Effervesce sense | You can’t Cannes, but you can…


Civilian’s editor-at-large would normally be off to Cannes right about now, but instead of sipping champagne along La Croisette she’s grounded in London

Betty Balfour in Alfred Hitchcock’s Champagne (1928)

We should all be at the Cannes Film Festival this week. So why not recreate your own Cannes Festival du Film experience by fighting your way past the crowds in the park, walk until your feet ache, let your phone battery run down and end the day by clutching a white wine glass of sparkling wine in one hand and a Sylvia Toledano minaudière in the other. Conversely, you can take the alternative POV as a friend tweeted: “Today is the day that the Cannes Film Festival would have kicked off. In celebration I will mix myself a gin & tonic and set fire to a €20 note, while an Estonian three-hour black & white documentary about a convent plays on my TV. Cheers!”

“How long will I live? Should I not enjoy?”

True, unless you’re a trillionaire, you may also be aware of setting fire to your money – and price can be a dirty word in the luxury market. It is what I hear quite often when I talk to friends about what bottle to buy. Yes, sparkling wines are typically more than an affordable red at Aldi or a mass buy from Majestic, Nicolas, The Wine Society, Costco, etc.  But there are ways. You can decide to have one good bottle of sparkling a week. Or a month. Or you can treat it like reading the ads for new cars. If you can at all, I recommend allowing yourself some fun wine, just to tickle your nose – yes, even in the trickiest of times. You may ask yourself, “How long will I live? Should I not enjoy?” before you say, “Must spend money on more worthwhile things.” There isn’t anything more worthwhile than fun. Okay, let’s make that a top five.

Design for Leckford Estate by Ian Bennett

Where do you start? First off, think locally. No matter where you live – Germany, Austria, America, UK, NZ, Australia – there will be native vineyards that are worth checking out. As a supporter of English sparkling, I like to go through the list at winegb.co.uk and look for offers. It is supporting your local shop without busting the bank. These are mostly independent producers who appreciate your custom. (If you can’t find anything that fits the budget, plan a visit or a tasting. It’s like a little wine holiday.) For example, I would not have found the Hindleap 2015 Classic Cuvée. “Set amidst bluebell-strewn woods from which the vineyard derives its name, Bluebell Vineyard Estates is an award-winning vineyard and winery in the heart of Sussex, on the edge of the Ashdown Forest,” the Bluebell Estate sounds like a dreamy spot to visit. The wine is honeysuckle at the first waft, with flavours of floral, honey, citrus topped by a lovely foam, light bead and a short but lush aftertaste. It’s delicate but sophisticated and I’d buy it again in a minute.


Prosecco has had an amazing career for the last few years. Although I know there are thousands of different prosecco-types to try all over the world, I dislike prosecco more for the way it makes glassware tell lies. What I’m told is a “glass of fizz” or “bubbles” at an event is typically just a nasty prosecco. But who am I to disdain what the UK loves so much? Now, it has its own: Fitz Sparkling Wine. I first tasted Fitz white and pink – it’s not brut or rosé – at a tasting then a black tie event and it was just perfect. It sang with sweetness and light, was bubbly but not demanding. Fitz is like that secure friend you can take to a party, they’re accommodating, don’t argue or disagree with anyone and they look great in a fancy glass. This Kent-based vineyard, using the prosecco method with a variety of grapes, prides itself on being different. Outside of Italy, I am anti-secco but I quite approve of Fitz. It’s fun and it’s aimed young. And affordable.

For that big supermarket shop, Waitrose and Tesco both have wines from UK vineyards. Leckford Estate Brut 2015 from Waitrose is a lightly sparkling, lightly honeyed bottle whereas Balfour Rosé, with its cheery Union Jack logo, has a lovely soft fruitiness, not too sweet but just right for a picnic. Supermarkets can have offers on these and if so, pick one up to expand your palette.

Hindleap from Blueberry Vineyard

While I don’t want to concentrate on a cash-strapped special, don’t miss out on what may be lurking at your local Marks & Sparks… one that has made it to my lips a lot during lockdown: Graham Beck’s brut rosé called The Rhona. I know, I know. This is Methode Cap Classique wine (made in the traditional Champagne method) uses pinot noir and chardonnay to give a crisp brightness to the tongue. A beautiful dark pink, Rhona is not sweet yet very fruity with loads of action in the glass. It veritably sings in your mouth, with an even spread of bubbles and a short but bright aftertaste. It’s very drinkable, almost to a dangerous level. This is Cannes Film Festival level fun at an affordable not-furloughed I’m freelance price. C