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Sparkling Masters 2017: results and analysis

While Champagne and Prosecco still rule the roost when it comes to fizz, producers from all over the world are crafting their own exciting styles of sparkling wine, as our blind-tasting competition shows. By Patrick Schmitt MW

The judges: Left to right (standing): Antony Moss MW, Christine Parkinson, Tobias Gorn, Patrick Schmitt MW, Michael Edwards, Clement Robert MS. Left to right (seated): Nicola Thomson, Ana-Emilia Sapungiu MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Lynne Sherriff MW

Which category of drinks has the most sparkle at the moment? Fizz. Not only has this style of booze been the major growth area for the wine business over the past decade, but also, if the forecasts are correct, there’s still mileage in the sector – estimates by the IWSR suggest an 8.6% growth over a five-year period from 2016-2020, taking the total market to almost 2.9 billion bottles. The reason for such an outstanding performance centres on the fact that fizz offers more refreshment than any other drink.

Somehow, something with bubbles does a superior job of cleansing the palate than something without – it’s why Coca Cola, with its carbonated edge, seems to invigorate dry mouths, even though it’s loaded with sugar. But it’s not just refreshment that makes sparkling wine so popular.

It’s the association with good times. OK, so Champagne may be the fizz most closely tied to important moments, from podium wins to major anniversaries, but other sparkling wines still have a celebratory edge, and are connected with fun, sociable occasions – even if they end up being used as an opportunity to mark nothing more than a group getting together for an evening. Of course, one shouldn’t see the category as simply Champagne and sparkling wine, as there is great diversity within both, and an increasing spread of styles and growing number of sources among the latter particularly. Nevertheless, presently, it is viewed as a two-part, or increasingly, three-part sector: Champagne, Prosecco and sparkling wine.

Indeed, Champagne and Prosecco have become the two stand-out successes in sparkling wine that everyone else wants to emulate and benefit from. The former represents the long-time pinnacle in image and quality – but also, with sales of Champagne for 2017 expected to surpass 310 million bottles, a sizeable winemaking machine too.

About the competition

The Sparkling Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of its successful Masters series for grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as regions such as Rioja and Chianti. The competition is exclusively for Sparkling and the entries were judged by a selection of highly experienced tasters using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. The top Sparklings were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those Sparklings that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Sparkling Master. The Sparklings were tasted over the course of a single day on 8 September at Bumpkin restaurant in London. This report features only the winners of medals.

The latter embodies the fun, easy and affordable side of sparkling wine, and acts as the volume-driver for fizz overall in the past 10 years – the production of Prosecco has risen by around 50m bottles from 2006-2016 to total almost 500m.

As a result, one can split the market into two main areas and a more diverse third. The first concerns Champagne and the relatively pricy traditional-method brut sparklers primarily made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that have been designed to take on the original.

The second comprises cheaper tank-method Prosecco and Prosecco alternatives, which often have reasonably high levels of residual sugar.

As for the third, that is made up of the many other types of fizz produced around the world in a range of styles and sugar levels, sometimes using native grapes, others employing Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Bearing all this in mind, the next question is, can the challengers to these two benchmarks deliver something as good, if not better for the price? And if so, where are they from, and who is behind them? Or, if not, which producers are ensuring that the benchmarks remain their category leaders today?


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.


At £20 and above, it was notable that two countries should dominate when it came to top medals: Italy and the UK. Concerning the former, Franciacorta showed impressively, with both Ca d’Or and Berlucchi awarded Gold medals, proving that this part of northern Italy is able to craft complex, age-worthy and refreshing sparkling wines with Champagne grapes.

But, with the UK picking up Golds for Black Dog Hill, Hush Heath and Raimes English sparkling, the same should be said of this country, which is fast-emerging as a quality-minded Champagne rival, with its own distinctively crisp style.

Meanwhile, great traditional method brut sparklers featured from South Africa’s Simonsberg Ward (Babylonstoren), Slovenia (Isteni), Italy’s Alta Langa (Martini), Romania’s Oltenia (Prince Stirbey), and Chile’s Leyda Valley (Undurraga).

A Gold-winning fizz from Monmousseau in the £10-£15 band was a reminder to the judges that Loire Valley crémants can deliver masses of classic sparkling character for the cash. But what of the other benchmark fizz – Prosecco? With Silver medals awarded across a range of prices and styles, the instant appeal of this Italian fizz was confirmed in this year’s results. Like Champagne, we run a standalone competition just for Prosecco, meaning that the Prosecco entries in the Sparkling Masters were only a snapshot of what this Italian fizz can do.

