Bollinger House Detail

Bollinger – A Visit to the Legendary Champagne House

Emerging from the forested hilltop of Montagne de Reims, the heartland of the Champagne region unfurls itself before you. The reveal is gradual and, as you’d expect from this most famous of wine regions, not without elegance.

However when I visited the region in March it was not lush undulating green hillsides that greeted me but the rather more sobering sight of heavy, leaden grey skies over bleak fields of skeletal vines – the area had not yet fully emerged from its winter dormancy and so was distinctly lacking in any vegetation or colour.

I was in Champagne to visit Bollinger, the famous House known to anyone with even a passing interest in sparkling wine. Having worked with the brand for years it was akin to meeting one of your heroes, though in contrast to the old saying I couldn’t imagine this encounter to be in any way disappointing.

Descending from Montagne de Reims we hung left before Épernay in the direction of Aÿ, home to Bollinger as well as other notable names such as Ayala, Deutz and a small boutique brand known as Moët et Chandon. Aÿ itself came upon us quite suddenly and without the fanfare I was expecting from such an eminent address. I also found it difficult to comprehend its size: with a mere 4,000 souls or so, I didn’t expect Aÿ to be, well, a village.

Overlooking Clos St Jacques in Aÿ

More surprising was how we came to find ourselves outside the House of Bollinger itself: instead of a gilded avenue lined with cypress trees and cherubs heralding our arrival, we approached the château via what seemed to be a back lane behind some houses, pulling up outside the iconic polished brass nameplates with absolutely no ado.

That’s not to say the House of Bollinger itself is very impressive however: a very typical château in that much French style, with two sweeping staircases leading to a doorway beneath a wrought iron balcony and surrounded by white shuttered windows. It features a lot in the Bollinger iconography, and rightly so.

We started by having a gander at Bollinger’s back garden – literally. Behind the House is a walled vineyard, and a very rare one too as it’s one of the few in France that wasn’t devastated by the phylloxera epidemic that wiped out most vineyards across Europe in the 1860s onwards. Indeed, it’s one of only two in Champagne that wasn’t affected by the devastating louse – the other, Clos St Jacques, is literally across the road and also owned by Bollinger. Needless to say this rarity is fully exploited via an extremely limited-production Champagne called Vieilles Vignes Françaises which is made exclusively from these two plots; a bottle of this – if you can find one – will set you back at least €500, if you’re lucky.

The cooperage in Bollinger

From there we made our way down the deserted streets on foot to Lily Bollinger’s house where, across a modest courtyard, there was a small cooperage where they still maintain their oak barrels to this day, the last company in Champagne to do so. Hanging haphazardly on the walls were a handful of movie posters from past Bond films, the only obvious connection here to the world’s most famous spy, for whom Bollinger has been the Champagne of choice since the 1970’s. Oddly, the posters they chose were all from the Pierce Brosnan era – none from before, and none since. I wonder if the coopers of Bollinger have a particular affinity for the man from Navan?

Next to the cooperage was a door leading down into the cellars of Bollinger: dark, dank tunnels hewn from the chalky earth for which Champagne is famous. Here, thousands upon thousands of dusty cobwebbed bottles line the walls that snake for an incredible five kilometres underneath Aÿ. It’s mind-boggling to think that the  residents of this sleepy village have literally millions of Euros of the finest Champagne resting beneath their feet.

One of the many stretches of underground cellars

Established in 1829, Bollinger is one of the few Champagne Houses left under full family ownership. The beefy “Bollinger style” is famous worldwide and owes no small part to the predominance of Pinot Noir in its blends, but their dogged commitment to traditional (read: expensive and time consuming) methods also play their part, for example their habit of fermenting a high proportion of their wines in wood, their use of a large amount of Premier and Grand Cru wines in the blends, and ageing for well beyond the legal minimum, amongst others.

‘Attention to detail’ is a term bandied about a lot, and mostly erroneously so, but for Bollinger it really is an underlying philosophy of what they do, preferring as they do to prioritise quality, tradition and craftsmanship over profit and margins – an enviable situation made all the easier by being family-owned.

