I have a love-hate relationship with champagne. I love drinking it, but hate paying for it — or at least paying for what I most achingly long to drink. Pol Roger’s Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill costs £112.35 at Berry Bros & Rudd (www.bbr.com) and is by no means the most expensive in my personal pantheon.
Why am I grumbling? Because I have a sneaking suspicion that a few of us will be popping the cork on something fizzy in the next few days, and I am wondering what it ought to be.
The answer depends partly on the headcount, as I have a strong opinion about sharing champagne. If the bottle is good but basic, total drinkership of six is perfect: one 125ml glass per person. If it’s mind-bogglingly exceptional, three is the number: two glasses apiece. Three people, or six — no more and no less. A bottle between two is too much, and if there are more than six, no one gets enough.
No disrespect to HM , but the coming weekend is not an occasion for hauling out a really fabulous bottle. The best champagne is for serious gastronomic occasions rather than weekend festivities.
For good basic fizz, the best price/quality ratios are found in supermarkets. Waitrose is the champion — their own-label Brut NV is beautifully balanced, with a generous dose of black grapes adding richness. Sainsbury’s also does well, and its lively Blanc de Blancs NV (on offer at £14.99, down from £22.49, until June 12) is pretty much unbeatable.
If you want to do some flag-waving as you sip, English sparkling wine can, at its finest, equal some of the best champagnes.
My third bottle this week is Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2007 — the producer that first got people noticing English fizz. It’s sold by Waitrose and numerous independents (search at www.nyetimber.com) for £25 to £30. That’s similar to the price you will pay for most grande marque champagnes, and this wine goes head to head with them — toasty, elegant, mature. A good reason to celebrate, if you need another one.