In 2017, we Brits drank over 100 million bottles of Prosecco but two years of declining sales have led industry commentators to speculate that the bubble has… well, that our tastes have started to change. Some have cited rising wine prices, the increased popularity of gin and rum, and just plain overexposure as causes. But as the nation falls out of love with sweet, biscuit-y – and often pretty cheap-and-cheerful – Prosecco, so opens up a whole world of sparkling wine to explore. With that in mind, here are some of the best bottles to pop in post-prosecco Britain.
Tillingham Pet Nat Rosé, UK, 11.5% (£24; Tillingham)
The natural wine trend has brought this ancient style of fizz to prominence once again. Made by bottling before primary fermentation is completed, pétillant naturel tends to be spritzy, funky, and low-ish in alcohol. This example from East Sussex producers Tillingham combines Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Munier – the holy trinity of Champagne grapes – with a little skin contact Ortega for depth and colour. The palate is full of red berries and soft herbs with judicious use of oak providing earthiness and structure. This is the perfect afternooner and fairly moreish to boot, so probably think about getting two bottles.
Franciacorta Ferghettina “Milledì” 2016, Italy, 12.5% (£31.96; Tannico)
Prosecco usually gets its bubbles from fermentation in stainless steel tanks, a process known as the Charmat method which allows producers to make sparkling wine quickly and efficiently. In this small region in Lombardy, they take things much slower, using the costlier and more labour-intensive method of secondary fermentation in the bottle to create truly world class fizz. Ferghettina cuvees start around £20 and are excellent wines themselves, but if you spend a little more you can get something like this; a vintage, 100% Chardonnay, brut Franciacorta. Crisp and bracing, with blossoms and white fruit. Serious stuff.
Roederer Estate Quartet NV, USA, 12.5% (£22.49; Laithwaites)
This excellent value-for-money cuvee is made by the Louis Roederer Champagne house with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Northern California’s Anderson Valley. The cool mist and costal winds there make for slow-maturing fruit and brilliantly complex wines. Serve cellar cold (for most of us that’ll mean taken out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you want to drink it) to get the best out of Quartet’s creamy texture, conference pears, and toasty hazelnuts. While there’s definitely Champagne in its DNA this is a wine with its own identity and sense of place. A nice choice to start the evening and a strong pairing for mild cheeses.
Recaredo Brut Nature Terrers 2015, Spain, 12% (£24.95; TWE)
Cava doesn’t have the best reputation here in the UK and for many of us ranks somewhere below Prosecco and above Babycham. Which is a shame, really because good Cava made with native Spanish grape varieties is often overlooked and totally excellent. This organic, zero dosage wine from Penedès in Catalonia is ample proof that we should all give Spanish sparkling a second thought. After five years ageing on the lees it’s still remarkably fresh, with yellow fruits, bright acidity, and an almost salty minerality. You could quite happily drink this in quantity with olives or some good anchovies but it’ll be amazing with shellfish – oysters or those red prawns they have at posh restaurants.
Riesling Pet Nat ‘Rurale’, 2018 Thorston Melsheimer, 10.5% (£28; Newcomer)
Biodynamic pet nat made with Riesling and Johanniter grown in the Mosel. This is a great wine for spicy food; with a little residual sweetness supporting a palate of ginger, candied peel, and slate-y minerals. A great example of what natural sparkling wine can be; brilliantly alive and full of character.
Berry Bros. & Rudd Crémant de Limoux by Antech, France, 12% (13.95; BBR)
Crémant is Sparkling wine made using the traditional method in nine different regions across France and Luxembourg. This is a perfect introduction to the Cremant of Limoux; medium bodied and buttery with lemon zest and light baking spices. It’s 70% Chardonnay, 15% Chenin Blanc, and 15% Mauzac, aged at least one year on the lees as per AOC regulations. All of which adds up to a totally satisfying glass of fizz that punches well above its weight. Hard to beat at a Prosecco price-point and much, much more than poor man’s Champagne.
Casa Belfi Col Fondo Frizzante, Italy, 10.5% (£16.49; Gnarly Vines)
Prosecco is dead, long live prosecco! What better antidote to the sweet, confected Prosecco we’re all getting sick of than a seriously old-school number like this. Casa Belfi comes unfiltered and un-disgorged, so the dead yeast cells from the secondary fermentation are right there in the bottle. If that sounds like a turn off, don’t worry about it – it just means more flavour and natural wine funk in your glass. The bubbles here are smaller than your average sparkler and the profile is more towards pineapple, peach, and sourdough. Excellent picnic wine.