Whether Champagne is your one and only, or a good Aussie sparkling wine will do the trick, do put bubbles on your Christmas wish list this year. There’s just something so festive about a drink that moves.
“From the moment the cork pops, it’s a celebration,” says Nicole Bilson, wine writer, educator and sommelier. “Champagne has history, status and – most importantly of all – plenty of fizz.”
Here are Nicole’s top picks for adding some pop and bubble to your festive season this year.
“For inexpensive sparkling you can’t go past prosecco,” she says. “It’s fruity and refreshing, delightful for summer sipping.”
Prosecco originated in Italy, explains Nicole, but we have some great producers here in Australia.
The Dal Zotto family in the King Valley are inspiring. Otto Dal Zotto was born in Valdobbiadene in Italy’s Veneto region, the home of prosecco. Back in 1999 they planted the King Valley’s first prosecco vines – “technically the grape variety is Glera,” says Nicole – which is a region now renowned for quality Australian prosecco.
“We’re seeing more and more people just love prosecco here in Australia – you give them a glass and it puts a smile on their face,” says Otto. “I never thought what we started could have become what it is now!”
Nicole’s recommendation: Dal Zotto Pucino Prosecco NV, around $21. Or go for a piccolo bottle of one of the best: Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV Piccolo for under $30.
“Sparkling rosé is one of my favourite styles,” says Nicole. “While some sparklings sit more safely in the aperitif category, rosé versions can have a bit more depth and lend themselves to more versatile food matches.”
“We’re seeing more and more people just love prosecco here in Australia – you give them a glass and it puts a smile on their face,” says Otto.
Best recommendation: Nicole suggests the Deviation Road Altair Brut Rosé ($38): “It smells like strawberries and spice but is still really dry and zesty.”
If rosé isn’t your thing, pick up a Pommery Brut Royal NV Champagne for around $55 or the celebrated Tasmanian sparkler Janz Vintage Methode Champenoise, about $45.
While you can buy good Champagne in this price point, you can buy some exceptional Australian Sparkling.
“Tasmania is my go-to as the very cool climate is perfect for the really crisp, fresh fruit flavours and high acidity that make for great sparkling,” says Nicole. She especially recommends the House of Arras Brut Elite NV ($60). “It spends time ageing on lees to develop the brioche and pastry characters associated with premium sparkling,” Nicole explains.
Of course, if you’re a sucker for a Frenchie, you’ll be wise to hit the big houses to find the best drop, most likely non-vintage at this price point. You can usually pick up a bottle of Veuve Yellow Label Brut NV for under $75, and definitely grab Moet & Chandon Brut NV Champagne for around $60. Both Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne and Pol Roger Brut NV Champagne are also under $75.
Go to town
If you’ve money to spend, it has to be vintage Champagne. By law, Champagne can only be produced within 100 miles of the Champagne region in north-eastern France, using particular grapes (pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay), in a particular way. There is a history and elegance associated with the production of Champagne that makes it a necessity for special occasions.
“When buying Champagne I gravitate towards three houses that share a common theme,” says Nicole. “They are privately owned- not part of a big corporation, and they own the majority of the vineyards they source fruit from, so have ultimate control over quality.” They are Bollinger, Louis Roederer and Pol Roger.
Bollinger Rosé, around $150
Bollinger Grande Annee Vintage Champagne, around $250
Louis Roederer Vintage Brut Champagne, around $130
Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Champagne, around $420
Pol Roger Vintage Champagne, around $125
Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill, around $360