Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Any Excuse for a Party

Choosing party wines is always a tricky balancing act between price and quality. You don't want to spend all of your budget on expensive wines when, if you look hard enough, you can get decent wines at a reasonable price. We are bombarded with special offers at this time of year but a vast majority of the wines on these offers are not up to scratch. Here are a few pointers I always stick to when buying party wines.

1) Generally I buy two bottles of white wine for every red wine but in winter months people tend to go for red wine more regularly so half and half should be ok.

2) I would allow about half a bottle per guest and then get a few bottles extra just in case you are all having a particularly good time. A lot of wine merchants allow sales and return.

3) Even if you have a huge budget don't go straight for expensive, rich Cabernets and buttery Chardonnays. Firstly, the high levels of tannin in rich red wines mean your guests teeth will stain really easily and secondly, these kind of wines are often high in alcohol and heavy may get your guests a bit raucous. For red wines look at alcohol levels below 13% and for white below 12%. Here are some light wines to look out for:

  • REDS - Red burgundy, Chianti, Rioja, Beaujolais Village (look for 2009 vintage Beaujolais, one of the best vintages in the regions history)
  • WHITES - German Riesling, Marlborough Sauvignons, Muscadet, Italian varietals such as Verdicchio, Gavi and Pinot Grigio
4) There are some great value sparkling wines on the market. Cava is experiencing a renaissance period and many vintage Cavas have champagne-esque nuances. Cava is made using the "traditional method" in which champagne is made and many good Cavas use the same grape varietals as well. Prosecco is another good option. It is light and usually slightly off-dry, so it refreshes your mouth between canapes. It is also generally pretty low in alcohol.

Good Light Reds 

Chateau Mont Milan 2007 - This Decanter Gold Medalist has attractive, light-red fruit flavours and a pleasant dry finish. Its is very food friendly and only £4.99 if you buy 2 bottles or more at Majestic.

Château Mont Milan  - Majestic Wine
Castillo de San Lorenzo Rioja Reserva - This is half price in Tesco from the 1st December until the 4th January and is priced at £4.99 a bottle. It has classic Rioja style with spicy, dried fruits and well integrated woody flavours and is only 12.5% abv.
Castillo de San Lorenzo Rioja Reserva

Fresh Whites

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc - Everyone knows Oyster Bay, its a guaranteed winner at most parties. Its light, zesty and clean and is £5 in tescos until the 5th of December.

The Chateau de Ligny and Villa Maria from my earlier posts are perfect for parties too.


Lindauer Special Reserve Brut Cuvee NV - This is £8.35 a bottle at Waitrose until the 4th of January. It's made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (like Champagne), goes through a second fermentation in the bottle (like Champagne) and is aged for 2 years on its sediment to give it extra body and richness. It has a pretty, pink blush colour and has lots of rich, red fruit flavour and a touch of creaminess. 

Codorniu Brut NV is £5.99 at Sainsburys until the 4th of January. It has a pleasant apple pie-like character which would work nicely with pork and chicken dishes as well as many fruit based desserts.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

News Flash - Heidsieck Gold Top 2004/2005

Just a quick post to let you all know Heidsieck Gold Top 2004/2005 is £14.99 at Majestic until 3pm on Monday 29th. Heidsieck Gold Top has quite a high proportion of Pinot Noir in it which gives it a rich, full bodied taste. If you can, try and get the 2004 vintage. 2004 had a cool early summer which helped give a nice freshness to the finished wines and a warm September which allowed the grapes to ripen fully. At £14.99 it's a fantastic, recession busting vintage champagne. The 2004 vintage a Decanter World Wine Awards Silver medalist but don't forget you must buy a minimum of 6 bottles at Majestic.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Christmas Sparkle - Champagne

I don't think it's too early to start talking about Christmas and it is definitely not too early to start taking advantage of all the great wine deals currently out. It's one of those times of year that you can splash out a bit and treat yourself to some champagne. There have been some CRAZY deals recently. Morrisons have just finished a special on Taittinger for £16 a bottle which sold out in a couple of days. Here are my favourite current deals:

Moët and Chandon Brut Imperial NV - Buy 2 for £30 in Asda

I don't confess to being the biggest Moët fan in the world, but at £15 a bottle it is a complete bargain. The extremely long winded way in which champagne is made means that it is expensive by nature to make and therefore costs a lot to buy on the shelves. Moët is made out of a high proportion of Premier Cru and Grand Cru grapes (the better ones) and is one of the more approachable styles of the bigger champagne houses. It's worth mentioning that Majestic are also selling this at a very reasonable price of £24 a bottle until 29th November. It isn't too dry and has a refreshing fruit focus, but still has the distinctive yeasty champagne character. It is also incredibly versatile and brings a great sense of occasion to any party or event. This champagne would make an interesting accompaniment to your Turkey dinner on Christmas day.

Taittinger Brut Reserve NV - £16.99 in Tesco until Monday 28th November

This is a lot of champagne for your money. Taittinger is one of my favourite champagne houses and is one of the few famous houses which is still family owned. The Taittinger family own a large share of their own vineyards and as a result of this, can control all aspects of quality, from grape to bottle. The style has always had a high proportion of Chardonnay in the blend, which keeps it light and fragrant, and the longer than average bottle aging gives it subtle, toasty notes. Interestingly, this was James Bond's favourite champagne in the books; his love for Bollinger did not appear until they started making James Bond films.

Mumm Cordon Rouge NV - £14.99 in Tesco until Monday 28th November

Another Tesco deal. They are really going for it this week. Mumm is famous for sponsoring the F1; it seems such a waste to see Jenson spraying this all over the place because its great champagne. This is a bit more full bodied than the previous two champagnes. It has a higher concentration of Pinot Noir which gives it plenty of body and fresh red fruits on the pallet. This would be a great champagne for desserts such as trifle and Fruits of the Forest.