89

NV Freixenet, Elyssia Gran Cuvée, Cava

( £14.99, 11.5%, Waitrose )

Freixenet was opposed to “”international varieties” for many years, but I’m glad it has relented, because this is a very well made blend of Pinot and Chardonnay. Savoury and dry, with a Cava-like twist, it’s palate-tinglingly fresh and long. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Spain, Sparkling, Macabeo
92

NV Laithwaite Private Cuvée, Champagne

( £44, 12.5%, Laithwaites )

This is a Chardonnay-dominated blend, but it’s the 33% Pinot Noir that really comes through on the nose and palate, giving the wine a malty, raspberry fruity richness. The Chardonnay really kicks in the finish, lifting the wine and giving it frehsness and zest. Classy stuff.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-16Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, France, Sparkling
91

NV Graham Beck Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut, Western Cape

( £13.99 down to £10.24, 12%, Waitrose )

Pieter Ferreira is way ahead of anyone else making sparkling wine in the Cape at the moment, as demonstrated by this partially-barrel fermented fizz. It’s sappy and fresh, but with attractively yeasty autolysis notes, very fine bubbles and a tapering finish. A New World fizz that’s better than a lot of cheap Champagnes. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2014Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, South Africa, Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
94

NV Bertrand de Bessac, Cuvée du Marquis Brut, Champagne

( £29.99 down to £24.49, 12%, Waitrose )

A blend of 60% Pinot Noir from the Aube and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, this has a hefty proportion of toasty reserve wine to add to the ripe fruit from the 2009 vintage. The result is a delicious fizz with real complexity, power and depth as well as the backbone to age. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-18Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, France, Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
93

NV Sainsbury's Blanc de Noirs Champagne

( £20.99 down to £15.74, 12%, Sainsbury's )

Well, that’s my Christmas Party fizz taken care of. This is outrageously good value, a superb own-label Champagne that ranks with the very best buys in the high street right now. It’s a toasty, bottle-aged blend of mostly Pinot Meunier with 40% Pinot Noir and it’s singing at the top of its voice. Small bubbles, great length, richness and complexity, with lots of extra weight from 30% reserve wines. Buy, buy, buy. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-16Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, France, Sparkling, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
93

2010 Cantine Russo Mon Pit Methodo Classico Spumante Brut Rosé, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 12.5%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

Nerello Mascalese is versatile enough to make terrific sparklers – like this bready, toasty rosé spumante. The fruit is spicy, and rather savoury, with an intriguing nose that reminded me of red onions (it wasn’t oxidised, I should hasten to add). The mousse is soft but persistent. Bone dry, refined and complex – a serious Rosé, Bravo!

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Sparkling, Nerello Mascalese
89

NV Paradiso Prosecco, Veneto

( £11.99, 11.5%, Naked Wines )

Not the cheapeast Prosecco on the market by soem distance, but this is worth the loot: light bodied, just off dry, wtih fine bubbles and flavours of boiled sweets, citrus fruit and a hint of peach. Long and refreshing. 

BuyDrinking window: 2012-13Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Italy, Sparkling
90

NV Bolney Estate Cuvée Rosé, Sussex

( £24.99, 12.5%, Naked Wines )

Just when you were beginning to think that English fizz is a little over-hyped, along comes a stylish, well-priced number like this Pinot Noir-based cuvée. Coral pink in colour, showing some toasty, yeasty bottle development on the nose, small bubbles and a savoury, wild strawberry finish. One to baffle a French wine snob with.  

BuyDrinking window: 2012-15Similar Wines: £20-£30, 86-90, England, Sparkling, Pinot Noir
97

2002 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, Reims, Champagne

( Approx £100, 12, Widely available )

If I had to choose just one Blanc de Blancs Champagne to lay down on a regular basis, this would be it. It’s hard to believe the wine is 10 years’ old, given its freshness and perky acidity. Floral, understated, citrus and brioche aromas sashay into a pure, focused, beautifully defined palate showing flavours of citrus, fresh bread and lighty grilled nuts. The finish on the wine goes on for a minute. Great now, but tuck some away if you can keep your hands off it.  

Drinking window: 2012-20Similar Wines: Under £5, 96-100, France, Sparkling, Chardonnay
91

2010 Cerutti Moscato d'Asti "Suri Sandrinet", Cassinasco

( £11.75, 5%, Berry Bros & Rudd )

Moscato is one of my favourite summer aperitifs, capable of greatness as well as perfume and zing in the hands of a top producer like Gianmario Cerutti. This one comes from a sunny (“suri” in Italian) vineyard located at 350 metres, combining freshness with fruit concentration. This has 125 grams of residual sugar, but you don’t notice it thanks to the citrus fruit acidity. Grapey, frothy, filligree bubbles with a palate-cleansing finish.

Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, Sparkling, Other Whites