New Which? research has found that getting the tastiest food and drink for Christmas doesn’t have to break the bank with supermarket own-brands awarded top spots in some of our festive taste tests.
This year our expert tasters blind-tasted Christmas puddings, sparkling wine and Champagne.
Our Christmas pudding panel, which included Great British Bake Off 2013 winner Frances Quinn and food critic Charles Campion, tested 11 Christmas puddings from major supermarkets and leading brands.
The panel awarded Morrisons M Signature Jewelled Fruit Christmas Pudding the top spot. At a cost of £3.99 it was the cheapest of the puddings tested, and scoring 85% and described as “simply majestic” and having a “great depth of flavour”.
It beat premium Christmas puddings including those from Harrods and from Fortnum and Mason – our tasters described the Fortnum and Mason pudding as having an artificial flavour and compared the taste to a citrus bathroom cleaner. The Extra Special Mulled Port and Orange pudding from Asda, costing £5, scored lowest (48%) and was criticised for its unpleasant, chemical flavour.
Our expert wine testers also put Champagne and sparkling wines under the spotlight. Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne at £22.50 a bottle came joint top of the Champagnes, scoring 80%, sharing the accolade with Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne (£33).
The best-scoring sparkling wine was Co-operative Prosecco, scoring 78%, at a cost of £9.99 a bottle. The panel thought it had a good level of acidity and a good balance of bitterness and fruitiness.
In a separate investigation we tracked the price of several brands of Champagne over a year. We found you can make a saving by not paying full price because Champagnes are so frequently on offer. We discovered the longest running offer was for one of our winning champagnes, Piper Heidsieck, on sale at Asda for 62 days of the year at the reduced price of £18.
Which? editor, Richard Headland, said:
“Christmas can be an expensive time of the year so it’s satisfying to see our festive taste tests revealed some of the cheapest were also some of the best. Time and again, we find supermarket own labels giving the big brands and high-end retailers a real run for their money.”
Notes to editors:
1. Christmas puddings: We asked supermarkets and upmarket retailers to nominate a premium pudding for us to taste. Our panel blind tasted each pudding marking out of 10 for appearance, aroma, taste and texture. The final scores were converted to a percentage and ranked in order. Our experts were Charles Campion, food critic and Masterchef guest judge, Patrick Moore, award winning artisan baker, Francis Quinn, winner of The Great British Bake-off 2013, and Oliver Whitford-Knight, owner of The Pudding Bar.
Puddings on test (in alphabetical order): Aldi (Specially Selected 12-Month Matured Luxury Christmas Pudding, 750g £6.99); Asda (Extra Special Port and Orange Christmas Pudding with Edible Stars, 454g £5); The Co-operative (Richly Fruited Christmas Pudding, 454g £5), Fortnum and Mason (St James Christmas Pudding, 454g £10); Harrods (Luxury Christmas Pudding 454g £12.50); Lidl (Snowy Lodge 18-Month Luxury Matured Christmas Pudding, 907g £7.99); Marks and Spencer (The Collection Intensely Fruity Christmas Pudding, 907g £10); Morrisons (M Signature Jewelled Fruit Christmas Pudding, 454g £3.99); Sainsbury’s (Taste the Difference Cognac Laced Christmas Pudding 18-Month Matured, 900g £6.50); Tesco (Finest 9-Month Matured Christmas Pudding With Courvoisier VS Cognac, 454g £5); Waitrose (Richly-Fruited Christmas Pudding with Remy Martin, 454g £7.50).
2. Champagne and sparkling wines: We asked major supermarkets to nominate one own-brand non-vintage (NV) Brut Champagne costing less than £35 and one own-brand or exclusive sparkling wine costing between £6.75 and £20. Our experts tasted each of these alongside leading-brand Champagnes and sparkling wines in a blind taste test. Our experts were Tim Atkin Master of Wine (MW), Peter McCrombie MW, Kathryn McWhirter, Charles Metcalfe and Derek Smedley MW.
Champagnes on test (in alphabetical order): Aldi (Champagne Veuve Monsigny Brut by Philizot et Fils, £11.99); The Co-operative (Les Pionniers Champagne Brut NV, £16.99); Lanson Black Label (Brut Champagne, £34); Laurent-Perrier (Brut Champagne NV, £38); Lidl (Comte de Senneval Champagne Brut, £11.99); Marks & Spencer (Louis Chaurey, £32); Moët & Chandon (Brut Imperial Champagne NV, £33); Morrisons (Signature Champagne, £18.99); Piper Heidsieck (Brut Champagne NV, £33); Sainsbury’s (Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne NV, £22.50); Tesco (Finest Premier Cru Champagne NV, £19.99); Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label (Ponsardin Champagne NV, £37); Waitrose (Champagne Brut NV, £19.99)
Sparkling wines on test (in alphabetical order): Aldi (Valdobbiadene Prosecco, £7.49); Asda (Extra Special Prosecco, £8.25); The Co-operative (Procecco, £9.99); Freixenet Cordon Negro (Cava, £10); Marks & Spencer (Prosecco, £9.99); Morrison’s (Signature Prosecco Spumante, £9.99); Sainsbury’s (Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco, £10; Tesco (Finest Blanquette de Limoux, £10.49); Waitrose (Exclusive Valdo Oro Puro Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene, £13.49)
3. Using mysupermarket.co.uk, we tracked the five branded Champagnes we featured in our taste test – Lanson Black, Laurrent-Perrier, Moet, Piper Heidsieck & Veuve Clicquot, and over the year from 1st August 2013 to 31st July 2014.