The result is expensive, yes, especially in light of €20 Champagne in the likes of Aldi and Lidl, but you really do get what you pay for with Bollinger.

When Bollinger says they lay down their Champagne for years they ain’t lying!

Back at Aÿ we emerged blinking from the cellars to face what was perhaps the highlight of the highlights: tasting the fruit of all this effort. The full range of non-vintage and vintage wines were laid before us in white and rosé versions, and even a rare still red wine called La Côte Aux Enfants.

But before we finish, no article on Bollinger is complete without the famous quote by Lily Bollinger, a tour de force who ran the company on her own for four decades in which she revolutionised the company, doubled sales, expanded production, and all the time adhered resolutely to the tradition that made the Bollinger name famous:

I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.


TWO TO TRY

Bollinger Special Cuvée
RSP €65 and widely available from good independent off-licences

The benchmark, and not for the faint hearted: full, rich, toasty, buttery, this is bruising but nevertheless elegant – a contradiction of sorts, yes, but true nevertheless. A properly posh Champagne.

 

Bollinger La Grande Année 2002/2004/2005
RSP €120 from Mitchell & Son, O’Brien’s, The Corkscrew, Redmond’s of Ranelagh and other fine wine retailers

This is the vintage Champagne from Bollinger and any one of the years above may be on the shelves of your local fine wine retailer at the moment. I’ve recently had the 2002 and for me it’s the best vintage Champagne I can recall, and from (vague) memory the 2004 and 2005 vintages are up there too. It’s more refined than the Special Cuvée, more delicate and mineral, and though more toned down in volume is nevertheless still rich and complex with incredible length. A true treat Champagne.

 

This article originally appeared on TheTaste.ie.

O Briens Wine Beer   Spirits  Buy Online   Free Delivery anywhere in Ireland

Great French Wines on Sale this Weekend from O’Brien’s

I would have liked to post this earlier in the week to give you some time to pick up a few bottles, but there’s still time to grab a few for this (sometimes) sunny weekend.

O’Brien’s are currently running their French Wine Sale that ends on Tuesday 24th, and I can honestly say there’s plenty of great bargains to be had, so best stock up for the summer now.

Some of my picks are below…


Silly Value for Money

Domaine Duffour Blanc
Normally €11.45, now €9.16

This was new to me in every respect: I don’t think I’ve had a wine from Gascony before,nor do I recall tasting its local grapes Colombard or Gros Manseng at any point, both of which make up 80% and 20% of the blend respectively.

What I definitely didn’t expect is how interesting this wine is, and for a quite incredible price too, which has been made even more appealing with 20% off this weekend.

Expect tropical grapefruit and pear tinged with herbal grassiness; a fun and no-nonsense wine ideal for summer.

 

Bougrier Chenin Blanc
Was €13.95, now €11.16

Chenin Blanc is a very underestimated grape and virtually unknown to consumers, which though regretful means that it’s often great value.

Here’s one example, and from the grape’s historical home in the Loire too. What’s more it’s only 11%, so great for summer sipping. Ripe, round and flavoursome, and a great price even at full RSP.

 

Domaine Begude Etoile
Was €19.95, now €15.96

At just under €20 this was great value, and at just €15.96 it’s unmissable. An organic, barrel-fermented 100% Chardonnay, this is the best Burgundy look-alike I’ve ever come across, and it has so much more poise than the often bruising examples of oaked Chardonnay from the New World.

There’s lots that buttery creaminess of course, but still maintains a backbone of lemony, sprightly fruit. The finish is long, textured and gorgeous, the balance fantastic. A treat wine for any day of the week, if you will. One of my stand-outs of late.

 


Fresh & Crisp

Cave de Lugny, Mâcon-Lugny
Normally €17.95, now €13.95

Though I prefer the richer style of Burgundy (see the last wine as an example) this is a really good (and currently great value) example of crisp, refreshing, unoaked Chardonnay for those who like their wines on the zestier side. Pure, clean and lemony, it would be great with some summer salads.