It is impressive that Prosecco has expanded so rapidly without, it seems, sacrificing quality. The higher number of medals over 12g/l for Prosecco partly reflects the fact there were more entries in this style, but also the fact that the ‘Extra Dry’ category (12-17 grams per litre of residual sugar) seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ for this sparkling wine from the Veneto.

A look through the tables shows the top-performing producers are the likes of Santa Margherita and Massotina, and the consistent high-scorer V8+, no matter the style.

But what the results highlight more generally is the consistent quality delivered by Prosecco, a result of the attractive aromatic qualities of the Glera grape allied to the state-of-the-art winemaking technology of northern Italy.

As for the rivals to this region’s knowhow, few came to the fore, although Spain’s Félix Solís Avantis is certainly a name to watch in the world of inexpensive fruity fizz.

Having invested extensively in the latest sparkling winemaking kit at its vast winery in La Mancha, it is now starting to produce impressive results under £10, which it is selling under its Viña Albali brand.


Finally, when it comes to the more obscure types of fizz from around the world – exciting finds included a rosé from Torres in Chile called Estelado, which is made using the historic grape País, and an excellent brut sparkling from India that hailed from Grover Zampa vineyards in Karnataka.

Sparkling wine is a strongly branded category: not just in terms of producers, but regions.

This year’s Sparking Masters, through blind assessment, tested the quality inherent in those brands, and found that the famous regional brands are on song, but also that up-and-coming areas are delivering much quality and interest, sometimes – though not always – at lower prices. Not only that, but it showed, conclusively, that first-rate fizz is not only the preserve of Champagne and Prosecco.

And if there’s something to celebrate in sparkling wine, it’s the increasing diversity of source areas, which is bringing new excitement to the category and ensuring that the established regions don’t become complacent.

Over the following pages are the medal winners in full from this year’s Sparkling Masters.

The Sparkling Masters was run in association with Sparflex, which specialises in packaging solutions for sparkling wines and Champagne 

White Sparkling (Brut)

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Barton & Guestier Chardonnay Brut Loire France NV Silver
Felix Solis Avantis Viña Albali Brut La Mancha Spain NV Silver
Cantina Rotaliana Redor Brut Trentino DOC Trento Italy NV Silver
Lidl Ireland Arestel Cava DO Brut Barcelona Spain 2016 Silver
Felix Solis Avantis Propero Brut Castilla-La Mancha Spain NV Bronze
Patriarche Veuve du Vernay Brut Burgundy France NV Bronze
Bouvet Ladubay Bouvet Saumur Brut Blanc Loire France NV Bronze
Martini & Rossi Brut Martini Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
Kavaklidere Altin Kopuk Brut Anatolia Turkey NV Bronze
Monmousseau Crémant de Loire Loire France NV Gold
Cavas Hill Cuvée 1887 Brut Penedés Spain NV Gold
De Bortoli Wines Este Vintage Cuvée Yarra Valley Australia 2007 Silver
De Bortoli Wines DB Family Selection Sparkling Brut Riverina Australia NV Silver
Törley Sparkling Wine Cellars Hungaria Grande Cuvée Észak-Dunántúl Hungary NV Silver
Grover Zampa Vineyards Zampa Soirée Brut Karnataka India 2015 Silver
Maycas Del Limari Maycas Espace Especial Edition Limari Valley Chile NV Silver
De Bortoli Wines La Bohème Cuvée Blanc Yarra Valley Australia NV Silver
Cave Cooperative de Ribeauvillé Crémant d’Alsace “Les Comtes de Ribeauvillé” Alsace France NV Silver
Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Cleto Chiarli Moden Blanc Emilia-Romagna Italy 2016 Silver
Miguel Torres Chile Estelado Organic Sparkling Wine Central Valley Chile 2015 Silver
Lidl Ireland Champagne Comte de Senneval Brut Champagne France NV Silver
Santa Margherita Alto Adige Grande Cuvee Brut Trentino-Alto Adige Italy NV Silver
Eugenio Collavini Il Grigio Fruili-Venezia Giulia Italy NV Bronze
Castillo de Perelada Perelada Cava Stars Brut Nature Penedès Spain 2014 Bronze
Bodegas Faustino Faustino Cava Brut Rioja Spain NV Bronze
Castillo de Perelada Perelada Cava Brut Reserva Penedès Spain NV Bronze
Montelio Vino Spumante Bianco Brut La Stroppa Lombardy Italy 2016 Bronze
Cavit Lunetta Prosecco Doc Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Pago de Tharsys The Skinny Fizz Brut Nature Catalonia Spain NV Bronze
Trivento Bodegas y Viñedos Trivento Brut Nature Mendoza Argentina NV Bronze
Cesarini Sforza Spumanti Cesarini Sforza Brut Trento DOC Trento Italy NV Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Rococo Premium Cuvée Yarra Valley Australia NV Bronze
Martini & Rossi Riesling Martini Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
Marqués de la Concordia Marqués de la Concordia MM blanc de blancs Catalonia Spain 2014 Bronze
Viña Undurraga Undurraga Extra Brut Leyda Valley Chile NV Gold
Lidl Ireland Champagne Comte de Senneval Brut Premium Champagne France NV Gold
Agricola Stirbey Prince Stirbey Spumant Extra Brut Dragasani, Oltenia Romania 2011 Gold
V8+ Sior Carlo Millesimato Brut Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Silverthorn Wines Jewel Box Western Cape South Africa 2012 Silver
Schloss Vaux Sekt b.A. Rheingau brut Rheingauer Réserve Riesling Rheingau Germany 2017 Silver
Villa Broglia Brut Gavi Gavi Italy 2011 Silver
Masottina Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut Veneto Italy NV Silver
Marqués de la Concordia MM Gran Reserva Marqués de la Concordia Cava Spain 2012 Silver
MA.S.P.A. Vallate Prosecco DOC Brut Veneto Italy NV Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Subercaseaux Grande Cuvée Limari Valley Chile 2012 Silver
Miguel Torres Chile Cordillera Brut Central Valley Chile 2014 Silver
Diego Pressenda – La Torricella Vino Spumante di Qualita´ “Letizia” Metodo Classico Pas Dose Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
Cantina Rotaliana Redor Brut Trentino DOC Riserva Trento Italy 2009 Bronze
Cavazza Durello DOC Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Collavini Ribolla Gialla Brut Millesimato Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2013 Bronze
Cavit Altemasi Trentodoc Millesimato Veneto Italy 2012 Bronze
Champagne Montaubret Montaubret Champagne France NV Bronze
Nosio Rotari Brut Vintage Trento Italy 2013 Bronze
Plozza Ome Franciacorta Brut Lombardy Italy NV Bronze
Tapiz Sparkling Wine Torrontés Mendoza Argentina NV Bronze

