I must admit, I’m one of those people who says “Champagne? It’s overrated; I prefer Prosecco.” So I was surprised to discover that, on a blind-tasting of Aldi’s Monsigny Veuve Champagne and their Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, it was the French that came out on top.
I reckon one reason for this is yeast-related. Let me explain: one of the prerequisites for a wine being called Champagne is that it must spend a minimum on 12 months “on the lees” (“sur lie” in French). For those who don’t know, this means that after the yeast has done its job of converting the sugar in the grapes to alcohol, the wine is left in the bottle with the dead yeast cells for a specified amount of time (rather than having them drained off). This imparts that savoury, bready, dry, yeasty flavour that’s so distinctive in Champagne (as well as other wines, like Muscadet).
The thing is, Champagne is often too yeasty (or “leesy”, as I call it) for my taste. Not so with this one… it’s more fruity, with a gentle caress of apple — the sort of flavour I’d usually associate more with a Prosecco, in fact. And at £10 it’s by far the cheapest Champagne I’ve had. Ironically, this might be why I prefer it, as more expensive bottles will have been on the lees for longer (three years minimum for vintage Champagne). Sometimes it pays to have cheap taste (Champagne wasn’t available in SE London during my youth).
Anyway, no wonder it won a bunch of awards. I didn’t realise it was possible to get Champagne at this price.
Although I marginally veered towards the French offering, it was a close call; the Prosecco also represented excellent value, and I enjoyed its slightly creamy, delicate hit of fresh apples.
Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) £10 ****
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore (grape: Glera) £8 ***
See www.aldi.co.uk/c/wines for full product details.
Competition aside, both worked a treat in the following cocktail recipe, which was so easy that I didn’t mess a single stage of it up — despite not knowing how to muddle my plums.
1. Quarter the plums and muddle them in a cocktail shaker. I had no idea what “muddle” meant, so I just bashed them with a wooden spoon for a bit. Seemed to do the trick.
2. Mix the sugar and hot water, then shove in the thyme. Put it in the fridge to cool (which is quicker than you’d think). Within about half an hour you’ll have a lovely thyme syrup. Personally, I’m not sure you need to use this much sugar. Next time I might lower it to 1/3 of a cup.
3. Add a good few squeezes of fresh lemon juice. Don’t be coy; you’ll need quite a bit of sourness to counteract the sugary thyme syrup.
4. Strain the mixture into flutes over ice.
5. Top with Champagne or Prosecco. Or both.