There is a saying in the wine trade, “If you don’t make it in the Christmas season, you don’t make it”. Sparkling wine takes a significant lead over all other wine styles in the November/December period. I talked to one wine rep who claimed that 50% of his sparkling wine sales were made in the two months before Christmas, although he did confess that margins were wafer thin in the competitive holiday season. 

I shopped around to check out sparkling wine prices and was left with the impression that discounting is slightly restrained this year. Most wine retailers I talked to reported buoyant sales since covid-19 appeared on the scene, although they acknowledged that they had profited at the expense of the hospitality trade. Perhaps a boost in sales has taken the heat out of discounting.

The diligent shopper can still find sparkling wine bargains. I used the wine search website to help me find the best buys in town. 

I’ve segmented sparklers by style, with prestige champagne at the top, followed by champagne, local méthode and prosecco.

Prestige Champagne, $229.90-$9900

The Fine Wine Delivery Company stocks an impressive selection of prestige champagne brands including my favourite, the 2007 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, $299.90. Bollinger is well represented. I can recommend the 2012 Champagne Bollinger La Grande Année, $229.90, but have yet to taste the 2007 Champagne Bollinger 007 Moonraker Special Edition Magnum, which is on sale at $9900, although there is no mention of the regular price. 

Champagne, $44.99-$64.99

I once recommended an obscure but delicious, well-priced champagne for a friend’s 50th birthday party. “It was a disaster,” he complained after the event. “Everyone thought it was Spanish.” 

If you are going to splash out on champagne, make sure you buy a wine that your guests will recognise. Veuve Clicquot, with its burnt-orange label, lets everyone know it’s the real thing. You can buy it for $64.99 from Liquorland in Forrest Hill, Auckland, or pay a couple of dollars more at Glengarry.

Moët & Chandon is about as recognisable as a champagne can be, particularly if you follow motor racing. Fifty-five dollars is the sharpest price I found – at Countdown online shopping, FreshChoice Barrington and FreshChoice Merivale (both Christchurch). 

I’m a fan of Taittinger Brut Reserve, a wine of purity and power that you can buy from Countdown for $65. Lanson Black Label, a crisp and refreshing champagne, is unlikely to be mistaken for a Spanish fizz and can be bought from Devonport New World for $44.99. That is a keen price. 

NZ Méthode, $19.95-$29.95 

I’m a big fan of Deutz Marlborough Cuvée, particularly when I find it on the shelves of my local New World for $19.99, although I am very happy to pay an extra $5 and buy the vintage Blanc de Blancs at Countdown for $25. That is a great buy. I particularly like sparkling rosé, with current favourite 2016 Tohu Rewa Méthode Traditionnelle available from First Glass Wines and The Fine Wine Delivery Company for just $29.95. For the same price you can buy Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV Brut from Glengarry or The Good Wine Co. 

Prosecco, $13-$15.99

Prosecco has enjoyed phenomenal growth in recent years, presumably thanks to people who like delicately fruity fizz that won’t break the bank. I found three tasty examples. Ruffino Prosecco is available from New World with a $15.99 price tag, Graham Norton Prosecco (also available as a rosé) sells for a modest $13 at Countdown, and the Australian producer Brown Brothers makes a larger-than-life version of prosecco that you can buy at Countdown for $15.


Bob’s Top Picks

Investment Wine

2014 Château Lafite Rothschild, Bordeaux, $1500

You can’t go wrong with this investment wine provided you buy it at the best price you can find, store it under temperature-controlled conditions and don’t drink it. 87% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 3% cabernet franc. Essence of cabernet sauvignon with cassis, blackcurrant, cedar, dried herb and spicy oak flavours. Distinctively aromatic. Firmly structured wine with masses of cellaring potential though a little hard to read now. 

Weekend Wines

Top White

2019 Te Whare Ra Gewürztraminer, Marlborough, $35

Gentle, restrained gewürztraminer with classic Turkish delight/rose petal, lychee and subtle spicy flavours. Strongly varietal wine in a medium/dry style – perfectly balanced and deliciously drinkable. A world-class wine.

Top Red 

2019 Blackenbrook Pinot Noir, Nelson, $29

Deep-tinted and delicately scented pinot noir with Black Doris plum, dark cherry, cassis and smoky oak flavours. Intense, bright, vibrant, high-energy wine from a very favourable vintage. Approachable now but offers good cellaring potential.

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