009 Montlouis
Essence of Loire Chenin Blanc, hints of honey and toast but no added sugar at any stage. Lovely texture and gentle mousse. 12.5%
£14.95 Slurp, www.slurp.co.uk, 020 8993 7722
Benoit Badoz Rosé NV
Crémant du Jura
Fresh, lightly perfumed Pinot Noir nose. Very fine bead, like all good Jura fizzes. A gentle caress. Dry but not demanding in terms of high acidity. Surely one of the best-value pink fizzes around. For drinking not keeping though. 12%
£16.50 The Sampler, www.thesampler.co.uk, 020 7226 9500/020 7225 5091
Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs
Who could resist a winemaker called Sandrine Logette-Jardin? This all-Chardonnay wine from Duval-Leroy is not the driest but has lots of green-apple freshness. Delicate and piercing without excess sugar, astringency or froth. 12%
£22.49 Sainsbury’s, www.sainsburys.co.uk, 07695 6000 (switchboard)
Bloomsbury 2010 England
From the most garlanded Sussex fizz producer and a particularly good year. Much subtler and fresher on the nose than the Graham Beck Cape fizz tasted alongside it. Good acidity (never an English failing). Not complex but the wine is beautifully balanced. 12.5%. (See also Ridgeview, South Ridge Blanc de Noirs 2009: lovely development on the nose – good enough to serve a visiting Frenchman; £24.99 Laithwaites.)
£22.99 Waitrose, www.waitrose.com, 0800 188 881
Veuve Fourny, Blanc de Blancs, Premier Cru, NV Champagne
Full and round with some complexity thanks to generous bottle age. The fruit comes from Vertus at the southern end of the Côte des Blancs. This wine from a négociant shows some attractive bottle age. Very tight texture. Bone dry. Not luscious by any means but a real appetite stimulant. 12%
£23 The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com, 01438 741 177
Barnaut Grande Réserve Grand
As soon as I poured this I could smell a most agreeable light biscuity perfume. Certainly not bone dry, nor especially tart, but elegantly balanced. Absolutely nothing to object to. Just £22.95 if a mixed dozen bottles are bought. 12.5%
£24.95 Lea & Sandeman, www.leaandsandeman.co.uk, 020 7244 0533
Chartogne-Taillet, Sainte Anne
Archetypal “small grower” based in Merfy. A good, informative back label tells us this blend is mainly 2008 and Pinot Noir predominates. This tastes open, somehow sensitive, almost fragile, but a champagne you want to nurture. Very clean and brisk. But also has some palate weight. Some length too. Great value. 12%
£25 The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com, 01438 741 177
Larmandier-Bernier, Tradition Extra Brut Premier
Cru NV Champagne
Restrained nose that suggests great delicacy. Real race and structure. Very grown-up champagne. Some Extra Brut champagnes are aggressively dry, but not this one.
A very fair price (£29.95). See also from the same producer Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru NV Champagne (£31.95, very obvious filigree Chardonnay flavours and lots of acidity) and Terre de Vertus Non Dosé Premier Cru NV Champagne (£36.95, really dense and intellectual).
All at Lea & Sandeman, www.leaandsandeman.co.uk, 020 7244 0533
First vintage to have Canadian winemaker Cherie Spriggs in charge and first since 1998 to be treated to 100 per cent softening malolactic fermentation, which is A Good Thing. Lighter nose than the Nyetimber Merret 2010 but very refreshing. Tastes like a Blanc de Blancs, although there is less than 80 per cent Chardonnay in the blend. 12%
£29.99 Waitrose, www.waitrose.com, 0800 188 881
Heavily Pinot Noir-dominated and from a grower in Bouzy. Split equally between 2007 and 2008 vintages and disgorged a year ago. Perfumed, seductive nose. Quite aggressive fizz but there’s lots of explosive personality here. Still quite youthful. Persistent. 12%
£32 M&S (142 stores), www.marksandspencer.com, 0845 609 0200
Bollinger, Special Cuvée
Lots of character here. Bone dry with great structure and confidence. Not that light! Lots of maturity. The gentle fizz feels as though it has had to battle its way through great intensity of flavour. Kick of acidity on the end. 12%
£34.95 Lea & Sandeman (www.leaandsandeman.co.uk, 020 7244 0533); and widely available elsewhere, usually at a higher price
Jacquesson, No 735
Special cuvée aged in oak casks and with a particularly low dosage (sweetening added before final corking). Dry, very fine and long. This bottling has been put together with great care and is based on the 2007 vintage. Nicely balanced and grown-up. 12%
£35 The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com, 01438 741 177
Eric Rodez, Cuvée des Crayères Grand Cru
From Ambonnay, equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Based on 2007 with reserve wines back to 2002. Complex, well-developed nose with some honey and toast – though no obvious oak. Very firm, solid and savoury. Serious champagne. Rather Bollinger-style. This champagne almost smokes a cigar! 12.5%
£39.90 The Sampler, www.thesampler.co.uk, 020 7226 9500/020 7225 5091
Pale gold. Dry finish. Substance here though the wine is still quite youthful. Serious champagne from a family-owned company that now owns bordeaux second growth Ch Pichon Lalande. Very refreshing and dry on the finish.
