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Great fizz buys for New Year

26 Dec 2003 by JR

Everything here is seriously worthwhile for some reason - either it is a notable bargain or absolutely delicious, occasionally both. See WineSearcher for international stockists.

Champagne

Oudinot NV
£9.99 Marks & Spencer
The store that sells one bottle in every eight of champagne retailed in the UK offers a fiver off its usual lively all-Chardonnay blend from a respectable source until Wednesday evening. Perfect for party hosts.

Bredon NV
£12.99 Waitrose
This standard blend from P & C Heidsieck is good for the money. Fresh, easy and relatively delicate. Waitrose Blanc de Noirs NV from Riceys in the Aube at £13.99 is bigger, fuller and fruitier. Waitrose Blanc de Blancs NV at £16.99 is finer than both and very tight-knit. Waitrose 1996 Vintage Champagne from this great vintage is also from P & C Heidsieck and is still extremely youthful but it already has some creaminess. This is pretty good value at the usual price of £19.99 but a great buy at the special price of £16.99 which lasts through next weekend too.

Tesco Champagne Premier Cru NV
£13.99 Tesco
The wine sold under this label this time last year was the one that the tasters of Britain's consumerist bible Which? magazine loved so much. The current wine, also from the solid Union Champagne cooperative in Chardonnay country, is still pretty tight and appley but there's a bit of attractively biscuity evolution on the nose (Tesco claim to insist on a few months' bottle aging after disgorgement). Stocks ran low last year but Tesco claim that their 3000 cases on order should last them until the end of this year.

Gaston Chiquet NV
£14.95 Berry Bros
Not the finest, sleekest champagne you will ever encounter but a very honest blend from a grower in Dizy. Not that much of a bargain (down to £14.20 per bottle if you buy a whole case) compared with the desperate discounts of the multiple retailers for those who buy in bulk.

Pierre Moncuit Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV
£14.99 H & H Bancroft
This is a great buy in bottle and even better in magnum whose price has been reduced from £34.99 to £26.99 (the usual price of the bottle size is £16.99). This all-Chardonnay champagne makes a great, refreshing aperitif with real character from a grower in Mesnil-sur-Oger in the heart of Champagne's Chardonnay country. These magnums would be really lovely for larger numbers.

Heidsieck Monopole Gold Top 1997
£15.99 (if three bottles are bought) Majestic
Good, developed Chardonnay on the nose. Quite a bargain for a vintage champagne, though very far from the finest you will taste, and definitely not a good buy at the standard price of £23.99 a bottle. Note this is the 'other' Heidsieck, not Charles or P & C.

Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV
£16.99 Waitrose
Le Gavroche's house champagne from the coop in the prime Chardonnay village of Le Mesnil, home (the village not the coop, I hasten to add) to Salon, Clos de Mesnil et al. Very refreshing and zippy. Great apéritif.

Pol Roger NV
£18.49 (if 12 bottles of any champagne are bought) H & H Bancroft
Usual price £23.99. I cannot find a better price in Britain for this utterly reliable, family-produced champagne (you have to buy 36 bottles of Pol Roger chez Lea & Sandeman to reduce the per bottle price to £18.95).

Laurent Perrier NV
£18.95 (if 12 bottles are bought) Lea & Sandeman
This small group of excellent wine shops around London say they have given this particular champagne, their least expensive wine in this season's champagne offer, extra bottle age. This is therefore a particularly interesting proposition for those with large numbers to entertain. Bottles cost just £16.95 each if you buy 36 of them.

Jacquart 1996
£18.99 (if three bottles are bought) Majestic
This great vintage translates here into a surprisingly evolved nose but a lovely, lively palate. But this is no bargain at the standard price of £28.49 a bottle.

Fleury NV
£18.99 Waitrose
Surely the finest biodynamic champagne in existence? Nutty, pretty, delicate and based on a blend of 1997 and 1998 (which, when you consider that Moët 1998 costs £30 a bottle, makes this look like a steal).

Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave 1998
£19.99 most branches of Waitrose
Down from the regular price of £23.49 until Jan 4, this is not quite as stunning as its sublime predecessor which was based on the long-living 1996 vintage (at larger Tescos for £23.49) but is still an extremely superior champagne for less than £20. This is a brave and exceptional champagne style, a non-vintage blend dated with the year in which it was blended and laid to mature in the Charles Heidsieck cellars - difficult to understand but almost impossible not to admire.

Gatinois Grand Cru 1997
£21.30 Haynes Hanson & Clark
A fine price for a wine that is already open and delicious made from the bumptious 1997 vintage and based in Aÿ, the same village as Bollinger. A wine with backbone but no shortage of interest already.

Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV
£33.99 some Oddbins stores
Very, very fine new wine from 'never knowingly oversold' Billecart-Salmon. Really fine, tight-knit bouquet. Densely textured. A connoisseur's champagne if ever there was one.

Dom Pérignon 1995
£51.10 some CostCo branches, £61.10 Seckford Wines, £63.99 (if two bottles are bought) Majestic, £65 Four Walls Wine of Chilgrove (tel 01243 535360)
Current, eloquent edition of an old favourite. Much more approachable than the 1996.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1995 Blanc de Blancs
£65 Four Walls, or £67.49 from www.drinkon.com of Fife which includes a 'free' bottle of Taittinger NV
One of the most delicious luxury champagnes to drink now. Truly seductive.

Krug Clos du Mesnil 1990
£250 Four Walls
Magic in a bottle.

Other Sparkling Drinks

Crémant du Jura 2001 Philippe Michel
£4.99 Aldi
Cheap fizz is usually just that but this Chardonnay-based wine made by the best, traditional method should appeal to champagne-lovers on a particularly tight budget, and certainly makes a change from more expensive and slightly Identikit Australian. Not the deepest-flavoured wine on this page but for heaven's sake, look at the price.

Poiré Granit Pétillant Naturel, Eric Bordelet
£9.49 The Beer Shop, London N1 (tel 020 7739 3701)
Just five per cent alcohol, the connoisseur's perry. Imagine Jean-François Coche being let loose on prime orchards with a dozen different varieties of small pears. This heady, off-dry essence of Normandy would be the result. In fact, Eric Bordelet of Charchigné (tel +33 2 43 03 95 72) is an ex-sommelier turned biodynamic grower and cider and perry artisan.

Gelber Muskateller Sekt, Melcher
Schloss Gamlitz, 8462 Gamlitz, Austria (tel +43 3453 2363, web www.melcher.at)
A surprise this Styrian, and a very delicious drink for any time of day. It is bone dry and fine but, made from Muscat, has an attractive grapey smell.

Wilhelmshof Sekt
Weingut Wilhelmshof, 76833 Siebeldingen, Germany (tel +49 63 45 91 91 47, web www.wilhelmshof.de)
Arguably Germany's most able and interesting producer of Sekt. Fine, satisfying, persistent wines based both on Riesling and Burgundian varieties grown in the Pfalz.

Fizzy water
This can be transformed into an appealing drink for drivers this New Year's Eve by the addition of a splash of elderflower cordial plus a sprig of mint or a cucumber slice.

Tags:  2003
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