Sparkling Masters 2017: results and analysis

VALUE FOR MONEY

The best way to find out, is of course, to blind taste in price bands, allowing one to evaluate value for money without in any way being tempted to give way to prejudicial preconceptions about origin. And therein lies the purpose of our Sparkling Masters – a competition designed to seek out the best wines within price bands according to quality alone. To begin, it must be said that the results provide an interesting picture of both the quality potential in certain sparkling wine-producing corners of the world today, and the huge range of styles and players in this category.

It should also be said at the outset that because we run a standalone Masters competition for Champagnes, there were few entries from this famous French region, but, nevertheless, where they did feature, they showed well. Looking through the results, Champagne’s gold-medal performance was really a reflection of one retailer’s ability to source good quality fizz at a highly competitive price, with Lidl’s Champagne Comte de Senneval Brut Premium achieving gold-medal winning scores from all our judges in the £15-£20 category. And, Lidl’s entry-level version under the same marque – which sells in the UK for £10 – achieved a Silver.

Such results highlight the know-how of a discounter like Lidl, which has managed to bring its customers a Champagne costing less than £20 that is as good as other sparkling wines, which for the most part will be cheaper to produce (grape prices in Champagne are among the most expensive in the world). In other words, for less than £20 one can buy tasty fizz and benefit from the upmarket cues that the Champagne name carries. But what of this region’s rivals? One area that performed well across a range of price points in this year’s Sparkling Masters was Trentino, with its Trentodoc brand for traditional-method fizz made using Champagne grapes.

Picking up a Silver in the under-£10 category was Cantina Rotaliana’s Redor Brut, while at higher prices, it was Rotari’s Flavio Brut from the same area that picked up one of the few golds awarded this year between £20 and £30. As prices for Champagne firm up, Trentodoc is certainly a region to consider to fill the gap, producing fine and fruity fizz dominated by Chardonnay grown in the foothills of the Dolomites.

Then there is Cava, which encompasses a range of source vineyards in Spain – even though production is centred around Penedès – and, as shown clearly in this competition, a broad spread of prices. Proving how competitively priced Cava is, and, once again, the efficiencies of discounter Lidl, this year we awarded a Silver to the Arestel Cava, which sells for just £5 at this retailer.

In the £10-£15 Brut category, the Cava Hill Cuvée 1887 gained just one of two Golds awarded, and in the over-£15 section, Marqués de la Concordia Cava was awarded a Silver, proving that Cava is a serious Champagne alternative, and not just at the cheapest end of the fizz spectrum.

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