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New Year champagnes

Neil Sowerby recommends some champagne for a celebration solstice

Written by . Published on December 23rd 2009.


New Year champagnes

After a year when many a bubble burst, most New Year’s toasts will be to a less grim year ahead. I’d be tempted to splash out, like there’s no tomorrow, on the finest champagne. A case of gazing into the Cristal bowl?

Gremillet Brut Selection NV has won prestigious Champagne of the Year titles two years running and it’s easy to see why. It’s from a family-run house with an annual production of only 300,000 bottles, many of which are served at French embassies.

But it may well have to be more affordable prosecco. Which is no hardship because there are some terrific examples around of this cultish sparkling wine from north east Italy.

Kicking in in at under a tenner, it offers far better value than all that bargain basement, paint stripper cava on the supermarket shelves.

Prosecco is definitely gentler than champagne on the pocket but also in the bubbles produced - the ‘spumante’ version is only a degree zingier than the ‘frizzante’, which often require a beer top rather than a cork.

Expect to pay under a tenner for some good examples. Reserve Wines in West Didsbury stock two current favourites - Ca' Morlin, Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani Frizzante (£8.99) and Ca Morlin, Prosecco Spumante DOC Coneglianeo e Valdobbiadene NV (£10.99). Lower residual sugar makes both drier than the prosecco norm. The Spumante shades it with its longer citrus and pear fruit flavours.

Just one cava has caught my eye. Waitrose’s Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva Cava. Pale yellow, a nose of spice and caramel and a full buttery taste for just £7.49.

If it has to be champagne there are lots of offers around. Like so many folk, I failed to track down any of the half-price Bolly and Moet trumpeted by Morrisons, but the De Villers Brut - down from £23.99 to £13.99 - until January 6 offers compensation with its palate of ripe apricots and citrus.

Tesco Vintage Champagne 2004 deservedly won silver at this year’s International Wine Challenge with its 100% chardonnay blanc de blancs style, but I’m equally happy with the store’s similarly priced Premier Cru Brut (both these crisp beauties nudge in under £20).

Another highly recommended vintage champers is Perrier Jouet Grand Brut 1998. On the nose there is plenty of pineapple and peach, in the mouth it is silky with a whack of vanilla. A big improvement on the 1997, this honeyed treat costs from £31.49 at Oddbins, Majestic, Waitrose, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.

Finally two absolute champagne stars which left me wondering why I was bothering, wallet watching aside with prosecco.

Berry Bros Rudd’s mail order operation offers the venerable London merchant’s own United Kingdom Cuvee, sourced from the Grand Cru village of Mailly. Three quarters pinot noir and 25% chardonnay aged in barrels from Chate Margaux, it displays flowers in the nose, brioche flavours, structure and length for £22.95.

If, like myself, you are keen to shop locally this season, look no further than Hanging Ditch wine store, in the shadow of Manchester Cathedral.

Gremillet Brut Selection NV has won prestigious Champagne of the Year titles two years running and it’s easy to see why. It’s from a family-run house with an annual production of only 300,000 bottles, many of which are served at French embassies.

Simply classic, with toast/yeasty overtones and a beguiling ripeness, it’s going to be my to-hell-with-the-resolutions New Year’s Eve tipple of choice. Price: £22.50 (The Bottle Stop in Cheadle Hulme also stocks it).

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StephanieDecember 23rd 2009.

Is that that Neil Sowerby who used to write for the MEN? You get them all don't you?

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