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'Tis the season to be bubbly: Guide to the best festive fizz

27 DECEMBER 2012

Its satisfying pop is guaranteed to get a party started and the lively little bubbles add a touch of festive sparkle to any occasion.

And with supermarkets offering astonishingly good deals on, it is more affordable than ever and perfect to toast your way into the New Year. The major chains have entered into a price war, meaning you can easily pick up a bottle of bubbly for less than £20.

Even a £10 bottle in certain stores carries the prestigious Champagne label – the one to look for – but what exactly does that mean?

 

champagne 



Champagne is the most famous, revered and imitated of all sparkling wines so it is important to know just what makes it so special.

It originates in the Champagne region, the most northerly wine producing region of France, where you will find the cities of Reims and Epernay.

The region is blessed with conditions that make it a fantastic Champagne producer. A cool climate and chalky soil are the basic building blocks for a lovely bubbly.

The grape growing villages are rated according to the quality of fruit produced. The best is grand cru, followed closely by premier cru.

To qualify as Champagne, a name which is legally protected, it must be produced in the region using the traditional processes known as methode champenoise or method traditionelle.

A still, dry wine is bottled and sugar and yeast are added to kick start a second fermentation. This produces alcohol and carbon dioxide – this gives the Champagne its bubbles.

Once the fizz has formed, the bottle is left on its side in order to develop flavour.

Bottles are turned and tilted regularly in order to get the dead yeasts to settle in the neck of the bottle – this stage is called remuage.

During the degorgement stage, the neck of each bottle is frozen, the cork removed and the frozen yeast sediment shoots out.

And finally the bottles are topped up with similar wine and sugar is added to taste if required.

 

 champagne vineyard



Most Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

Vintage and non-vintage Champagne is the difference between the age of the grape blends. A vintage Champagne is made from the grapes of one season only whereas non-vintage is made of those of several years.

Although they have a more modest reputation, Prosecco and Cava are becoming increasingly popular and excellent alternatives.

Rather than seeing them as poorer relations of their fancy French cousin, it is time to embrace them as quality fizzes in their own right.

Prosecco, named after the eponymous grape, is mainly produced in the Veneto area of Italy. Like Champagne, its name is now legally protected. Drier and lighter than Champagne, it also packs more bubbles in a bottle.

Cava is Spain’s answer to bubbly. Grapes can come from all over the country but are mainly produced around Barcelona in the Catalonia region. The production method is closer to that of Champagne than Prosecco.

And you will be glad to know that calorie-wise, Champagne pips spirits to the post with around 90 calories per glass – even more reason to celebrate in style this Christmas!

Try one of our Hello! Online top five fizzy favourites:

Sainsbury's Blanc de Noirs Champagne, £18.99
Marks and Spencer's Extra Dry Prosecco, £8
Marks and Spencer's Champagne de De St Gall Premier Cru Brut, £28
Morrison's The Best Champagne, £14.99
Waitrose Cava Brut, £6.79

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