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Six sparkling wines

by Tom cannavan, 10/97

As part of a Christmas taste-off for a magazine article, I sampled half a dozen inexpensive bubblies. These are mostly "own-brand" products from UK retailers. Generally I found these to be sound, if rather crude wines overall, though one or two stood out. It depends on the occasion, but apart from a couple of these I'd probably pay the extra £7 or £8 to buy a really impressive non-vintage Champagne, probably from Veuve Clicquot (Yellow Label) or Pol Roger (White Foil), where the extra cash buys real complexity and a much more generous mouthful of bubbles.

Champagne de Telmont Grand Reserve, Majestic Wine, £12.49
Golden yellow colour and steady stream of small bubbles. Yeasty, slightly dank, leafy nose. Quite sharp, but sweet on the palate with a soft though short-lived mousse. A bit thin and acidic overall with an abrupt finish.

Champagne Monteau Brut, Victoria Wine, £12.99
Pale golden/yellow. Good, widespread stream of pin-head bubbles. Baked apples and warm toast on the nose. Refreshing style on the palate with a hint of sweetness, some good lemony fruit and a bone-dry, appetizing finish. (Not a bad wine, and it's reduced to £9.99 through the Christmas period, so pretty good value for money).

Deutz Brut (Marlborough, New Zealand), Oddbins & Victoria Wine, £10.99
Made by an excellent small Champagne house in the cool South Island of New Zealand. Pale straw/gold colour. Plenty of tiny bubbles. Little whiff of burnt rubber then deep, nettly aromas. Mouth filling, soft mousse, good fruit - lemon, pear and baked apples - and a nutty quality. Good length and plenty of grapefruit acidity. Nice stuff.

Sainsbury's Blanc de Noirs Champagne Brut, £11.99
Medium golden/straw colour. Small bubbles. Slightly chemical smell at first, lean, nettly and under-ripe. On the palate the mousse is rich and rolling. Quite chewy, with broad, generously fruity flavours. Better on palate than nose. Longish finish and good balance.

Peckham's Champagne Brut, £13.99
Scottish chain with shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh. This is made for them by the house of Gardet and features a fairly high proportion of mature wines. Medium golden colour. Tiny, pin-prick bubbles and lovely deep, yeasty, baking-bread aromas. Plenty of zesty lemon fruit too. On the palate beautifully fruity in a soft, peachy style. Full and quite weighty it has real concentration. Delicious stuff and £1 off when you buy two bottles during December.

Tesco "Premier Cru" Champagne Brut, £11.99
Despite the meaningless and irritating "Premier Cru" epithet, this is quite nice stuff. Straw/gold, it has good, evenly dispersed bubbles and fresh aromas of lemon, and slightly green, asparagus notes. A fairly sharp, bright, refreshing style that has pleasant fruit and decent length. Not bad.