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Friday Night Fizz Night

Friday Night Fizz Night

What a week for the UK! Huge divisions have been opened up over Brexit, with politicians of all hues and financial markets in turmoil, while Iceland thrashed England at Euro 2016. So take your pick about what’s gloomy for you. But just because we are living in turbulent times, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still have a little fun. There are always great reasons to celebrate – a new job, promotion, a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, Christmas, New Year, even a peaceful bank holiday. My usual excuse is Friday Night Fizz Night.

Friday night, fizz night.

Why not celebrate arriving safely at the end of another week and look forward to the weekend with a glass of bubbly? It certainly works for me.

And while Champagne is the undisputed champion of all things fizzy, the diversity and excellence of alternative sparkling wines is well worth exploring on Friday Night Fizz Night. Not only can they be a less wallet-shredding alternative to Champagne, but many are serious wines that are much more than simply cheap imitations. In addition, sparkling wine comes in various styles at most price points. Both non-vintage and vintage wines are available, in white, red and rosé, and from ultra-dry to sweet. There are considerable differences in alcoholic strength and how gassy sparkling wine is. Indeed, gas pressure and bubble size are visual and taste elements.

Consequently, there is a vast range of styles and flavours and plenty of food matching opportunities.


It’s all about the bubbles.

Bubbles are irresistible. They make us feel elegant, sophisticated, generous and carefree or, conversely, console us in hard times. No wonder sparkling wines are the first choice for any celebration.

I prefer to explore the wealth of sparkling wines from around the world rather than endure the disappointments of cheap Champagne. Excellent Champagne is almost without peer but, with a few notable exceptions, many of the most inexpensive examples are inferior, palate-insulting and unworthy of the name – and a waste of your hard-earned.

So many sparklers, so little time

Europe has too many great sparklers to list. From France, look out for the various regional crémants, including those made in the Loire, Jura, Alsace, Burgundy, Limoux and Bordeaux. Spain offers Cava. Germany makes Sekt, while Italy has Franciacorta, Prosecco, Asti and much else. Now England and Wales have come of age and can be rightly proud of the explosion of terrific Britfizz.

South Africa has a long-established history of sparkling winemaking in the new world, the best known as Cap Classique. Australia also makes good sparklers, including their unique gift to the world, Sparkling Shiraz. New Zealand and California have highly regarded sparkling wines too.

Now China, Brazil and India are getting in on the act, and quality is improving fast.

Russia and Ukraine make sparkling wine in industrial quantities. Fortunately, most of that never reaches the UK because the quality is dire, with the worst carbonated just like cola.

One of the two most significant influences on sparkling wine quality is the base wine quality, which depends on the grapes’ quality. The other significant impact is in the winery, where the production process employed to trap carbon dioxide bubbles in the wine is all-important.

With honourable exceptions (step forward Prosecco and Asti that use their traditions), the best sparkling wines have a second fermentation of the base wines in bottle. This lengthy and expensive process is called the traditional or classic method.

As with Champagne, sparklers can be drunk throughout a meal, offering many food and wine pairing opportunities. They are not limited only to the role of apéritif. Choose a Brut (dry) white with plenty of acidity for seafood and salads, while a dry but creamier white will be good with fish or chicken. A red or rosé can pair with grilled meats, barbeques and Sunday lunch. A magical combination often overlooked is to drink a demi-sec (semi-sweet or sweet) bubbly with lighter desserts and cheese.

Cocktails too

Sparkling wine can be inexpensive enough to use as a base for the most decadent cocktails. And here lies another advantage; you can always pep up a dull sparkling wine by adding a little something to it. Here are three sophisticated cocktails that are quick, easy and delicious:

Kir Royal. Add a few drops of crème de cassis to the glass and pour the sparkling wine over it for a classic French cocktail. Alternatively, try adding framboise or peach schnapps;

BelliniAdd a little peach purée to a glass of Prosecco to create this Venetian classic. It tastes miles better than bucks fizz;

Champagne cocktail. Put one drop of Angostura bitters onto a sugar cube in the glass and slowly add the wine to dissolve it. If no Angostura is to hand, try a drop of brandy instead.

So much to discover

The world of sparkling wine has so much worth discovering. Drinking a different example on a Friday night with friends is an affordable and enjoyable pastime – try some cork popping you’ll soon acquire a wealth of fizzical experience.

And for those of you that don’t like bubbles? I want to think that maybe you just haven’t found yours yet, and it’s out there waiting if you’re willing to look.

So join me and raise a glass to Friday Night Fizz Night! What’s your favourite? Let me know!

And if you’ve wondered which glasses are best for fizz, then this article will set you straight.


The original version of this article, “Friday Night Fizz Night”,  featured in ON Magazine

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