15 of the best champagnes and sparkling wines for Christmas

It's that time of the year when a survivalist approach to wine purchasing is considered socially acceptable.

Sparkling-wise, you'll need some quaffers for everyday festivities, along with something special to enjoy with folks who'll appreciate the difference.

As is the case for all categories of wine, beer and spirits, there's never been a more exciting and contrasting range of bubbles to choose from.

Heard it on the grapevine

The quality of Australian sparkling wine continues to rise, led by producers such as Tasmania's House of Arras, which remarkably won the trophy for Best Sparkling at every capital city wine show in Australia this year.

Winemaker Ed Carr says extended maturation is key to the quality of all wines in the House of Arras portfolio, which ranges in price from the Brut Elite (RRP $50) to the E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2003 ($189.99).

"What sets House of Arras apart from other Australian sparkling wines on the market is the age of its wine," he says.

"There are plenty of cold climate sparkling chardonnays, pinot noirs and pinot meuniers, but to take it to world parity, it had to be the same age as benchmark wines and that's what we are achieving."

Méthode traditionelle

Of course, it is hard for locally made méthode traditionelle wines to compete on price with the genuine article. For some years now, NV champagne from big name houses has been readily available for under $50 a bottle.

Spend a bit more than that and you can get your hands on a vintage champagne or possibly one from a grower producer, either of which will bring more unique and complex to the table.

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But if you don't want anything too ponderous, the many Australian examples of the Italian sparkling varietal, prosecco, offer a lighter, more refreshing and affordable alternative to champagne.

Natural fizz

Pét-nat, meanwhile, is the hottest trend in sparkling among urban types that have jumped on board the natural wine trend.

Short for pétillant-natural and also known as methode ancestrale, these wines are bottled under crown seal before they have finished fermentation, developing subtle carbonation as yeast continues to consume sugars.

"Methode ancestrale as a production technique is even older than methode traditionelle, and is a way to access brighter styles of sparkling wines that can be enjoyed in their youth," says Sydney-based sommelier and wholesaler Andrew Jamieson.

He says other winemaking practices such as oxidative handling, barrel fermentation and lees contact open up additional consumption occasions for bubbles, beyond the usual aperitif.

"Sparkling wines are often overlooked at the dining table, but they actually lend themselves very well to all sorts of food styles, especially when work goes into the wines to bring out richer, more robust flavours and interesting textures."

To ease your selection headaches, check out our selection of champagne, sparkling and other weird and wonderful bubbles to seek out this Christmas.