White Sparkling (Brut)

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Ca’ d’Or Ca’ d’Or Blanc de Blancs Millesimato Lombardy Italy 2016 Gold
Nosio Rotari Brut Flavio Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2008 Gold
Martini & Rossi Montelera Martini Alta Langa Piedmont Italy 2012 Gold
Black Dog Hill Vintage 2011 South Downs UK 2011 Gold
Mar de Frades Albariño Brut Nature Rías Baixas Galicia Spain NV Silver
Masottina Ogliano Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Contrada Granda Brut Rive Di Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Berlucchi Berlucchi ‘61 Franciacorta Saten Lombardy Italy NV Silver
Baron de Villeboergue Baron de Villeboergue Brut Champagne France 2015 Silver
Dominio De La Vega Brut Reserva Especial Dominio Valencia Spain 2013 Silver
Trinchero Family Estates De La Vega
Signal Ridge Brut Sparkling
Anderson Valley USA 2012 Silver
Chateau Tanunda Blanc de Blancs Brut Barossa Valley Australia 2014 Silver
Berlucchi Berlucchi ‘61 Franciacorta Brut Lombardy Italy NV Silver
Cesarini Sforza Spumanti Riserva 1673 Extra Brut Trento DOC Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2009 Silver
Cuvage Brut Metodo Classico Blanc de Blancs VSQ Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
Masottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Costabella Brut Biologico Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Raimes English Sparkling Vintage 2014 Hampshire England 2014 Gold
Isteni Prestige Extra Brut Bizeljsko-Sremi Slovenia 2011 Gold
Codorníu Gran Reserva Brut Ars Collecta Codorníu Jaume Catalonia Spain 2012 Silver
Fox & Fox Inspiration Brut Blanc de Blancs 2013 East Sussex England 2013 Silver
Wiston Estate Winery Cuvée Brut South Downs England 2013 Bronze
Frescobaldi Leonia Pomino Brut Tuscany Italy 2013 Bronze
Berlucchi Berlucchi ‘61 Franciacorta Nature 2009 Lombardy Italy 2009 Gold
Babylonstoren Sprankel Paarl Simonsberg South Africa 2012 Silver

White Sparkling (over 12g/l)

