bread slicesChampagne is often described as smelling and tasting like a freshly risen loaf. That's because a double dose of yeast is added to give this famous wine its fizz and in doing so leaves a trace of its creamy flavours behind: méthode champenoise turns a very dry French white wine into a sweeter and more expensive sparkling version.

red grapesA blend of three grape varieties is first made into a white wine base: Chardonnay provides the main crisp apple and lemon flavours, Pinot Noir grapes add a delicate strawberriness, while Pinot Meunier increases the immediate floral bouquet. This first stage wine is bottled, but now never sold. It used to be. Up until the mid-seventeenth century the wine that won favour with the kings of England, Spain and France was still. Later technical advances in bottle making made sparkling champagne possible.

sugar cubesAdding a dosage of extra sugar and yeast to the base wine causes fermentation to restart and its by-product carbon dioxide gas to be captured within the bottle - strong thick-walled bottles must be used to maintain the resulting high pressures.  Opening the bottle allows the gas to escape and cause champagne's characteristic froth and bubbles.

This double fermentation wine making does require great skill and is reflected in champagne's price. Expect to pay up to £100 a bottle, but only £18 is required to buy one of the many supermarket own-label versions.

PG Wine Reviews

cavaChampagne Veuve Monsigny Brut

£10.99 Aldi

Simple apple sherbet and lime flavours. Lightly fizzy.

Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Cava, Spain

£11.99 Majestic

Made in the same way as chamapgne but using Xerollo and Macabeu grapes as well as Chardonnay, the result tastes slightly deeper with more honey and nuts as well as the usual apple found in many fizzy white wines. Its sweet-sour flavours deserve food – match with Asian dishes and takeaways.

Marquis Belrive Brut Champagne

£16 Spar

This consistently classically nutty tasting champagne hits the spot every time. Enjoy white bread and lemon curd flavours.

Chandon Brut Methode Traditionnelle Argentinean

£16.99 Majestic

Made by Moet & Chandon in Argentinina, using all the same grapes and same methods as champagne, this is champagne by any other name (except you can't call it that as the name 'champagne' is protected by law to only wines made it the Champagne region of France). So what can you expect? A delicious sparkling wine that tastes of biscuits and pastry, along with some nuts and apple which has enough oomph about it to match foods such as smoked salmon. You won't go back to 'French' champagne after this.

Pol Roger champagneCloudy Bay New Zealand Pelorus Brut

£24.99 Majestic

A very dry ‘brut’ which makes it a bit too sharp and crisp to drink on its own. So match the woody freshness and fresh bread flavours to your roast turkey or even just to salmon sandwiches.

This article also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on