When it comes to celebrating the festive season, there’s nothing quite like marking the occasion with a freshly popped bottle of sparkling wine. But, with so many varieties and styles of bubbly to choose from, deciding which bottle is right for you (and what to serve it with) can be a bit overwhelming. If you plan to sip sparkling wine this Christmas, then our guide will help you select and serve the perfect fizz. Just read on to learn more.
1. Prosecco, Champagne, or Cava?
Which type of sparkling wine you’ll be popping this Christmas will depend on your budget and tastes. In recent years, affordable Prosecco has overtaken French Champagne as the most popular sparkling wine in the UK (Independent). This Italian wine is cheaper than its French cousin, and tastes light and a little sweet on the palate, whereas champagne is richer, dryer and more complex. For the best of both worlds, use Prosecco to make festive cocktails like Bucks Fizz, and buy a bottle (or two) of quality champagne to toast with during your Christmas meal.
If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to Prosecco that tastes more like Champagne, then consider cava. Often overshadowed by popular Prosecco, this Spanish bubbly is a brilliant substitute for pricey French fizz. Unlike its Italian counterpart, traditional Cava is fermented in the bottle using the Champagne method, giving it a dry, full-bodied flavour that is closer to Champagne in taste.
2. Work out how much you’ll need, and stock up in advance
As a rough guide, one standard 75ml bottle of sparkling wine will serve six full glasses. A case of six bottles will therefore provide 36 glasses — ideal for a party. If you need to order in bulk, consider ordering a case online to save you the heavy lifting: this selection of crates from Bottled & Boxed includes mixed cases, which are ideal if you’re looking to sample a few different styles of Champagne this year.
If you really want to blow your guests away this year, you could even opt for a magnum of Champagne, which contains 1.5 litres of wine — twice the amount in a standard bottle. The magnum is supposed to provide a better drinking experience and improve the taste of champagne, as the larger size means a better ratio of wine to air in the bottle, according to this article on VinePair.
3. Find fizz to suit your guests’ dietary requirements
You might not realise that certain sparkling wines are unsuitable for certain dietary requirements. So, if you’re hosting a party for guests with specific requirements, do your research and find out which wines you can serve.
Some Champagnes and sparkling wines use products derived from animals to filter or ‘fine’ the wine, meaning they aren’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Fortunately, many producers are now cottoning on to animal-free filtration methods, meaning that vegetarian and vegan drinkers can now enjoy most brands of bubbly. You can usually find whether a certain wine is vegan by checking the label on the bottle, but when in doubt, this searchable database of vegan-friendly drinks from Barnivore will tell you everything you need to know.
4. Cater to health-conscious guests with slimline drinks
When shopping for fizz, consider providing a few low-calorie drinks for health-conscious guests. Certain sparkling varieties have a lower percentage of alcohol by volume: for instance, Prosecco tends to be about 11% ABV, meaning they’re a lighter alternative to red and white wines, which are normally closer to 13-15%.
A glass of Champagne is typically only about 89 calories, compared to around 159 for a regular glass of standard wine (Drinkaware), making it a brilliant choice for diet-conscious guests. But, you should bear in mind that not all Champagne is created equally, and some varieties contain more sugar than others. If you’re looking to cut back on the sweet stuff this year, you should pick drier styles of bubbly, which are made using less sugar. You can find out exactly how much sugar is in a glass of each style of Champagne — from Brut Nature to Demi-sec varieties — in this visual guide from Wine Folly.
5. Complement your fizz with the perfect food
Now that you’ve found the perfect bubbly, don’t let it down by serving it with the wrong food. Here, we’ve listed the perfect dishes for each variety of sparkling wine:
- Prosecco: Light and delicate, the fruity undertones in Prosecco pair nicely with mild cheese and creamy dishes.
- Brut Champagne and Cava: These tend to be the most versatile sparkling wines, and so pair well with most foods. They are particularly delicious when paired with caviar, oysters and rich, buttery shortbread.
- Blanc de blancs Champagne: Pair this light, delicately flavoured sparkler with seafood canapes and smoked salmon.
- Blanc de noirs Champagne: Rich and toasty, blanc de noirs are the perfect variety to serve with your Christmas dinner.
- Rose Champagne: Tends to be dry on the palate, and so suits slightly sweeter snacks. Try pairing with brie and cranberry canapes, or a chocolate and berry dessert.
- Aged vintages and prestige cuvees: If you’re lucky enough to have a bottle of something truly special to drink this Christmas, serve it with something very simple to allow you to focus on the wine: some few high-quality salted crisps will do the trick.
For festive get-togethers and parties, a selection of carefully chosen canapes is a must, as they will bring out the best flavours in your bubbly.
If you’re hosting a party or popping a bottle over your Christmas lunch, these essential rules will help you to really get the most out of your festive fizz. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, or a complete newbie, just follow these five tips to serve the perfect glass of bubbly every time.