Veuve Clicquot 2004 Champagne
Notes when tasted blind: very light nose with a hint of apple skins. Then a hit of dosage. Tight texture. Very good bead – a talented winemaker here. Refreshing finish. But it fades just slightly. 12%
About £45 Slurp (www.slurp.co.uk, 020 8993 7722) and others
Pol Roger 2002 Champagne
This wine showed beautifully in a comparative tasting of top wines from the superlative 2002 vintage last week.
Egly-Ouriet Rosé Grand Cru Ambonnay
Very pale strawberry with an intriguing hint of cheesiness on the nose (better than the usual sickly raspberry aromas). Very fine bead and admirably dry finish. Distinctly superior – but so is the price. 12.5%
£63.25 Lea & Sandeman, www.leaandsandeman.co.uk, 020 7244 0533
Krug, Grande Cuvée
The current cuvée is still young, but potentially great – greater than many a vintage-dated Krug. Now with a code signifying date of disgorgement. The first three digits are the most important. If the number begins 311, it means that the wine was disgorged in the third quarter of 2011, for example. You can find out more at krug.com.
About £135, widely distributed
Elisabeth Salmon 2002
The palest salmon-pink. Stream of tiny bubbles. Quite mature and resolved on the nose. Really appetising kick on the finish and admirable persistence, though a less complex finale than the Bollinger Rosé 2004 tasted alongside. Fine rather than emphatic. 12%
About £140 Hedonism Wines (www.hedonism.co.uk, 020 7290 7870) and others
More stockists at www.winesearcher.com.
Next week: Jancis’s top 25 reds
Win a magnum of Grand Cru champagne
We are offering two readers a magnum of champagne each, kindly donated by Berry Bros. To enter the prize draw, you will need to collect four passwords, one will appear here each week until December 22. Password 1: tirage.
To enter, simply collect the four passwords printed in FT Weekend Magazine in Jancis Robinson’s column: one each will appear on 1 December 2012, 8 December 2012, 15 December 2012 and 22 December 2012. Entry period is from 22 December 2012 until 29 December 2012. Answers should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Champagne prize draw” in the subject line. Only one entry per person is permitted. Multiple or incomplete entries will be deemed to be invalid. Start date December 1, close date December 29. Participants must be 18 years+ & UK residents to be able to win the prize.
Full terms and conditions: FT Weekend Magazine prize draw (“FT Prize Draw”)
1. By entering into the FT Prize Draw, Participants agree to these terms and conditions and acknowledge that failure to comply with them may result in disqualification. The FT Prize Draw shall be void where prohibited by local law. All national and local laws and regulations shall apply.
2. The FT Prize Draw is open to participants in the UK only. Participants must be over 18 years of age. Employees and immediate family members of employees of The Financial Times Limited (“FT”) and its associated companies, professional advisers, advertising and promotional agencies are not eligible to take part in the FT Prize Draw.
3. To enter the FT Prize Draw, simply collect the four passwords printed in FT Weekend Magazine in Jancis Robinson’s column: one each will appear on 1 December 2012, 8 December 2012, 15 December 2012 and 22 December 2012. Entry period is from 22 December 2012 until 29 December 2012. Answers should be sent to email@example.com with “Champagne prize draw” in the subject line. Only one entry per person is permitted. Multiple or incomplete entries will be deemed to be invalid.
4. The winning prize (“Prize”) consists of one magnum of Berry Bros & Rudd champagne for the winner. There will be two winners.
5. The winner of the Prize will be the first eligible entry drawn at random who has correctly collected all 4 passwords. The winner will be drawn by FT on Wednesday 2 January 2013.
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