Your Valentine may love a new jacket with their Champagne

Champagne bubbles in a glass

We’re very fond of gadgets in our house. For several months we had a plastic electronic rabbit – behave – which sat on the sideboard and wiggled its ears when anyone sent us an email.

He was also tuned in to the news headlines and recited them. He had to go. It was electronic bunny overkill and very distracting when Horrible Histories was on.

(If you want one, go to http://i-ipod.com/nabaztaggadgets.com)

Now the new gadget in our household is wine-themed … we have an ice bucket jacket which fits over Champagne bottles and is designed in pastel shades of pink and lilac in a diamond-shaped, Venetian masked ball, pattern.

I’ve never had to unzip a wine before opening – until now.Champagne Jacquart, BrutMosaïque Rosé NV

Champagne Jacquart, Brut Mosaïque Rosé NV, £29.50, reduced from £34.50, www.greatwesternwine.co.uk, wears the cooler for Valentine’s Day.

It seems jackets are a trend that one or two other Champagne houses are following – I ran a Google search and found Veuve Clicquot Rose NV Champagne is also available in a Valentine’s themed bird song ice jacket (£46.94, www.drinksdirect.co.uk).

Last summer Lanson was selling Champers in a Union Jack cooler, clearly wanting a stake in the Jubilee and Olympics chink-chink celebrations. Yes, the jackets are practical – they keep the champers chilled for at least two hours. (I know – I tested it).

Also, should you have a mind to, you could recycle the coolers and hide cheaper sparklies under the classier branding of the Champagne houses. Your guests may never know.

But part of me thinks why?

Champagne bottles in a jacket? Keep them on ice or in the fridge. And how do you know how much is left in the bottle if you can’t see it?

This created a sulky glass-to-glass redistribution of Champagne in our household.

I know it’s a marketing ploy – and it could be driven by the fact that in the UK sales of prosecco and English sparkling are on the up. A report by the organisation Wine Intelligence says that around five million more bottles of prosecco are being sold in the UK than five years ago. So Champagne definitely has hot – or even chilled – competition on its hands.

Back to the Jacquart. It’s too late to buy this for your Valentine to arrive today (you have bought something haven’t you?) but if you do, then you can expect a salmon pink Champagne with consistent, playful, bubbles. It has dried strawberries on the nose and to taste more strawberries – even peaches – and zingy acidity. I would have preferred more fruit, but even so, this champers won seven awards in 2012, including silvers at the International Wine and Spirit competition and the Sommeliers Wine Awards.

If you have forgotten your Valentine, there’s time to sneak out and buy:

Asda Filipo Sansovino Prosecco (£5, from £8.48) which has tinklingly typical fresh pears both on the nose and to taste from the Italian grape glera – or Asda Extra Special Chenin Blanc (£5) which has a citrusy flavour and hints of lime peel. It should be good with Chinese food. Both offers stand until February 20.

Charles de Cazanove Brut Champagne NV is on offer at the Co-op until February 19 reduced from £31.99 to £15.99.

This is a tête de cuvée Champagne, which means it has been made from the first pressing of the grapes – in this case from 42 different “cru” vineyards. It has brioche and vanilla pods on the nose and to taste is pleasantly refreshing with crisp red apples and squeezy-fresh lemon.

First published in the Liverpool Post on February 14 2013

Start off New Year by stepping out of wine comfort zones

Max Ferd Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2011

HAPPY New Year. Your resolution was to stop drinking for a month? And you gave in eerrm … about 8pm last night?

Never mind. Change that 2013 resolution to exploring the world of wine. Don’t stick to what you know – that same bottle on the same shelf – but ring the changes.

I asked for thoughts from some people in the know – go on, be daring this New Year.

Jon Atkinson from Wine Time at Scatchards on Great Howard Street, told me: “Most consumers rarely venture far from their “comfort zone”.

“Pretty much every wine-producing country will produce varieties that you might not have encountered before; for me Italy & Portugal do this more frequently than most. Italy: The best value is to be had in the South and if you like your reds big and bold then Primitivo is worthy of further investigation.

“For Portugal, I’m a huge fan of the indigenous white Arinto which is particularly good when grown in the northerly Vinho Verde territory – if you can lay your hands on a bottle from Quinta da Raza you’ll not be disappointed.”

Dan Harwood, Business Development Manager at Vinea on Albert Dock says: “Our wines of 2013 are those from the Somontano region of north east Spain.

“These progressive and consumer conscious producers are making characterful wines for intriguing varieties as well as old favourites. We will be celebrating their wines at a tasting in March.” (Details at www.vinealiverpool.co.uk)

Devin Stewart, from R&H Fine Wines on Queen Avenue, told me: “If all those who switch to autopilot and ask for sauvignon blanc or rioja considered north west Spain – Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, – and grapes like treixadura, albarino and mencia, I’m quite confident they would find a new world of wine wonder.”

I have to agree – I tasted The Flower and the Bee Treixadura 2011 (£11.99 www.randhfinewines.co.uk) with Devin. This white is from Ribeiro and it was almost full bodied, with a freshness of a stream trickling over pebbles, with glints of lemons and apples.

Gray Simpson is the manager of Corks Out in Heswall. On one of the wine trade’s busiest days – New Years Eve – he took time out to tell me: “Fiano is my grape of 2013. Sunshine in a glass from Sicily.” Corks Out sells Canapi Fiano 2011 for £9.99.

Finally, my thoughts on new tastes. Next week I begin another course at Liverpool Wine School (www. liverpoolwineschool.co.uk) which is an approved provider of Wine and Spirits Education Trust qualifications. They are used by the trade but for those of us who’ve “got the bug” the insight into the world of wine is fascinating – and huge fun too.


In my glass

if you failed to cut out wine, you might want to reduce the alcohol content.

Germany, with its cooler climate, is well placed to produce quality wines with lower alcohol.

Max Ferd Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2011 review

The Max Ferd Richter Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2011 (£10.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) is 10.5% but has a good balance of fruit and cleansing freshness. It is off-dry and minerality is matched with citrus and stonefruit. It was poured on transatlantic flights in the Zeppelin heyday – the wine is still marketed with an Art Deco label.

Winemaker’s Selection Vinho Verde (£3.98, Sainsbury’s) is only 9%. It has a light, citrus sparkle and although it doesn’t deliver massive punches on the nose and palate, it’s a refreshing glass to assuage the guilt of failed New Year resolutions.

Published in the Liverpool Post January 4, 2013