BBC Food & Drink co-presenter Joe Wadsack offers his view on the best bottles for the big occasions

Over Christmas and new year our minds turn to which fizz to choose – so many occasions to cater for, and so many wines to choose from. We drink an awful lot of fizz in the UK and our top four popular choices are: Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Champagne from France and, increasingly, our own rather good English sparklers. How do they differ? When each region puts its best foot forward, they are remarkably similar in price, so in the interest of a fair comparison, I thought I’d recommend a selection of delicious, less budget examples that reflect the best each wine region can offer. It is the party season after all!


This is made in a different way from the other three, only possible since pressurised tanks were invented. Juice from an ancient, softly fruity grape called glera is turned into wine in the pressurised tank, but the resultant gases aren’t able to escape, adorning the wine with its bubbles all at the same time. This is exactly how fizzy cider is made, only here grapes are used instead of apples. This doesn’t mean these wines aren’t capable of high quality – that’s all down to the quality of the grapes. Look for the word ’superiore’ and the letters DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita) on the label, indicating wine made only from grapes from the finest vineyards. Compared with the sub- tenner budget Prosecco sold in most supermarkets, these wines will tend to be more delicate, interesting and nuanced on the nose, and drier, with a creamier texture. Worth the extra fiver.

What we're drinking

Follador Valdobbiadene Extra Brut Superiore, £15.95,
Properly dry, this award-winning wine is fresh and youthful with a floral, citrus delicacy and the finesse of Champagne.

Also try...

Argeo Prosecco, Ruggeri, £11.75,
Prosecco Superiore Millesimato, La Gioiosa, £8.99,


Cava producers have made a concerted effort to occupy that £10- £20 price point that used to belong exclusively to supermarket own label Champagne. Cava’s own DO (denominación de origen) status ensures the wines are produced using the traditional method. Cava and Champagne are essentially made the same way, by inserting a still wine into individual bottles, into which more sugar and yeast is added to create fine bubbles and sparkle, alongside some jiggery-pokery to remove the dead yeast and muck from the final product. Perhaps more relevant is how cava differs from Champagne. Taking two wines of equivalent quality and price, Cava is usually made from much riper grapes, and different varieties from the usual Champagne blend. This results in a wine that is more saline, savoury and nuttier than the sleek lines you find in good Champagne or English fizz. So when is it better to drink Cava? That’s simple: with a big plate of cured Spanish ham, tangy cheeses and a pickle or two. Premium Cava is made for food. There’s almost no match finer.

What we're drinking

Reserva de la Familia Cava, Juve y Camps, £17.99,

A favourite at weddings of the Spanish royal family. Apricot, sourdough, lemon curd aromas lead to a dry, savoury palate – simply sublime with jamón.

Also try...

Brut Cava Reserva NV, Anna de Codorniu, £11.99,

M&S Prestige Cava Brut NV, 6 bottles, £60,


We’re all a little more familiar with France’s most famous wine, aren’t we? However there are many, many styles – some taut, smoky and citrusy, which lend themselves to summer sipping with seafood by the beach, and others that are light, effortless and biscuity, more suitable for party quaffing. At this time of year, I’m inclined to go for one of these – see my top recommendation, right, for a popular and classic example of the type.

What we're drinking

Champagne Brut Royal NV, Pommery, £39.95,
Extremely smooth and sleek, with ripe lemony, biscuity fruit. Polished and easy on the palate.

Also try...

Champagne Réserve NV, Brigitte Delmotte, £39.99,
Champagne Special Cuvée NV, Bollinger, £42.90,

English Sparkling

The world’s most fashionable! I am often asked why English wine is having such a moment. I mean, where has it been all this time? Well, with the exception of a few early trailblazers, like Camel Valley in Cornwall and Nyetimber in West Sussex, most of the best sparkling wine producers in England have only been established in the past 15 years. Simply put, the dazzling quality of English fizz is down to three things. First, thanks to modern advances, English growers have been able to plant more accurately the precise sites they know will produce the best fruit. Second, most top producers are well-financed and, unlike small Champagne producers, have state-of-the-art facilities with which to achieve top class results. But last, like it or not, global warming has given us the favourable climate and conditions that Champagne once had in the Sixties and Seventies – Champagne’s greatest era. It’s our turn now!

What we're drinking

Classic Cuvée Rosé, Hambledon, £35,

Incredible refinement and concentration here. An aroma of wild strawberries leading to dense, dried cranberries in the mouth.

Also try...

Three Graces 2016 Brut, Chapel Down £34.95,

Blanc de Noirs 2018, Balfour Hush Heath, £34.99,

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