A Christmas buyer's guide, pt 1: champagne & fizz

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Over the next four weeks, I'll be selecting almost 50 special bottles for conspicuous consumption throughout the festive period.

Over the next four weeks, I'll be selecting almost 50 special bottles for conspicuous consumption throughout the festive period. I'll pick a mixed case of the best affordable sparklers, a dozen each of whites and reds, and a final case of luscious sweet and fortified wines. This week's featured fizzy wines are guaranteed to get the party off with a bang:

Cheap and cheerful ... Chapel Hill Chardonnay / Pinot Noir, Hungary, £4.99, Waitrose. This all-purpose Hungarian fizz gets better and better every year.

Affordable pink fizz ... Marques de Monistrol Cava Seleccíon Especial Rosé, £6.49, Waitrose. A stylish, salmon pink Spanish cava with a redcurranty pzazz that will ensure it's unlikely to stick around for long in the glass.

Bubbles for a tenner or so ... Jansz NV, £10.99, Oddbins. Most of the grapes for this elegantly, understated sparkler come from Tasmania, whose cool island climate adds a bit of much-needed bite to create a tangy tiger of a Tazzie fizz.

Ye olde English ... 1996 Nyetimber Classic Cuvée, £22.49 or buy 2 for £17.99 each, Majestic, £19, Waitrose. Former Bucks Fizz tunesmith Alan Hill's Nyetimber is a truly English champagne-method blend that performs like the real thing.

Blanc de blancs classic ... Pierre Gimonnet & Fils 1er cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne, £19.99, Oddbins. A classy all-chardonnay fizz from one of the best growers in the Champagne region's Côte des Blancs.

New fizz on the block ... Jacquesson Cuvée No. 728 Champagne Brut, around £26, Philglas & Swiggot (020-8332 6031), Stone, Vine & Sun (01962 712351), Mayfair Cellars (020-7386 7999). Ultra-stylish champagne blend with a richly savoury, toasty depth of flavour and a fruity, textured mousse.

Grande marque at a not-so-grand price ... Lanson Black Label Brut, £14.82, Asda (from 4 December), £14.99, Sainsbury's (from 8 December) reduced from £20. The ever-reliable Black Label demonstrates an uncanny knack for delivering the bubbles, with toasty aromatics and biscuity flavours.

Planet organic ... Fleury Père et Fils Brut Non-Vintage Champagne, £20.99, Waitrose. A classy organic champagne from the Aube region where the pinot noir grape displays no shortage of refreshing berry fruitiness.

Vintage stuff ... 1996 Billecart-Salmon, Nicolas-François Billecart, around £49, Berry Bros & Rudd, Fortnum & Mason, James Nicholson, Oddbins. Fresh with a hint of digestive biscuit, this youthful vintage fizz displays a creamy-textured mousse of mouthfilling fruit with an ultra-classy finish.

The name of the Rosé ... 1998 Louis Roederer Rosé Vintage Champagne, £50, Waitrose (limited), Balls Bros, London E2 (020-7739 1642). Roederer's breathtaking pale salmon pink rosé champagne explodes on the palate with a concentrated liquid strawberries and cream quality.

Pushing the boat out ... 1995 Salon, £110. Corney & Barrow (buy 6 bottles and get 12 Delamotte champagne flutes free). Salon's enticing honey and grilled-nut aromas lead to luxuriously creamy-rich, textured fruit with intense praline and brioche-like flavours.

Off the wall fizz ... 2002 Seppelt Sparkling Shiraz, £9.49, Oddbins. The Aussie phenomenon of turning shiraz into a sparkling red can occasionally backfire with a surfeit of sweetly alcoholic blackberry juice, but not in this finely tuned sparkling example.

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