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15:53 Mon 10th Jan 2011 |

Wine lovers may argue over Bordeaux vs. Burgundy, cabernet sauvignon vs. merlot. But when it comes to Champagne, there is no argument. Almost everyone, it seems, loves Champagne.

There is nothing quite like the power of Champagne, to lift the spirits and put the soul into a celebration. While there are many delicious sparkling wines now available from the world’s many wine regions, Champagne’s status as the world’s most sophisticated, prized and expensive sparkling wine remains unparalleled. Corney & Barrow’s Champagne range spans prices and styles to suit all occasions, tastes and budgets. Our house Champagne is a 100% grand cru from tiny, family-owned house Champagne Guy de Chassey, partners of Corney & Barrow for many years. We are also proud to be exclusive UK distributors for Champagne Delamotte, based in the prestigious village of Le Mesnil in the Côtes des Blancs. Delamotte’s elegant Chardonnay-based Champagnes share the finesse and poise of Delamotte’s sister house Champagne Salon, the world’s rarest and most exclusive Champagne, made only in exceptional vintages.

Genuine Champagne comes only from the strictly defined Champagne region, 90 miles northeast of Paris. Champagne producers wage an unrelenting war against any and all winemakers outside their region who try to usurp the Champagne name. Grapes have been grown and wine produced there for 2,000 years, but what we think of as Champagne can be traced as far back as the 17th century.

Champagne’s popularity is largely based on its reputation as a luxury product. Champagne houses like Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot vie to publicise their association with high society and sports like polo and yachting. One house, Pol Roger, even produced a special bottle size, the imperial pint, exclusively for Winston Churchill and he responded by naming his favorite race horse, Pol Roger.

But Champagne is far from exclusive. Dom Perignon Champagne may sell for over £100 a bottle but many excellent Champagne’s retail for under £30. Upward of 300 million bottles of genuine Champagne are produced annually, and the industry is pressing the French government to expand the 71,000-acre Champagne region to meet the swelling demand from newly affluent markets in Europe and Asia.

Champagne should be served chilled, preferably between 8 and 10 degrees Celsius. The cold dulls flavor, so a cheaper bottle can be served colder than a more complex wine. The ideal Champagne glass is the tall, slender flute. Its relatively small surface permits only a few bubbles at a time to escape. It also concentrates the wine’s bouquet.

My 5 recommendations

Marquis de Bonnières Brut NV
£19.99 a bottle

A full bodied, richer styled Champagne with a creamy palate and notes of toasty brioche and fresh, green apple to balance. Complex enough to work well with food, yet delicate enough to sip as an aperitif.

Delamotte Brut NV

£23.99 a bottle

A must for Christmas parties, this classic Non-Vintage cuvée from Champagne Delamotte is both distinguished and supremely drinkable. A star buy!

Pol Roger Réserve NV

£31.15  a bottle

Winston Churchill's favourite house produces a classically styled Champagne of considerable class. Beautifully presented, it makes an ideal gift or special occasion Champagne.

Gosset Grande Reserve NV

£48.50 a bottle

Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne. Though less well known than other Grande Marques, in terms of quality the whole Gosset range is outstanding. The Brut Excellence is a lighter, aperitif-style Champagne.

Bollinger La Grand Année 2000

£68.97 a bottle

La Grande Année is Bollinger's prestige cuvée and is only made in the very best of vintages. A dynamic, complex and classy Champagne for the special events.

So as the festive period draws ever closer, consider a bottle of fizz to drink when the all family are together, to wash down Christmas dinner or to toast the New Year.

So pop the cork, pour a glass and cheers!

Craig Fountain


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