Add some sparkle

We’re way past peak Prosecco. Hap­pily, there are other op­tions

The Irish Times Magazine - - DRINK - JOHN WIL­SON

In the run- up to Christ­mas, many of us like a glass or two of some­thing sparkling. Some of the time it is swal­lowed with­out too much thought, un­less it is truly aw­ful or some­thing re­ally spe­cial that kick- starts our taste buds. How­ever, I firmly be­lieve it is worth tak­ing a lit­tle time to buy some­thing de­cent – your fam­ily and friends will thank you for it.

The two na­tional favourites are Prosecco and Cham­pagne. I rarely refuse a glass of good Cham­pagne, although it can be very ex­pen­sive. As far as I am con­cerned, we reached peak Prosecco some time ago, so I am de­lighted to see the range of sparkling wines in our shops ex­pand to in­clude some re­ally in­ter­est­ing, rea­son­ably priced wines. This week a few more off­beat choices from the Loire Val­ley, Por­tu­gal and even the Czech Re­pub­lic, as well as an in­ex­pen­sive Cham­pagne that will cer­tainly get any party go­ing.

I wrote about pét- nats ear­lier this year. These are nat­u­rally sparkling wines, lightly fizzy and some­times quite funky too. Some are a lit­tle cloudy – the left­overs from the fer­men­ta­tion. A glass be­fore din­ner can be very re­fresh­ing and a whole lot more in­ter­est­ing than a Prosecco. The Por­tuguese PT Nat Pinot Noir be­low is a milder ver­sion, with plenty of fruit and a light sparkle.

Wines la­belled Brut Na­ture, in­clud­ing two of the bot­tles fea­tured be­low, will have vir­tu­ally no resid­ual sugar and if you are used to drink­ing sweet­ish Prosecco, they may come as some­thing of a shock to your sys­tem. How­ever, both are well worth try­ing.

If you do want to serve Cham­pagne, it usu­ally makes sense to pay more than ¤ 30, as in­ex­pen­sive Cham­pagne rarely of­fers good value for money. There are, how­ever, a few ex­cep­tions, such the Mon­signy to the right or the very tasty Gran­zamy Brut Cham­pagne (¤ 29.95, O’Briens). For more ad­ven­tur­ous palates, O’Briens also has the very tasty Aus­tralian Croser Brut Rosé (¤ 24.95). Dunnes Stores has the ex­cel­lent grown- up, re­fined bone- dry Cham­pagne Lom­bard Brut Na­ture Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (¤ 45). Ter­roirs in Don­ny­brook, Dublin 4, has a great se­lec­tion of grower or do­maine- bot­tled Cham­pagnes. My favourites in­clude the Agra­part 7 Crus (¤ 69.50) and the Pierre Péters Blanc de Blancs Ex­tra Brut (¤ 59.50). I al­ways en­joy a glass of the ex­cel­lent Bé­nard- Pi­tois 1er cru Cham­pagne ( Whele­han’s, ¤ 36.95). One of the finest grower Cham­pagnes I have tasted is Le­clerc Bri­ant (¤ 59, siyps. com, Green Man) and of the big­ger names in Cham­pagne, Bollinger, Louis Roed­erer, and Charles Hei­d­sieck are all on top form. Ex­pect to pay ¤ 55-¤ 65. Two last pieces of ad­vice. Don’t serve your sparkling wine too cold; half an hour in an ice bucket will kill all flavour. And do serve plenty of nib­bles – all wine, in­clud­ing sparkling tastes bet­ter with food.

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