Bring in the New Year with a perfect sparkling wine pop!

Tesco finest* Pignoletto, New Year sparkling wines

The best way to bring in the New Year is with a perfect *pop!* closely followed by fizzy frothiness streaming into a giddily clasped glass. Sparkling wine is so exciting.

With no science involved, here’s some ideas for your sparkling and party wines.

New Year sparklers for less than a tenner:

Tesco Pignoletto spumante review
Tesco Pignoletto

Tesco finest* Pignoletto (£8.99) is an alternative to Prosecco (Pignoletti is the name of the grape) but just ever so slightly different. It was very giddy when poured, like an over-excited puppy. Then when it settled into a soft delicate fizz, it was laced with peach and pear flavours.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG

I’ve mentioned Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano here before. It won Great Value Sparkling in the International Wine Challenge and is reduced to £7.50 from £10 until January 1.

In ASDA, Wine Selection Cava at £4.70 is a great party wine and should make lovely Bucks Fizz … and their Extra Special Prosecco is a pocket-freindly £6.

Budget Champers:

Chink together a few glasses of French Connection Brut (£11.99 from £13.99 until January 5 at Bargain Booze) which has just enough celebratory creaminess and citrus bite to support you as you work out why every year whizzes by quicker than the one before.

Aldi’s Champagne Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£9.99) consistently hits the spot with a pocket-friendly siz-azzle of fine bubbles and lemon and apples.

Spend a little bit more:

Ayala, Brut Majeur  (£25, is  a delicate, nutty, fresh and lemony Champagne, with just a touch of brioche. It has been marked a high 95 by the website’s masters of wine. Sip and reflect that  this is served by the glass in the Savoy Grill.

Avery's Brut Special Cuvee Champagne
Avery’s Brut Special Cuvee Champagne

A favourite Champers I tried at a festive tasting was Averys Special Cuvee Brut. The Champagne (from £19.99, is elegant, rich, and biscuity but with ribbons of squeezed light citrus. Loved it.

The Co-op’s  Les Pionniers Champagne 2006 vintage (£24.99)  has picked up a silver from the International Wine Challenge.

It’s older sister, the 2004 vintage, has won many, many awards and the 2006 is expected to do even better. It has a layered palate of crisp apple and gentle citrus fruit and a delicious bready moreishness, with a lingering, nutty finish.

If you can get hold of the 2004 or the 2006 then 2015 will begin in a special way.

Over at Marks & Sparks, Abel Charlot Brut NV, is £16 down from £32 until January 1. That’s half price for a Champers with layers of shortbread, apple and lemon and a toasty caramelised nutty bite.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc, Tesco
Mud House Sauvignon Blanc, Tesco

Take-a-bottle Party Whites:

Winemakers’ Selection Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2013, (£6.50, Sainsbury’s)  is a stone fruit compote which is perfectly peachy as a backdrop to good party conversation.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc (£10.49, Tesco) has vibrant, tangy grapefruit with some tropical fruit coming to liven up the party fun.

The Siren Chenin Blanc Chardonnay Viognier (£5,99, the Co-op) is a friendly white cuddle with apples, peaches, lemons and a dab of lime.

Take-a-bottle Party Reds:

Pop over to Amazon for Tussock Jumper’s Touriga Nacional Aragonez (I checked the latest price, £26.97 for three) which is rich, rounded, with mellow fruits and a peek of chocolate.  To taste, hedgerow fruits, and a good spicy bite.

Tussock Jumper’s  Touriga Nacional Aragonez
Tussock Jumper’s Touriga Nacional Aragonez

Saumur Champigny 2011 Château de Targé (£11.75, Majestic) is Cabernet Franc from the Loire and has strawberries, raspberries, a wave of a herb garden in a breeze with licks of lavender.

The Venturer Series Costieres De Nîmes, Aldi
The Venturer Series Costieres De Nîmes, Aldi

The Venturer Series Costieres De Nîmes (£4.79, Aldi) is packed with berries and brambles which are sprinkled with dried mixed herbs and black pepper. Hide it behind the bread bin at your party pal’s house.

