Save vs. Splurge - Wines to pair with Christmas Canapes
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
This is the first of three articles about the gastronomy of the Christmas feast, and what to drink, be that the best quality and value for money, or an extravagant "splurge" on something very special and memorable.
Let's start with pre- lunch or dinner canapes and fizz.
Canepes could be crostini with goats' cheese, chicken liver or fois gras pate', olives, nuts, crisps, blini pancakes with smoked salmon or smoked roe or even caviar!
With all those tastes and flavours, one needs something bright and crisp to set the taste buds going, and something celebratory and therefore sparkling.
For SAVE, I have always been extremely keen on the excellent Cremants being made in various parts of France, in fact many are a better wine than some cheap Champagnes.
Aldi have one of the best, a Chardonnay based traditional Cremant de Jura under their Specially Selected range. This is a delicious fizz, dry, creamy fizz, and one of the best value fizzes on the market at £8.99. I have always thought it worth twice as much!
But ASDA have probably the best value English Sparkling Wine on the market, with their prize-winning Asquith Garden Traditional English Sparkling wine which we should all be drinking to support English wine growers. It is only £18 a bottle against most at over £20. My strong recommendation.
If you want a pink fizz, again ASDA have a great deal, and another favourite wine of mine. From the Trento DOC in Northern Italy, right up in the foothills of the Dolomites, Ferrari are making some superb traditional sparkling wines, again, wines to rival good Champagne. The Ferrari Rose' is £21 a bottle. (Try finding good pink Champagne for under £40! )
There are many devotees of Prosecco, which generally has a touch more residual sugar, and is also a great party wine. For me, the best value quality Prosecco is from Waitrose. Their very good own label San Leo Prosecco, made by the top Prosecco House Zonin, is reduced for Christmas to £8.49.
If it has to be Champagne, and why not? Be careful, there are some quite ordinary cheap Champagnes on shelves. But Waitrose own label Blancs de Noirs ( made from dark skinned from Pinot Noir and Meunier) is very good indeed and for a quality Champagne £22.99 this Christmas.
For a SPLURGE, on something exceptional, the sky is the limit. but I have some sensible recommendations;-
My favourite Champagnes are Louis Roederer, Bollinger, Pol Roger and Taittinger. Most retailers have good offers at present, but I was seriously tempted by the quite superb Bollinger La Grande Annee vintage 2012, on sale at Fortnum and Mason for £121.50 a bottle. A wine impossible to fault in any way, and totally memorable. James Bond's favourite!
Or if you want another of James Bond's favourites, F&M have Dom Perignon 2012 for £195 a bottle - down to £175.50 if you buy 6. A bit of a splurge, but a treat not to be forgotten.
Fortnum & Mason also have a superb range of special Champagnes. Why not splash out on some Magnums? They are so impressive and it saves you from keep opening bottles! F&M have Magnums of their own F&M label, made by Louis Roederer, for £87.50 - or just £78.75 if you buy 6!
Christopher Burr. Master of Wine. September 2023.