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We've grilled Yohann Jousselin, head sommelier (that's all-round wine expert to you and me) of The Vineyard at Stockcross and UK Sommelier of the Year 2011 no less, for his top sparkling wine and champagne picks. If you're keen to impress your other half with your knowledge this Valentine's Day but feel a little out of your depth, commit Yohann's list to memory before you hit the restaurant. We won't say a thing, promise.
Our top tips for champagne:
- You don't need to break the bank on bubbly to get a good one. Keep the price affordable by opting for 'NV' or non-vintage selections. Supermarket own-brands can offer excellent value. Opting for rosé will up the ante, but it's something different if you're at all bored by the usual offering.
- There are alternatives to champagne. Spanish cava, Italian prosecco, Australasian English sparkling wines (eg. Chapel Down, any Nyetimber) may well pair better with your meal than champagne, can be more affordable and don't scream "I'm trying too hard to impress".
- Give smaller producers the time of day. Not all champagnes taste the same - experiment with smaller producers, you may be surprised how interesting some are.
- On Bing: All about champagne
In the meantime, try Yohann's suggestions:
1. Pol Roger, White Label, Brut, NV
Pol Roger is one of the smallest of the big Champagne names. This champagne is fresh and elegant with some lovely notes of white fruits and citrus fruits as well as a clean mineral touch.
Great with: Fish dishes like sea bass, crab and shellfish.
2. Krug, Grande Cuvée, Brut, NV
From one of the finest Champagne estates, the Grande Cuvée brut develops aromas of stone fruits like cooked peaches and apricots as well as a round creaminess and buttery character.
Great with: Delicate seafood like scallops and shellfish.
3. Bollinger, Grande Année, 2002
Even if it is still young, 2002 is regarded as being a great vintage. As a pinot noir based blend, this champagne has good body with white fruit aromas like very ripe apples and pears and a hint of buttery and smoky characters.
Great with: Seafood like monkfish and citrus flavours.
- On Bing: buy Bollinger, Grande Année, 2002
- Food and wine matching tips
- Oz Clarke's 10 best autumn reds
4. Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Rosé, 1996
Moët & Chandon is one of the most famous and influential houses in Champagne. This rosé champagne displays notes of cooked summer fruits such as strawberries. It is a complex champagne with a long, well-balanced finish.
Great with: Beef.
5. Ruinart, Dom Ruinart, Rosé, 1996
1996 is considered to be one of the best recent vintages in Champagne. This champagne is a very delicate rosé showing ripe summer fruit aromas like raspberries and redcurrants with a fresh and clean finish.
Great with: Sweet desserts.
Yohann Jousselin won UK Sommelier of the Year in 2011.
6. Jérôme Prévost, La Closerie, Fac Simile, Extra Brut, Rosé
A small but very promising winemaker, Fac Simile produces this champagne entirely from the Pinot Meunier grape, which gives it an extra freshness. It shows ripe berry fruit and dark fruit aromas like blackcurrants and blackberries, as well as a touch of spice.
Great with: Beef.
7. Henri Giraud, Code Noir, Brut, NV
A little producer in Ay, the Henri Giraud house works with Pinot Noir. The style of this champagne is richer and more masculine with cooked stone fruits as well as a delicate buttery finish.
Great with: Pork and beef.
8. Henriot, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, Brut, 1996
Cuvée des Enchanteleurs is the best Cuvée of Henriot. This small house in Reims produces wine dominated by Chardonnay. This champagne is very delicate and shows notes of confit citrus fruits, caramel, spices and a surprisingly fresh finish.
Great with: Fruity desserts.
- On Bing: buy Henriot, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, Brut
- On Bing: champagne cocktail recipes
- On Ciao: buy champagne
9. Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene, Domenico de Bertiol, Veneto, Italy, NV
This prosecco is a very delicate wine with a fresh acidity and has aromas of green apples, fresh pears and lemon zest.
Great with: Cheesy pasta dishes.
10. Agustí Torelló, Cava, Kripta, Brut Nature, Penedes, Spain, 2004
Penedes is a great sparkling wine region where Agustí Torellóis regarded as one of the finest cellars. This wine shows a nice acidity and some lemony aromas as well as ripe white fruits and vanilla notes.
Great with: Delicate seafood like crab.
11. Schramsberg Vineyards, Crémant Demi-Sec, Napa Valley, California, 2006
Schramsberg Estate was one of the pioneers to produce sparkling wine in the same way as Champagne in California. This half-dry Crémant is made with a local grape called Flora and develops cooked white and exotic fruit characters as well as a hint of floral notes such as orange blossom and rose. It is a very well-balanced wine with a touch of sweetness on the palate.
Great with: Citrus flavours.
So there you have it - a little bit of champagne knowledge goes a long way.
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There is nothing worse than a wine snob very few people if any have the ability to taste some of the so called undertones that so lovingly trip from the lips of experts, summer fruits citrus berry apple pear peaches stone fruits acorn cod squid the list is endless. Its all a bit emperors cloths people are just to frightened to speak there minds and say what a load of old Bo--lks