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

Try a dessert wine with your Christmas pudding

croix milhas rivesaltes review

IT’S not most people’s average choice when they find themselves in the wine aisle, but with Christmas looming on the horizon, some of us will be contemplating buying a dessert wine.

This week – with help from a couple of tasting elves – I explore the sweet wine world some never consider. There’s a couple of reds too, for cheeses.

Here we go: France tends to dominate the sweet wine consciousness, but Yalumba Museum Muscat (£11.99, 37.5cl, Morrisons) from South East Australia is well worth a try.

It’s a hugely attractive deep caramel colour – think the bottom of creme caramel. Looks aren’t deceiving because it’s a lovely honeyed caramel on the tastebuds.

I tried it with rich Christmas cake and it developed a hit of sharpness that cut through all the sugar of the cake’s dried fruits. And it turned out to be versatile with a strong cheddar, the contrast intensifying the muscat’s underlying mellow sweetness. (CJ)

Also, from Morrisons, and fabulous for cheeses, The Grahams Crusted Port is reduced to £13.99 from £17.99 over the festive period. The 2003 won a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) last year – and also a gold at the 2011 Decanter awards. It needs gentle pouring but it’s worth it for the concentrated red and black fruit which take you to a luxuriant place.

If you want to dip your toe nervously for the first time into sweet wine but don’t want to splash the cash, then Sainsbury’s House Dessert Wine is a sweet delight at just £3.99 for a half bottle. It has the peachy zestiness and delicate fruity tingliness of honeyed lozenges I bought as a child.

So moreish – it was sipped with mince pie and fruit cake morsels. Even a blue cheese couldn’t subdue this spritz of a German wine.

Croix Milhas Rivesaltes Ambre (Tesco, £4.99, 37.5cl) was commended in this year’s IWC. It is a fortified, blended wine which has had at least three years in oak. A rich amber, it speaks of crystallised fruit and sprinklings of cinnamon and even crusty bonfire toffee. Oh yes please, it said to cheese and mince pies.

The Wine Society’s Portal Moscatel do Douro, Reserva, 1996 (£7.95, 37.5cl) was elegant in its bottle and refined in the glass. A sunburst of concentrated, candied oranges to serve with dessert or sip on its own. There’s no law against it.

I wasn’t convinced by The Chocolate Shop (reduced from £8.99 to £5.99, Co-op) which is a red with added chocolate flavouring. I thought it a trifle odd. On the other hand, you can save £5 on some fine wines at the Co-op until January 1. Chateau Belgrave 5ème Cru Classé 2008 is a bordeaux blend, with blackcurrant notes and a waft of tobacco leaf. It did a fine two-step with a slither of brie.

Benjamin Darnault Montahuc 2010 (from £9.49 at www.nakedwines.com) is 500ml of organic muscat – a pale straw nectar rich with pretty honeyed notes. But just like Beth Tweddle, its femininity disguises a devilish little kick. I loved it.

Also from Naked, is Ocaso Malbec 2011 (from £7.99) from Mendoza in Argentina. It has a lighter, fruitier flavour than some malbecs – which make it a good match for cheeses that always seem to arrive with the Christmas cheeseboard. Spanish manchego works well as does tangy, slightly soft taleggio cheese from Italy.

But two locally-produced blue cheeses – Butler’s Blacksticks Blue, from Preston – are less salty than most blues. Their flavour is a good match for the fruity and fragrant malbec. (BM)

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