 

 

 

Hugel RieslingHugel Riesling
Normally €19.95, now €15.96

No this is not sweet. Much has been written about the public’s unwillingness to take to Riesling due to its unfortunate historical association with sickly sweet, branded confections. The reality, as ever in wine, is far from the common perception but it’s unlikely that consumers’ negative view of this noble grape is unlikely to change. Which, for the rest of us, means that it will continue to be good value, at least.

Here’s a great example of the grape, and in an approachable style too – yes there’s the limey, stoney character typical of the style but it’s rounded out and more textured than others can be, while still retaining the trademark zingy acidity. A delicious drop.

 

Fire Up the Barbie

Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône
Was €15.45, now €12.36

Côtes du Rhône ranks among Chablis, Chianti, Bordeaux and others as one of those regions that people call for by name, often without any reference for winemaker, brand or any other additional info. The unfortunate side effect of this popularity is that unscrupulous producers can exploit this and provide below-par wines for premium prices, something I’ve moaned about before.

Thankfully M. Chapoutier is not one of those companies, and at this price they definitely over-delivering. Expect juicy, brambly fruit with that distinctive black peppery characteristic typical of the region.

 

Pauillac de Lynch Bages 2011

Was €38.00, now €30.40

Yes, this could be in the “Splash Out” section below, but it’s also a super barbeque wine. If you’re a lover of Bordeaux, and particularly if you’re fond of your brands and/or Irish connection, then look no further. This is drinking fantastically well now: textured, juicy but balanced fruit with blackberry and blackcurrant loveliness on a deliciously dry, long finish. Definitely a special wine for that long-overdue get-together this summer, with a nice steak of course.

 


Splash Out

Domaine Olivier, Santenay Blanc, Clos des ChampsDomaine Olivier, Santenay Blanc, Clos des Champs
Normally €33.95, now €27.16

This was one of two whites on Burgundy übermensch Raymond Blake‘s table, and it just simply blew my mind. The world should taste wines like this and realise what it’s been missing in its race to de-oak chardonnay.

Gorgeously supple and textured, it offers up layers of undulatingly delicious flavours and a length that goes on forever. Very highly recommended.

Print

The WSET Diploma Course: Onwards and Upwards

It seems most of my blog posts begin with an apology for their tardiness, and this one is no exception given it’s been far too long since my last post.

But this time I feel that I have a reasonable excuse: in November I began the WSET Diploma course, which is a hefty undertaking to say the least.

The two years needed to cover this course involves mostly home study interspersed by intense batches of classwork, with latter normally spread over two to three days in a stuffy Dublin hotel conference room in which an enormous amount of theory and practical tasting is covered at intense speed.

For example in just two and a half days we covered the theory of almost all spirits in the world and tasting through and critically appraising some 32 samples, including all major styles of vodka, gin whiskey and rum, followed by cognac, grappa, calvados, and many other niche products before ending cruelly on tequila.

More recently, in three days we covered the entirety of Chile, Argentina, USA, South Africa, Australia AND New Zealand. And by ‘covered’ I really mean glossed-over, since these classes are really just simply primers and we’re then left off to do the rest of the study ourselves.

It is this open-ended aspect of the Diploma that is the real crux of the course: the study parameters aren’t outlined and it’s up to you to figure what’s relevant and what’s not – given the enormity, complexity and ambiguity of the wine world, deciding where to stop (or indeed, where to start) is a frustrating experience.

Only a tiny representation of all the study materials we get before the course starts. Credit: wspc.gr

Still, despite the alternating experiences of intense in-class cramming and the sense of feeling somewhat rudderless outside it, I haven’t regretted beginning the Diploma at any point, and can’t wait to learn more. For now, though, there’s a little sos beag.

So to say it’s been a busy few months is an understatement: not only has the course itself been significantly demanding of my time, but its commencement was preceded by the birth of our first son only one month earlier in October, not to mention continuing in a full-time job and the small matter of the Christmas and new year season in between.

As a result I’ve only barely been present in the world of wine, clinging on via my monthly contributions to TheTaste.ie, and even then needing to skip one to allow me some respite.

