Friday, December 19, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, December 14, 2008: Party drinks - not just wine!

If I could choose whatever I wanted, I would probably serve Krug Rosé at my own party. I like a handful of other champagnes just as much, but Krug Rosé makes a statement. You can’t ignore it. But this year, even more than usual, it’s a case of dream on. Like almost everybody else, I’m downsizing in terms of outlay, but I still intend the party to go off with a bang, not a whimper. So, the drinks below are aimed at all tastes, but not quite all budgets: in compiling this, I had value front of mind.

Sacchetto Prosecco Colli Trevigiani, £6.99
Frizzante (semi-sparkling) with lightly yeasty, fresh pear flavours - and a budget-friendly price (The Real Wine Company, 01753 885619).

Le Coltore Prosecco Brut, £8.79
Elegant and dry with a gentle apple and peach flavour and zesty herbal freshness (Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2470).

Tesco Finest Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, £8.99
Apple-scented, fruity, crisp and well-balanced (Tesco).

Autentico Lambrusco Reggiano, £7.49
Real red Lambrusco – a great party fizz. Medium-dry with with sweet-and-sour plum and pomegranate fruit (Marks & Spencer).

Prestige Cava, £6.99/£5
Crisp, sweet apple flavours with a herbal freshness; dry but not too dry (Marks & Spencer, £5 when you buy 2)

Langlois Crémant de Loire, £11.99/£7.99
Stylish floral, spicy aromas and wild strawberry flavours; dry and medium-bodied (Majestic, £7.99 when you buy 2).

Vitteaut-Alberti Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé, £11.50
Almost too good for a party: seductively raspberry scented and flavoured; soft, dry and finely textured (Stone, Vine & Sun, 01962 712351).

Duval Leroy Fleur de Champagne, £12.99
Down from its usual £25.99, this delicate, crisp, floral champagne is £12.99 for the last week of November only. From December 3 to January 6, it will be £16.99 (Waitrose).

Jacquart Brut Champagne, £16.99
Lightly toasty, fruity and approachable; down from £23.99 until December 30 (Somerfield).

Veuve Monsigny Champagne, £9.99
Easygoing nutty, appley flavours; soft, but crisp. No one can be making any money out of this (Aldi).

Waitrose Vintage English Cider, £1.59 for 50cl
Top-quality, intensely-flavoured, powerful, dry cider from Herefordshire; 7.3% abv (Waitrose).

Applewood Cider, £1.69
Medium-dry, softly fruity oak-aged cider from the West Country - a collaborative effort by Dorset brewers Hall & Woodhouse and Somerset cider-makers Thatchers; 6% abv (Tesco and Sainsbury’s).

Asahi Super Dry, £3.98-£4.29 for 4 x 33cl
Fashionable Japanese brand brewed in Kent by Shepherd Neame. Ultra-refreshing, crisp and light-bodied, but not low alcohol (5% abv). Perfect with spicy canapes (Sainsbury’s; Tesco; Waitrose)

Triple Karmeliet, £1.79 for 33cl
Winner of three titles at this year’s World Beer Awards, including World’s Best Ale, this is an Abbey-style Flemish beer made from three grains (wheat, oats and barley); hence Triple. It has a fresh, nutty, apple and banana nose with toffee, cream, orange and ginger on the palate. And it’s a powerful 8.4% abv, but it tastes it, so people won’t knock it back too quickly.

Brakspear English Pale Ale, £1.49 for 50cl
Quintessential, crowd-pleasing English ale – full and rounded with smoky, hoppy, orange flavours and 4.5% abv (Morrisons and Booths).

Badger Golden Champion, £1.69 for 50cl
Full and fruity with an orange marmalade flavour; 5% abv (widely available in supermarkets).

SKYY Vodka, £9.89
Made from filtered, 100% pure California water and grain from the Midwest, distilled four times and put through a three-stage filtration - all with the aim of producing the purest possible vodka. You’ll get a hangover from anything if you drink too much, but this might lessen the pain (Waitrose, on offer at this price until December 2, then reverts to £14.79).

Sagatiba Cachaca, £14.49-£15.49
Caipirinha may seem the perfect summer drink, but don’t put it on hold the rest of they year: it’s an ideal fuss-free party cocktail. All you need are limes, sugar, ice and your cachaca (Tesco, Waitrose, Oddbins).

Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, £15.99
Polish vodka with a distinctive herbal note. Put it in a pitcher with lots of ice and decent quality apple juice and you’ve got a tatanka (Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s).

2007 Asda Argentinian Torrontes, £4.12
Medium-bodied, flowery white with an outsize grapy, rose-petal perfume, a spicy, fruity palate and a sweet-lemon finish (Asda).

2007 La Dolomie Pinot Grigio, £3.99
Most sub-£5 pinot grigio has all the character of tap water, but this has proper flavour – lime, apple and minerals (Aldi; reverts to £4.99 after Christmas)

2007 Bushland Single Estate Chardonnay, reduced to £3.99 on Thursday
Nutty, oak-matured Australian chardonnay with fresh, bright fruit (Aldi; reverts to £4.99 after Christmas).

2007 Merlot Vin de Pays de la Cité de Carcassonne, Canat, £3.99
Soft blackcurranty fruit flavour and a clean dry finish (Sainsbury’s).

2007 Popolino Rosso, £4.29
Medium-bodied, fresh, supple Sicilian red with a scent of sweet cherries and witchhazel (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Côtes du Rhône, £4.49
Well-rounded young Rhône brimming with juicy, ripe, spiced-plum fruit (Marks & Spencer).

Mulberry Fair, £3.29 per litre
There are two flavours of these new mulberry juice drinks – mulberry and sanguinello orange and mulberry and limonera pear. They’re both delicious, so all you have to decide is whether you need perking up with orange or soothing with pear (Waitrose, Selfridges).