Pink with plenty of sparkle

Pink with plenty of sparkle

Patrick Stuart brings us his top non‑Champagne pinks for the festive season

Good Champagne, of course, is the best sparkling wine in the world. At the recent Vila Joya gourmet festival here in the Algarve, I will admit to becoming somewhat spoiled by drinking Dom Pérignon (the official Champagne sponsor of the event) every night for more than a week. It was stunning, but fortunately for my bank balance I was there as a guest, covering the event for the Algarve Resident and sister publications, the Essential magazines.

And so with the festival over and Christmas approaching fast, it was back to reality. We will have a full house of family and friends all over the festive season with lots of excuses for a bottle or two of bubbly, and there is something about pink bubbles that make them even more appropriate than white for a celebration. I will sneak a couple of bottles of my favourite non-vintage rosé Champagnes into the fridge (Billecart Salmon or Ruinart), but for most of the time I will be serving something a little more affordable.

Not long ago, the only option available here in the Algarve was Portuguese espumante, and these days there are some excellent ones to choose from. My old favourite is Murganheira Rosé priced at €12.95, but recent years have seen more and more producers making espumante, notably in the Bairrada region, with some excellent and very reasonably priced pink coming from Filipa Pato at €8.99 and Campolargo from €6.95. But my favourite Portuguese pink bubbly of all is Soalheiro, made in the Vinho Verde region – €15.99.

Across the border in Spain, there is a far wider variety of sparkling wine (cava) to be found. Unlike here in Portugal, many Spaniards drink cava as a regular tipple, with or without food and celebrating or not. Here in the Algarve, the choice of cavas is limited, but amongst the pinks I keep returning to is the excellent Pinot Noir pink varietal made by Codorníu – €13.99.

More recently though we have started to see sparklers from elsewhere appearing on the shelves, most notably perhaps the Graham Beck label from Stellenbosch in South Africa. I would challenge any other than a connoisseur to blind taste the rosé and not think they were drinking a mainstream French Champagne – €17.95 at Apolónia; the vintage at just a couple of euros more is even better.

These are my choices and I will be getting a few bottles of each to suit different occasions. There are other premium labels from the non-Champagne producers – especially here in Portugal – that cost even more than most mid-range Champagnes. I have tried a few and some are excellent, but for me, non-Champagne bubbly is all about value for money.
All prices quoted are from Apolónia supermarkets.