Cava neck labelUnless champagne's marketing men disappear, their sparkling wine will always be the first choice for celebrations. But many countries get their 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 or Spanish wine maker foolish enough to put this word on the label will get their collar felt.

Unfortunately metodo tradicional doesn't have the same cachet as méthode champenoise. That's why champagne sells for one hundred pounds and a bottle of English sparkling, like the now world-famous Sussex Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, sells for a quarter of the price (Hennings Wine stock the 2010 £24.95) and Spanish cava such as Codorníu's Seleccion Raventos NV is amazing value at £9.99 (Majestic). This high-class wine uses the local grape varieties Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes plus the universal Chardonnay to produce a sparkler with Opal Fruit (no Starbursts here), lemonade and set-honey flavours.

Sainsbury's ProseccoBut how are they made?

Champagne, and the rest of the world's metodo tradicional, winemakers make their wines sparkle by adding a dose, or dosage, of extra sugar and yeast to a previously bottled 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 Reviews

Pignoletto BrutCo-op Truly Irresistible Spanish Cava

£6.99 Co-op

A light lemony and nutty tasting fizz.

Amorany Spanish Cava Brut Gran Cuvée

£7.49 Lidl

Expect lemon, melon and biscuity flavours.

Codorníu Spanish Cava Seleccion Raventos

£9.99 Majestic

A really great fizz that keeps on delivering year after year. Best matched to Asian foods. Nice.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Conegliano Presecco Superiore Brut 2015

£10 Sainsbury's

Light apple flavours.

Chandon Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Argentinean

£16.99 Majestic

The Chandon on the label refers to that rather well-known French company Moët et Chandon who formed an off-shoot in Argentina as long ago as 1959. And boy does it make good wine. With slightly more flavour than its French version, this south American sparkling delivers nutty biscuity flavours that need to be matched with food – try smoked salmon if you can get it.

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

Biodynamic Wine bookNicolas Joly, of the French vineyard Coulée de Serrant, is one of the strongest advocates of the super-organic method of making wine known as biodynamics. In his book What Is Biodynamic Wine?: The Quality, the Taste, the Terroir (2007 paperback and still available from Amazon from £4.39) Joly explains that only by putting back into the soil everything nature produces, and I mean everything, can vines can grow and wine be made in harmony with the earth’s rhythms.

corkscrewSeeing cork tear and crumble as you heave on the corkscrew is enough to bring an oath to the lips, the cork sometimes seems out to frustrate our primary goal - drinking the contents of the bottle. A horizontally stored bottle will keep a cork moist through contact with the wine – the cork's integrity is retained and it should remain whole when removed.

red grapesWhen I'm giving a wine talk there will inevitably be questions from the audience keen to understand more about the wine they've just bought on their last visit to the supermarket, or some question that's been niggling away waiting to be answered from someone who knows. While I try my best to fit into this category I don't claim to know all the answers but here are a few of my answers to the questions I get asked most frequently – which usually starts with “Why do the French spell it Syrah and the Aussies Shiraz?”.