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Fizz From The Gods?  Head to the Co Op!

Fizz From The Gods? Head to the Co Op!

I saw it as ‘a sign’ , here I was at 1 Angel Square, the huge shiny HQ of the Co Op in Manchester – for a tasting of their Champagne and sparkling wine range.

As I was excitedly ushered through to their purpose built tasting room I thought “I’m in heaven” – not just because the room was absolutely stuffed full of wines from around the world, but it also has very shiny white surfaces and walls which made me feel like I actually was at the pearly gates.

The wine buyers, however, did not have wings but were delightful and had chosen 4 bottles of fizz which represented some of the many types now available from their stores.

I can honestly say that all the wines were good and I’m not having to be ‘kind’ about any of them – which certainly helps when you are face to face with the guys who are responsible for sourcing wines and in some cases having a special blend made exclusively for the company.



First off was Codorniu Gran Cremant Cava priced at £9.99.  It is something I’ve seen on their shelves but never tried.  I tend to go for their bargain own brand Cava at a staggering £5.99 which I use a lot in my tastings.

The Codorniu wine has a really interesting story as the producer won a legal battle to use the term ‘Cremant’, something which French Cremant producers fought to protect.  Who knew that Codorniu had actually trademarked the term as far back as 1924?  What clever chaps they were.

Anyway, I digress.  This wine is a real brige between Cava and Prosecco in style.  It is dry (brut) but with lovely fruity flavours to balance theusual toasty-ness you get wiht wines made using the traditional method.  Try it and see what you think.


Second was a real treat.  I’ve been a fan of the Balfour range from English Winery Hush Heath in Kent and they have made this Foxwood 1503 exclusively for the Co Op. At an impressive £16.99, it is a great price for a quality English sparkler.  It is crisp and fresh with green fruit/citrus flavours and aromas.  Dlightfully ‘English’ I would say.

The next two are a non vintage and vintage versions of the multi award-winning Les Pionniers brut Champagne.  Made by the Piper Heidseick Champagne House no less!

The NV comes in around £17 which is amazing value and the vintage is fabulous at around £24.99.  Both dry, toasty and very quaffable!

I certainly felt like I was in paradise – or my idea of what that would entail – non stop fizz and good stuff at that.





Making Wine Simple …. One Glass At A Time

Making Wine Simple …. One Glass At A Time

People who want to know more about wine often tell me they:

  • Lack confidence when reading a restaurant wine list – especially when out with ‘wine buffs’
  • Don’t want to turn up at a friend’s house with ‘embarrassing bottles’ (they should make a programme about that)
  • Are confused by the choice available

The latter is probably the most common, certainly if you shop in supermarkets for your wine. Whilst having a huge range on their shelves is brilliant, it can also feel a bit overwhelming.  Is this your thought process?

Nice label + half price + in a rush = BUY

Wine Buying Rut

We’ve all been seduced by a ‘deal’ then ended up using most of the wine for cooking or dashing out again to the shops for a replacement and spending twice as much. So when we find a wine we like, we buy it over and over again. I hear the words “I know what I like” quite a lot from people who have paid good money to come along to a wine tasting event. WHY? I certainly keep on trying and learning in the process, one glass at a time!

The joy of having so much choice is that you can experiment and step out of your comfort zone. You might get a pleasant surprise. And with ‘discounters’ such as Aldi and Lidl offering a fantastic selection of wine at really reasonable prices, you can probably afford to drop a few clangers and have a good selection to throw into your ‘spag bol’ next time.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I love independent wine merchants, they usually put their heart and soul into finding a great wine for you and always have some jolly banter and useful information when in the shop. The really good ones tend to have a couple of bottles open for you to try.

However, I would argue that supermarkets give you the opportunity to really experiment and find your feet, or even lose track of them!

I saw this chalkboard when in my local Booths and thought it was a really simple way of illustrating the different styles of wines as well as signposting for what to try next (or is that just my excuse?)

