Should champagne's marketing men disappear

opened champagneUnless champagne's marketing men disappear, their sparkling wine will always be the first choice for celebrations. But many countries get their white wines to sparkle using the same techniques as those of champagne. But they can't say so on the label.

The word 'champagne' has the full protection of the law - only sparkling wine made within the northern France region of Champagne can call itself this. Any English, Australian or Spanish wine maker foolish enough to put this word on the label will get their collar felt.

cava labelUnfortunately metodo tradicional doesn't have the same cachet as méthode champenoise. That's why champagne sells for anything up to one hundred pounds and a bottle of cava or Australian Brut sells for a fifth of the price. They may be cheaper but that doesn't make them less of a wine.

Champagne, and the rest of the world's metodo tradicional, winemakers make their wines sparkle by adding a dosage (just means a teaspoonful) of extra sugar and yeast to a previously bottled base wine.

This 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 the characteristic froth and bubbles.

PG Wine Tips

£5.99 and under

There are a few fruity, slurpable wines among the forgettable masses.

Portium Cava Brut NV

£5.49 Co-op (down from £10.99 until January 17)

Just what a metodo tradicional cava should be – fresh, creamy bubbles at around five pounds.

Vina MaipoVina Maipo Sparkling Brut

£5.99 Morrisons (down from £12.75 until January 29)

Not strictly metodo tradicional, this Chilean mix of the non-traditional sparkling varieties of Chardonnay, Riesling and Chenin Blanc, undergoes secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks and not in the bottle but it tastes none the worse for it: pineapple with a slightly bitter finish. Tank fermentation does affect the size of the bubbles though – they’re larger than those of champagne.

Freixenet Rosado Brut Cava (20cl) plus truffles

£5.99 Tesco

A gift pack left over from Christmas, but what the heck, if you want some pretty pink sparkling and a couple of chocs this is the easy way of buying them. But you do only get less than a third of a standard bottle of cava and a couple of champagne truffles.

Costs a bit more, but tastes great

Sometimes a bottle of wine tastes so fab it's still a bargain whatever it costs.

Clos Monistrol Vintage Cava Extra Brut

£6.99 Sainsbury’s (down from £13.99 until January 31)

Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes are made into the base wine, then sparkled in the bottle using the metodo tradicional and finally aged for 36 months. The result is an extra dry cava with fine bubbles.

champagne frothAsda Extra Special Champagne Vintage 2002 Brut

£20.17 Asda

Great complex stuff but it’s still twenty quid. Do you want to pay £15 more because it comes from northern France?

This article has also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on MatureTimes.co.uk