Despite the claims of the perfectly made dry martini, caipirinha or lovingly poured Guinness, I can’t think of any drink that lifts the spirits in quite the same way as a glass of ice-cold champagne. As that great hunting man, John Jorrocks, so memorably put it, “Champagne gives one werry gentlemanly ideas.”
But we’re not talking about just any old champagne; it must be decent champagne, and alas, there are all too many overpriced, underwhelming examples of bubbly out there that can send one’s spirits plummeting in quite the opposite direction – straight down to one’s boots. In such cases, it’s often better to stick to prosecco.
I’ve sometimes caught myself happily ordering a glass of champagne in a bar or restaurant only to regret it instantly as I’m served something warm, acidic and thin. I should know better, for the word “champagne” printed on a label is no guarantee of quality. All it tells you is that the wine was made in the region of that name, using the champagne-making method – with secondary fermentation in the bottle itself – from one or all of the three major grapes, chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
But then, of course, the reverse can be true, too. Only the other day I was in my new favourite watering hole – Bellamy’s in London’s Bruton Place – and found a smile stealing un-expectedly across my face as I sipped at a glass of Barnaut Grande Réserve Brut. It was nutty and toasty and completely delicious and well worth the outlay for a second glass.Barnaut, as I discovered later, is a grower’s champagne, im-ported by Lea & Sandeman. There are thousands of such growers in the Champagne, region, most of whom sell their grapes or wine to the big, well-known houses such as Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot. Some, though, make and sell their own fizz in modest quantities, and some of these are very fine indeed. The key is to find a merchant who imports such wines and to stick to him like glue.
We all have our favourite brands. Mine include the small family-owned houses of Bollinger and Pol Roger as well as the very much larger, LVMH-owned Veuve Clicquot, but I’m certainly all for discovering new treats, however small and little known the producer might be.
After all, far better a fine grower’s champagne than many a supermarket offering or discounted major brand, made in bulk from lesser vineyard sites, less fine grapes and aged for less time than is judicious. So now, here is my current champagne top 10, from producers large and small, celebrated and obscure, every one of which is guaranteed to send your spirits soaring:

TOP 10