It's another super-busy week down here in Devon. I'll be in our new shop right up to Christmas Eve, pouring wine and hopefully ensuring everyone gets plenty of enlivening, inspiring wine for Christmas. So on this occasion we'll skip most of the preamble and just assume that the one thing nobody wants to do without at this time of year is Champagne.
But what? I would seriously urge you to look beyond the big brands to the little guys. There are many great independent producers in Champagne that offer wines of real quality and interest at very fair prices, often made in small quantities from their own vineyards. We have a selection, highlighted below.
And if you're after something different, we've got some great options including proper 'farmhouse Prosecco', a brilliant ancestral-method English sparkling wine from Tillingham and Welsh sparkling rosé with six years of bottle age behind it. Take your pick...
Bertrand-Delespierre NV 1er Cru Brut Enfant de la Montagne
This is a beautiful wine from Premier Cru vineyards on the Montagne de Reims. It is based on the 2014 vintage, blended with some of the previous three years. Wonderful value.
Michel Gonet 2010 Blanc de Blancs '3 Terroirs'
Another wine that offers far more for your money than any Grand Marque at the price, this vintage wine is 100% Chardonnay that spends six years ageing on its lees before release. It is very dry (Extra Brut), and perfectly balanced.
Egly-Ouriet NV Grand Cru 'Brut Tradition'
A sommelier favourite from a top grower, this is all from Grand Cru vineyards, 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It might not look cheap, but this is a wine to rival some of the best of the Grandes Marques and as such is still extremely well priced. Buy now.
Coste Piane NV Prosecco di Valdobbiadene
Not your everyday supermarket Prosecco, Casa Coste Piane is a small estate making high quality wine using the ancestral method. Secondary fermentation is done in bottle but there is no disgorgement and it is left on its lees. It has all the upfront peach fruit flavour of Prosecco but finishes perfectly dry. Complex and long.
Tillingham 2018 Col'18
Tillingham are for our money the most exciting producer in the UK. Rather than trying to mimic Champagne, they are setting out to do things differently, to experiment and to make great wines that stand apart. Col is a classic blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier but it is made in the ancestral method with no disgorgement. The result is a truly delicious, unique English wine. Not to be missed.
Ancre Hill 2013 Sparkling Rosé
Ancre Hill is in Monmouthshire, Wales, and on the evidence of this is easily an estate to rival the best in the more celebrated south east. Now six years old, this amazing rosé has a gorgeous smoky complexity and perfect poise.
Please do not attempt Christmas without a glass of cold Champagne.