First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 9th June, 2018
A chilled glass of sparkling wine goes down a treat as the sun sets on a warm sunny evening.
I love good Champagne, but the budget doesn’t always stretch that far, and cheap Champagne is rarely worth the money. Sales of Prosecco continue unabated, but there are plenty of alternatives around at prices that won’t break the bank. Some are a lot more interesting too. I have come across some great alt sparkling wines recently from Cava, Franciacorta (in Italy) as well as England and even Luxembourg. However, all these cost well over €30; all of the wines I’ve chosen cost substantially less.
For several years now hipsters and cool kids alike have been sipping Pét Nat (or Pétillant Naturel) wines. These are lightly fizzy wines, made by the oldest sparkling wine method of all. In the past, they often happened by accident; half-finished wine stopped fermenting in the cold of winter, and then began again as temperatures rose in spring-time. If the wine had been bottled in the intervening period, then a second fermentation took place in the bottle, giving the wine a light sparkle. Production was (and is) hard to control, and the results can be unreliable.
Pét Nats are typically lower in alcohol and have fewer bubbles than Champagne. They are funky, rustic, cloudy, fizzy, fruity, unpredictable – and fun. Often sealed with a crown cap rather than a cork, they make a refreshing change. They produce Pét Nats in Prosecco, where it is labelled col fondo.
Champagne, Cava, Spumante Prosecco, the various Crémants and most New World sparkling wines are all taxed at twice the rate of frizzante Prosecco and Pét Nats, both of which are classified by Revenue as still wine. All the more remarkable then that the two fully sparkling wines below still come in at less than €20.
I have written about the Aldi Crémant de Jura before. It remains one of the best-value bottles of fizz, but for a change I’ve chosen the Crémant de Loire instead this week. The Loire Valley produces plenty of good well-priced sparkling wine. The best I have tasted recently is the amazing Triple Zéro La Taille aux Loups from Jacky Blot (€35.60, Winesdirect.ie). SuperValu has the very decent Bonnamy white and rosé for €19.95. Alternatively Tesco has the ultra-reliable and very tasty Jacob’s Creek Rosé Sparkling for €17.99 (promoted to €16 at times). Spar, Eurospar, Mace and Londis all offer the fruit-filled Jaume Serra Cava Brut for €15.99. On a more adventurous note, the Tesco Finest Pignoletto (€15.99) will please Prosecco lovers, or Marks & Spencer even have a Brazilian sparkling wine for €14. For those who want Prosecco, the organic La Jara below was my favourite for less than €15.
Four of the best bottles of fizz
LaCheteau Crémant de Loire NV Blanc de Noirs
Lightly floral with ripe raspberries on nose and palate. You could use this in all sorts of summer cocktails, or drink simply by itself.
La Jarra Prosecco Frizzante, Organic
Elderflower and pear aromas, clean and crisp with very moreish rounded pear fruits with good citrus acidity.
Stockists: La Touche, Greystones, Latouchewines4u.ie; Liston’s, Camden St., listonsfoodstore.ie; 64 Wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer St, fallonandbyrne.com; Martin’s Off Licence, Clontarf, martinsofflicence.ie; Clontarf Wines, clontarfwines.ie; Kelly’s, Clontarf, kellysofflicence.ie.
Langlois l’Extra, Crémant de Loire
Langlois, is owned by Champagne house Bollinger, and while you won’t mistake this for Champagne, it is a lovely glass of fizz, with a lightly creamy texture and subtle peach and yellow fruits.
Col Tamaríe, Vigna San Lorenzo
A single vineyard organic wine treated with “unicist homeopathy”. Lightly fizzy, mildly funky with delicate citrus and pear fruits. Much more interesting than Prosecco. The prefect summer aperitif.
Stockists: Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines1.ie; Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Dublin and Kells, sheridanscheesemongers.com; SIYPS.com.