Festivities mean fizz – so most plump either for the usual prosecco or a cut-price champagne deal. But why be so indiscriminate, so unimaginative, when quality sparkling wine is now made across the globe? There are bubbles to suit every palate, predilection and pocket. Here’s your virtual round-the-world-in-fizz-ticket, starting on a pristine, windswept island one the other side of the world: Tasmania, or Tassie to you and me, is the antithesis of everything we expect from Australian wine. Surrounded by the cold Southern Ocean and measuring the cleanest air in the world, Tasmania makes stunning bottle-fermented sparklers from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Jansz Premium Rosé NV, shimmering with floral touches and spice, delivers unbelievable value for such a premium product (£17.50, Oddbins). If you can get your hands on it, grab some exquisite Pirie sparkling NV (£28.95, Halifax Wine Company). For a Kiwi touch and a similar latitude, try elegant and creamy Quartz Reef brut from Central Otago, New Zealand (£22.75, Winedirect).
Our next touch-down is the California coast. Near Mendocino, where brooding redwood forests meet the deep and cold Pacific, Roederer Estate (yes, those guys from Champagne with their usual quality ethos) craft exquisite bottle-fermented fizz that unites ocean briskness with the fruit expression of brilliant sunshine. Due to a good portion of reserve wine, their Quartet brut NV (£19 D&D Wine) is reliably delicious, fabulous value and a perfect all-rounder. More Californian brilliance and Pacific freshness comes in the form of classy Iron Horse Classic Vintage brut (£29.95 Berry Bros). It has Californian good life written all over it.
Crossing the Atlantic, we touch down first in Germany, the world’s most enthusiastic nation when it comes to consuming of fizz, or Sekt as they call it. The pun-potential here is endless: “Some Sekt, Sir?” If you’re after an invigorating aperitif, look no further than Reichsrat von Buhl’s ultra-clean-cut and zippy Riesling brut (£23.99, Averys). Solter 2009 Riesling Reserve (£29.20, The Wine Barn) offers a slightly more baroque, ultra-Riesling style.
A foray into Italy yields countless results: if you usually find champagne too tart, the traditional-method sparklers from Franciacorta offer similar complexity in a far milder package. Corteaura (£17.95, Lea & Sandeman) is a versatile, quality fizz while pink Mosnel Parosé (£38.00 Viniitaliani) is so savoury and rounded it will take on your Christmas turkey – trimmings and cranberry sauce included.
If, on the other hand, you not only want but need raciness in your sparklers, rejoice in the Alpine freshness of the wines from Trento. Grown at altitudes of up to 700 meters in the Dolomites, these ‘bollicine di montagna’, or mountain bubbles, are a well-kept secret, offering world-class quality at more than decent prices. Ferrari Perlé Blanc (£25, Great Western Wine) sets the standard in pure Chardonnay, the Ferrari Perlé Nero Brut 2008, based on 100% Pinot Noir, is a complex, beautiful marvel at the height of its beguiling power – suitably festive needless to say (£39.50, Great Western Wine).
Now let’s cross over into France: If you must have champagne, and who can blame you, and are looking for outstanding value combined with effortless style, Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blancs brut (£28.80, Bottle Apostle) is a real find. From the pure chalk soils of Vertus, this punches well above its weight. For a Pinot-dominated style of unfailing, delectable dependability, check out Carte d’Or by Champagne Drappier (£28, Oddbins). It is fresh and creamy, comforting and elegant.
Last but not least we return to this sceptered isle and the only question is where to begin? If you have guests from abroad it would be remiss not to spoil them with English fizz. As a cheering pre-Christmas exercise you could do worse than conduct a tasting of all the Ridgeview cuvées to find your preferred one. (buy a mixed case at Ridgeview.co.uk) If you already know Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée, push the boat out and taste their 2009 Blanc de Blancs (£31.75, Hennings). Creamy Hattingley Valley (£32.99, Majestic) also comes highly recommended, as does Wiston Estate – if you can still get your hands on some 2011 Rosé (£33.95, Hennings) act quickly now. It exemplifies English hedgerow fruit – exuberantly so.
Now that you’ve been on this effervescent, virtual world-tour, your festive fizz will simply have to be international and eclectic. If you cannot resist the cut-price champagne deal, go for it, cellar the stuff and enjoy it next year. It’s amazing what a year does to an average brut NV. Cheers!