I wish you all the best for 2015 and if you are starting an alcohol-free January then the best of luck.

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Published in the saturday extra magazine December 27, 2014 

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Christmas dessert wine delights and Boxing Day belters

Christmas wines

I’m going to dive straight into the Christmas dessert wines before you have time to blink. I love dessert wines. This year I’ve converted friends to the nectar honeyed delights of these gorgeous special-treat wines.

Go on, be brave. Just think, for less than £7 you could try a half bottle of the consistently award-winning Tesco’s Finest Dessert Semillon, with its layers of honey, citrus, peach and apricots. I just luuurvvve it with Christmas cake, or cheese, or mince pies. Or on its own.

The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2012 (£9.95, a half bottle, is a shoo-in with salty cheeses, or a favourite dessert. There’s nose-dip aromas of dried honey and pithy orange zest; yes, it’s sweet to taste but the dryness of fruit peel persists to counterbalance.

Taste the Difference Sauternes, (£14, Sainsbury) is a lusciously sweet dessert wine full of Seville oranges, apricot and a seam of lemon; it has lip-licking apricot and honeycomb flavours which flatter and flirt with cheese.

Christmas dessert wine
Muscat de St Jean de Minervois

Muscat de St Jean de Minervois, (just £6.30, for a half bottle, is a dunking of apricots in caramel but with a slice and a dice of lemon in the background which adds freshness.

Finally, Stellar Organics Heaven on Earth (£8.75, for a half bottle) is an ethically produced sweetie from South Africa. What better name than this. It’s a light honey colour and has dollops of honey aromas too, but with oodles of apricot alongside.  I’m in heaven with this.

I’ll move on to reds to mix and match with Christmas cheese or a Boxing Day gathering with friends. I asked some Tasting Elves to help me with their thoughts.

Avaniel Ribera del Duero wine
Avaniel Ribera del Duero

Avaniel Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero 2013 (The Wine Society) If you want a rest from all the festive fizz, this young Spanish red is just the thing. Made with no oak and bottled early to capture the freshness, it is sweet and fruity with a nose of blackberries. This worked well with a Stilton on oatcakes and is a bargain at £7.50.

marques de casa concha 2011 syrah
Marques de Casa Concha 2011 Syrah

The Chilean Marques de Casa Concha Syrah (£11.99, Tesco) is a deep and fruity partner for more unusual cheeses that, like woolly jumpers, only tend to appear at this time of year. Big, bold and full of blackcurrant and dark cherry flavours, there is a peppery spiciness that balances the fruit.

Luxuriously dark and inky, like a squid on a posh night out, its big, mouthfilling body and depth of flavour means it’s also great drunk on its own. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it with Christmas pudding.

Evans and Tate Breathing Space Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (£11.99, Majestic, or £17.98 for two) is from Margaret River in Western Australia. It is an easy-drinking red that’s ideal for when family and friends pop round.

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It balances fresh, red berry fruits with spicy oak flavours that make it a good festive all-rounder, like the Best of Morecambe and Wise. It pairs well with strong, salty cheeses like Stilton.

Tempranillo Aldi Toro Loco Superior has performed brilliantly in blind tastings and confounds all who meet it with smooth depths and easy grace. Aldi are knocking this out for a mind-blowing £3.79. Where does it fit in the Christmas mix?

It’s your house red: perfect for the Boxing Day visitors who can gulp it down joyously with platefuls of turkey curry. Toro Loco means Mad Bull. And at this price you’d be mad not to. But you’d better hurry up if you don’t want to miss out.

On Boxing Day, here’s a wonderful white to cut through all that rich excess of the day before.

Amalaya Blanco de Corte Torrontés Riesling 2014 (£9, has a champion pedigree; and by heck, as I would say in my native Lancastrian twang, it’s just champion. The 2013 vintage won three Golds in the awards’ season this year. It has a floral nose, with pears, lychee and hints of spiced mandarins; to taste there’s a lively, mineral zesty finish.

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Published in the saturday extra magazine December 20, 2014 

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express