Fun with fizz!
I asked a group of female friends if they'd like to come around and try out various bottles of fizz so that we could pit them against each other in a blind taste test and find some recommendations for Christmas and New Year sparkling wine. It didn't surprise me that they unanimously said yes.
Taking my four fizz loving volunteers in a living room in Wiltshire, with four bottles of sparkling wines from different countries, here is the result of our fun with fizz!
Our volunteers - Tanya, Julia, Liz and Cheryl - would not describe themselves as experts, but are all self confessed fans of sparkling wines. The tasters were told that they would be trying Prosecco, Cava, English sparkling wine and Champagne, and had a list of the prices, which ranged from £7 to £26.99. Could they detect the quality, as well as the country of origin?
They were asked to note down single words to capture their thoughts on the aroma and taste, and then give the sparkling wine a ranking of 1 - 4 (where 1=favourite, 4= least favourite). This is what happened;
Sparkling Wine 1 - Dino Prosecco, Tesco, RRP £7
Prosecco was the only one of the four bottles not to be produced using a second fermentation in the bottle. For the snobs amongst us, that would suggest an inferior quality, reflected in it's low price.
"It's quite difficult to judge, as it's the first wine and we have no benchmark," lamented Julia, who thought on first taste it may be the English sparkling wine. None of the four had much exposure to English sparkling wines, but noted that mystery fizz number one had small bubbles - normally a sign of quality fermentation - and was quite dry.
"I think this is the Prosecco," guessed Liz, whose brother lives in Italy. She has therefore tried a good few glasses in her time. "It's very easy to drink."
"Quaffable!" remarked Julia.
"I like the way there's no aftertaste," said Tanya. "Some dry sparkling wines can linger around for ages, but this is totally gone."
The foursome held off ranking this wine until they had some others for comparison.
It's also worth noting that after the four has sampled all four fizzes, they went back to re-test the Prosecco and found it to be much sweeter against the other three.
Wine 2 - Sainsbury's "Taste the Difference" Cava, RRP £9
The smell of the Cava was the most pronounced of the four, with Tanya describing it as "sweet and apple-y" but upon tasting, all four were disappointed. "It has a bland taste after the optimism of the smell," observed Tanya.
"It's not as nice as first fizz one," decided Cheryl. "It tastes cheap, and buttery, but has a pleasant aftertaste."
"This is a bit drier than fizz one, and definitely not as nice as fizz one," agreed both Julia and Liz. All four tasters scored this their least favourite fizz.
Wine 3 - Louvel Fountaine Champagne, Asda, RRP £11.98
When I opened the bottle, the cork gave the most enthusiastic pop so far. The mousse was generous when I poured (or maybe I was just heavy handed!) and the bubbles were small and plentiful. In contrast to the previous wine, our four tasters made appreciative noises when smelling and tasting the champagne. "Mmm, this is gorgeous," said Cheryl. "It's my favourite so far and it has got to be a Champagne. I will eat my hat if it's not Champagne." (I had regaled them with the fate of Steph during the Judgement of Swindon)
"This smells the most expensive," said Tanya, "and on my first sip I'd say this is Champagne.... or Prosecco."
"This is pretty dry, and has the hallmark taste of Champagne," agreed Julia.
Three of the four marked this as their favourite fizz, with Liz preferring the Prosecco, but marking the champagne as second favourite.
Wine 4 - Ridgeview "Bloomsbury" English sparkling wine, Waitrose, RRP £26.99
There was another enthusiastic pop from the cork from this wine from the Sussex downs. The three grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) were almost identical in proportion as the Champagne.
"Oooh, this is interesting," enthused Cheryl. "This tastes very similar to the last one, so this might be the champagne. Which also means that one of the last two wines is considerably cheaper, yet tastes very similar."
"It smells like champagne to me," agreed Tanya. "It is dry again, and has less of an aftertaste."
"It's really nice and light," Julia commented. "I'd drink it again, but it would depend on which price this one is!"
The rankings appear below and reveal that the Champagne was preferred over the English sparkling wine, even before the prices were revealed to our tasters. The Prosecco came third, with the Cava limping into last place, with none of the four keen to drink it again.
Rankings (1 - 4 totalled - lowest score wins)
Wine 1 - Prosecco. 10
Wine 2 - Cava 16
Wine 3 - Champagne 5
Wine 4 - English 9
I hope this has been a useful guide - If you want some reasonably priced quality, head for the bronze medal winning Champagne at Asda, but the Prosecco also got a thumbs up for price if you want something to buy in bulk and share around!