Making Wine Simple by The Fizz Festival

Of course, there are wines I return to more than others, but I am constantly being surprised by new and exciting producers and countries which historically haven’t made great wine but are now doing so. It’s all good, as they say!

More than likely you’ll start to ‘drink smarter’ – perhaps less volume but better quality wine (the one you really love is always a few quid more than you want to pay). But that is good, right?

Once you’ve reached the ’emerald bottled city’ of an independent wine shop, you’ll probably be better informed, more confident (without being big-headed of course) and able to find your way home with something which won’t go to waste!

Recent finds:

Tesco: Finest Premier Cru Champagne £18: Rich, toasty and creamy – never had Tesco champagne before, great value for the price (STOP PRESS, NOW £14 until 25th July!)

Majestic: Porta 6 2013 Lisboa £8.99: I’m with James Martin on this one – lovely juicy fruits and refreshing acidity – had with mezze and salad just last night!

D Byrne & Co + Tiny’s Tipple: Valenciso White Rioja 2014 (price varies but £13.99 from D Byrne in Clitheroe): A very modern type of white Rioja – it has oak but it is so subtle and works well with food such as shellfish, squid and more robust fish dishes. A fantastic producer, you should try their red Rioja too!

Tesco: Finest Picpoul de Pinet £6.00: Quite hard to get hold of this as it tends to sell out very quickly. If you are looking for a good alternative to Sauvignon and love that fresh acidity it has, this could be the one.  Warning this is NOT like Marlborough Sauvignon, about time you had a change!



Affordable Fizz

Affordable Fizz

Has anyone noticed the price of Prosecco is going up? With the increasing popularity of Italy’s famous sparkling wine, I’m surprised we don’t hear this reported on the news alongside the price of crude oil and the latest on the FTSE index.

I know it isn’t what you’d call EXPENSIVE, but prices, even in supermarkets, tend to be around £8 – £9.  Certainly creeping up from the rock bottom £5 or so we were used to.

On that bombshell, here are some suggestions for less expensive alternatives, particularly if you just want something simple – a bottle to share with friends at home maybe.  Even better they are, arguably, better value for money as the production method used is the same as in Champagne (a costly but worthwhile dual fermentation – more about that later).

This gives the wines a bit of ‘oomph’, or complexity (to use a wine term).  It also adds pleasant bread and yeast aromas alongside some creaminess and the finer bubbles should, in theory, last a bit longer.

They are also tried and tested by my very own Cracking Wine tasters, a hardy bunch (get it?) who will lay down their lives in the name of wine research.

Blanquette de Limoux: Aldi £7.99

We tried this at a recent tasting and it is really lovely. Made from the Mauzac grape, it is refreshingly crisp with a lively, creamy mousse and long lasting tiny bubbles.  BDL is reputedly one of the oldest sparkling wines in the world (dating back to 1531).  Amazing quality for the price and they do a nice one in Tesco too!

Crémant du Jura: Aldi £6.99

They make Crémant in specific areas of France, the most popular being Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy in France of course). Also look out for Crémant de Loire.  This one from Aldi has won awards and is rated very highly by a lot of wine writers in the UK.  With aromas and flavours of citrus fruit, pears and apple skins and crisp acidity it is just the job as an aperitif or a simple quaffing wine with friends.

Cava: Co-op £5.99

I feel sorry for Cava! Prosecco has stolen so much of the limelight and prices of Cava have been falling.  Be warned, if you like that hint of sweetness in Prosecco then this won’t impress.  It is very dry and a great sparkler for the money.  Enjoy on its own or with simple tapas and hard salty cheeses.

So, what of the much mentioned Champagne method of production? You can read more about it here:

As you will see Prosecco is made using the rather unglamorous sounding tank or ‘Charmat’ method.

Of course, if you love the fruity, slightly sweet and simple nature of Prosecco, then that is absolutely fine, but it might be worth stepping out of your comfort zone for a while and trying something new.

Tally ho!

Like fizz?  You’ll love our brand new Fizz Club – appearing at a town near you.  If you’d like to book a fizz club event (a bit like a book club but more sparkly), then contact

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