Your Guide to Festive Fizz

  15 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Davy Zyw’s 101 Champagnes and Other Sparkling Wines offers a handy guide to the festive season. It’s also the perfect stocking-filler for the bubble-loving bon vivant in your life. Davy is an Edinburgh-based wine buyer who started his career at Valvona and Crolla and has gone on to work for Le Gavroche, Tesco, and Berry Bros and Rudd. The book is packed with information about the history of the great houses and tales from up-and-coming vineyards. Here are three of his seasonal recommendations, from the high-end, to the high street, to the supermarket shelves.

The One for Surviving Christmas

Type: English sparkling, brut, multi-vintage

Style: Discerning deliciousness

Price: £££

Stockists: High street

Food: Salt-baked cod with lemon and proper good olive oil

Occasion: Surviving Christmas


Tasting note: Top notes of an English spring garden, hedgerow, sweet magnolia and gorse in flower. A beaut toasty character to it, sort of charred sourdough pizza crust, cox apples and forest fruits. The palate is foaming with character, more crunchy apples, ripe citrus and tension of the chalk terroir with mouth-watering purity. Delish.

About: Without a doubt in the top three producers in England today, creating wines from their thoroughbred chalk vineyards in Hampshire. The company and vineyards have gone through a lot of changes since the first vines were planted in 1952 with the help of Pol Roger. They led the new wave of English wine producers but because of various factors, the winery was almost mothballed and by the mid 1990s, all the grapes were sold off to other wineries. But then Ian Kellet gave Hambledon its due renaissance. He purchased the farm in 1999, and after studying at Plumpton College in East Sussex (I’m a fellow alumnus), he has been on a mission to restore and surpass its former glory. So far it’s working out pretty well.

The One to go with your Christmas Turkey

Type: Champagne, brut, multi-vintage

Style: Great golden grandeur

Price: ££££

Stockists: High street

Food: Hugely versatile – suckling pig, Christmas turkey or eggs benedict with black pudding

Occasion: Your brother’s wedding day breakfast


Tasting note: Breathtakingly delicious, deep gold in colour, ripe and full of power and flavours of dried apricots, pineapple, marzipan and Christmas cake spices. Mineral freshness keeps the tension of the palate, which is intense and full bodied, caressing you with gingerbread clouds, crème caramel, sugared almonds and buttered brioche waves.

About: It doesn’t get more special than Krug: the most expensive, stylish and most luxurious champagne house there is. Krug is the undisputed king of champagne; all hail. And it is a well-known aphrodisiac to boot! But considering the lofty mystique Krug now enjoys, the story started from humble beginnings. German born Joseph Krug moved to France as a young man and cut his teeth working for Jacquesson Champagne. He was not content with the variable, inconsistent style produced in each vintage, and left at the age of 42 to create a champagne which didn’t yet exist: his own Champagne Krug…

The One from the Supermarket

Type: Champagne, brut, multi-vintage

Style: Floral, fruity and fizz

Price: £

Stockists: Lidl

Food: Twiglets or Wotsits

Occasion: Fizz en masse


Tasting note: Champagney, fruity, rather floral and definitely fizzy! On the sweeter side of brut. This has all the champagne cues with mass appeal: apples, pears and a touch of creamy, crumbly biscuits.

About: This champagne entered the European market only a few years ago, and changed the game of champagne retailing. Champagne is often thought of as an aspiration drink, it holds a prestige, an allure which is helped by the high cost per bottle. This glossy varnish doesn’t stick the same when the champagne costs £10 all day every day! I know from my day job that Lidl can’t be making money on this champagne, a fractional percentage margin if anything. But the clever retailer knows that having this loss leader will drive a lot of footfall into their stores to buy other items. The wine trade likes to scoff at such wines, but I say bring them on! At £10 a bottle, it’s cheaper than a glass of fizz in a bar or restaurant. Thank you to Lidl for passing on the value to the customers, who may have not been able to afford Champagne before and now might want to taste other champagnes in their drinking journey.

Made for Lidl by cousin company to Lanson champagne houses, the Comte de Senneval comes from good stock. Lesstime on lees means it doesn’t display bags of toasty character, but if you feel the need I would buy a few bottles and stick them away for a year under the stairs. You will be surprised how much richer the champagne becomes after another year of peace and quiet.

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