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Cantina Montelliana Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Valdo Spumanti Prosecco Superiore DOCG Valdo Marca Oro Valdobbiadene Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Lidl Ireland Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
Henkell Henkell Trocken EU EU NV Bronze
Lidl Ireland Prosecco Treviso DOC Frizzante DOC Italy 2016 Bronze
Santa Margherita Prosecco DOC Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Scavi & Ray Prosecco Frizzante DOC Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Martini & Rossi Asti Martini Vintage Piedmont Italy 2016 Silver
Tosti Asti DOCG Secco – Dry Piedmont Italy NV Silver
Scavi & Ray Scavi & Ray Moscato Emilia-Romagna Italy 2016 Silver
Sensi Vigne e Vini 24 KT Prosecco DOC Brut Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
Bodegas Faustino Cava Semi Dry Rioja Spain NV Bronze
Bodegas Faustino Cava Extra Dry Rioja Spain NV Bronze
Carpené Malvolti 1868 Extra Dry Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Casa Vinicola Canella Superiore DOCG Valdobbiadene Prosecco Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
V8+ Sior Sandro Prosecco Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2017 Bronze
Maccari Spumanti Duplavilis Bianco Spumante Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
V8+ Sior Piero Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Scavi & Ray Prosecco Spumante DOC Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Martini & Rossi Prosecco Martini Vintage Piedmont Italy 2016 Bronze
Maccari Spumanti Habituè Spumante Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
Masottina Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Santero Wines Villa Jolanda Prosecco DOC Extra Dry Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
Masottina Extra Dry DOCG Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Veneto Italy NV Silver
Scavi & Ray Prosecco Superiore DOCG Veneto Italy 2016 Silver
Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Cartizze Veneto Italy NV Silver
Masottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Le Rive Di Ogliano Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
Santa Maria La Palma Sardegna Spumante DOC Akenta Vermentino do Sardinia Italy 2016 Bronze

Rosé Sparkling (Brut)

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Valdo Spumanti Valdo Marca Oro Rosé Brut Veneto & Sicily Italy NV Silver
Patriarche Veuve du Vernay Rosé Burgundy France NV Bronze
Cavit Lunetta Rosé Veneto Italy NV Silver
Miguel Torres Chile Estelado Rosé Sparkling Wine Central Valley Chile 2014 Silver
Canella Rosé Martinotti Brut Trentino-Alto Adige Italy NV Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Rococo Premium Rose Yarra Valley Australia NV Bronze
Agricola Stirbey Prince Stirbey Roze Spumant Brut Dragasani, Oltenia Romania 2011 Silver
Nosio Rotari Brut Cuvee 28+ Rosé Trentino-Alto Adige Italy NV Silver
V8+ Cuvée Rosé Sior Lele Veneto Italy NV Silver
Cavit Altemasi Trentodoc Rosé Veneto Italy NV Silver
Nosio Rotari Brut Rosé Vintage Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2013 Bronze
Gioi Joi Spumante Brut Rose Campania Italy 2014 Bronze
Berlucchi Berlucchi ’61 Franciacorta Rosé Lombardy Italy NV Bronze
Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé Kent England 2013 Gold
Cuvage Brut Metodo Classico Nebbiolo Rosé Alba DOC VSQ Piedmont Italy NV Bronze

Rosé Sparkling (Over 12g/l)

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Felix Solis Avantis Viña Albali Rosado Sec La Mancha Spain NV Silver
Vitevis Cantine Juliet Spumante Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Cleto Chiarli DOC Spumante Dry Pruno Nero Lambrusco Modena Emilia-Romagna Italy 2016 Bronze
Martini & Rossi Rosé Martini Extra Dry Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
Ca’ di Rajo Manzoni Rosa Millesimato Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2016 Bronze
Masottina Cuvée Rosè Extra Dry Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Moulin de Gassac Mas de Daumas Gassac Rosé Frizant Languedoc France 2016 Bronze

Judge’s summary: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

What I liked: The best wines were glorious, justifying Silver and Gold awards. Finding good-value wines in the £10-£15 bracket, wines with delicious fruit and fresh bread or brioche notes, was a delight. Above £15, the wines seemed to have slightly more consistency in terms of depth and excitement, but not all of them were sparkling diamonds. Caveat emptor. The rosé sparklings were charming, showing well-defined red-berry fruit and gentle yeastiness, and seemed to give reasonable value for money.

What I didn’t like: The variability in quality or interest at the various price points was a disappointment. Especially at more than £20, I expected much more definition and refinement than some of the wines delivered. The sweeter styles didn’t always get the balance of flavour intensity, sweetness and acidity correctly. On a more positive note, the few Champagnes and one or two English sparkling wines we tasted were exemplary: concentration of flavour, lovely autolysis and well-judged, integrated dosage. Perhaps that explains why the two sides of the Channel and their limestone-chalky soils produce some of the best sparkling wines in the world?

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