It’s fizzy and it’s (sometimes even) affordable

Tune in to RNZ National with Jesse Mulligan and yours truly this afternoon (Friday 16 December) 3.15pm

Champagne… Its name comes from Latin, its first entrepreneurs were German and up to half of its production exploded, due to high pressure  and flimsy glass in the 18th Century.

Champagne. If its name brings special occasions and high price tags to mind, it wasn’t always so. In the early 1700s, champagne with bubbles was considered inferior to the still wines of the Champagne region (the capital letter denotes the region while the lower case is the generic name of the sparkling wine). Fast forward to today and three new champagnes have arrived in New Zealand, which show it’s not always necessary to pay a small a  fortune (or a large one) to drink good quality bubbly. A new trio is imported by Master of Wine Stephen Bennett, who’s well known in this country for opening the floodgates to good quality Spanish wine, pioneering Spain’s new wave wines over the past 16+ years, or so. He’s also a fan of good champagne and the trio he has begun to import do not cost the Earth, starting at $39.99, moving up to $69.99 with a couple of prestige cuvees (that’s shorthand for flagship wines), which are also competitively priced. Here are my top bubbles of 2017 and, by the way, these wines were tasted with their labels were concealed so I was not swayed by my own preconceptions.

Joelle’s top sparkling wines of 2017

Wines  rated out of 20

Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee $99

Buy from Regional Wines & Spirits

Bollinger is an old favourite but to ensure it was put through its paces, it was tasted blind twice and still shone brightest with its delicious flavours of hot buttered toast, ripe lemon zest, grapefruit, apple strudel, brioche, brie, and all held together with refreshing crispness. I love this wine.


Champagne Paul Louis Martin Grand Cru Bouzy is $69.99

Buy from Accent on Wine in Auckland

Master of Wine Stephen Bennett is the importer of this wine, which is new to New Zealand this year. Bouzy is one of the top quality villages in Champagne’s Montagne de Reims and is well known for rich, full bodied, intensely toasty wines like this one – a star.


Champagne Charles de Cazanove Tete de Cuvee NV $39.95 to $49.95
Buy from Fine Wine Delivery Company

Awesome champagne imported by Master of Wine Stephen Bennett. This bubbly has rich, dry, toasty flavours, is made mostly from Pinot Noir, as its yeasty flavours show. It won gold at Kingsley Wood’s New Zealand International Wine Show this year and scored 92 out of 100 in Wine Spectator magazine. 


Gatinois Grand Cru Ay Tradition NV $54.95
Buy from Regional Wines & Spirits and Maison Vauron

Grand Cru champagne is a rarity at this price and this one is richly flavoursome, massively over delivering on its price tag (even if it cost more, as is so often the case with champagne). Fantastic wine.


Ruby Bay Jewel Methode Traditionelle $38

Buy from Ruby Bay

Ruby Bay vineyard is a tiny Nelson wine producer but this is a big bubbly with incredible depth, thanks to Pinot Noir providing toasty richness and Chardonnay’s creamy smoothness.


2013 Deutz Marlborough Blanc de Blancs $32.99

Widely available.

New Zealand’s Pernod Ricard makes this rich, flavoursome, full bodied, dry, creamy bubbly, which rocks a very champagne-like style.


Col do Salici Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut 2015 $27 

Buy from Mineral Wines

Dry, lemony, soft and fresh prosecco, worth the extra dollars.


These wines were the stars of a far bigger sparkling wine tasting (and also two other tastings). All wines were tasted with their identities concealed. Other sparkling wines tasted alongside them came from Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand and Spain. These were the best.




Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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