But I’m back now. At least I hope I am. Didn’t I say that before? Oh well…

This is the first in a series of posts relating to my WSET Diploma torture experience. Hopefully they’ll be informative and entertaining – at the very least they’ll be cathartic for this writer…

Le Caveau’s Real Wine Month: April 2016

Tomorrow Monday 4th April will see Ireland’s foremost natural & biodynamic wine importer, Le Caveau, launch their third Real Wine Month.

I haven’t participated in the previous two, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this one goes. Knowing Le Caveau’s passion and commitment to this often-overlooked sector of the wine trade, however, I can’t but expect it to be excellent.

Here are the participating Irish outlets and at the bottom is the press release with further details – I’ll check back at the end of the month with a review…!

Cork
Ballymaloe House
Bradleys Off-Licence
Café Paradiso
Jacques Restaurant
L’Atitude 51 Wine Café
Mews Restaurant
Nash 19
Pilgrim’s Restaurant

County Louth
MacGuinness Wine Merchants
MaGee’s Bistro
McGeough’s Bar & Restaurant
The Windsor Bar & Restaurant

Dublin
Avoca Foodhall
Baggot Street Wines
Blackrock Cellar
Brioche Restaurant
Catch 22
Cavern on Baggot Street
China Sichuan
Clontarf Wines
Donnybrook Fair, Baggot Street
Donnybrook Fair, Malahide
Donnybrook Fair, Stillorgan
Ely Wine Bar
Etto
Fallon & Byrne
Green Man Wines
La Cocotte Café
Liston’s Food Store
One Pico
Redmond’s of Ranelagh
Stanley’s Restaurant & Wine Bar
The Corkscrew

Galway
Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites

Kilkenny
Anocht Restaurant
Campagne
Le Caveau
The Grapevine
Zuni Restaurant

Kinsale
The Black Pig Wine Bar

Waterford
Cliff House Hotel
Worldwide Wines

Wicklow
Avoca


Press Release

LE CAVEAU ANNOUNCES REAL WINE MONTH IRELAND: APRIL  2016

Real Wine Month is an exciting, innovative promotion of artisan wines which have been produced sustainably by organic, biodynamic viticulture and low intervention (a.k.a. ‘natural’) winemaking. It is being run across Ireland and the United Kingdom by specialist importers Le Caveau (Ireland) and Les Caves de Pyrène (United Kingdom). 

From 4th-30th April, selected wines will be poured by the glass or featured on wine lists,  in tastings and themed events in over 200 restaurants, independent retailers and wine clubs across the U.K. and over 50 in Ireland. 

This, the third Real Wine Month in Ireland, is shaping up to be the best yet. From pubs, bars and bistros to Michelin-starred establishments, to independent retailers and wine clubs, we have seen increasing interest in the quality, authenticity and diversity of these small-scale, artisanal wines. 

Through participating restaurants and retailers, the promotion represents a great opportunity for wine-drinkers to taste and explore a diversity of wines that are not mass-distributed due to small-scale production, or indeed are in short supply due to global demand particularly from cities like New York, San Francisco, London and Paris.   

In the On-Trade 

Look out for Real Wine Month wine specials by the glass and carafe on blackboards, wine lists and table cards. Some restaurants and wine bars are also holding themed events and wine dinners

In the Off-Trade

Look out for posters and neck tags highlighting organic, biodynamic and natural wines in participating independent wine shops. Many are organising themed events and tasting evenings to highlight the wines. 

This is the third year that Le Caveau have brought this promotion to Ireland and it continues to go from strength to strength. This year, the company will host two separate tastings for press and trade which will focus on an ever-expanding portfolio of organic, biodynamic and natural wines (Drury Buildings, Dublin 2 on 12th April and L’Atitude 51, Cork on 14th April). 

Pascal Rossignol, Managing Director of Le Caveau points out that ” I believe that this promotion is important for the industry here in Ireland as it gives those restaurants and indie retailers who are focused on delivering interesting, authentic wines to their customers a rallying point, rather than focusing on wine as solely a vehicle for profit at any cost. Furthermore, our experience is that there is a cohort of wine-drinkers out there who are bored with wines that are well enough made, but simply taste like they were all made in the same place. Real Wine Month gives them a wonderful opportunity to find places where they can taste and explore an exciting and diverse range of wines to which they might not otherwise have easy access.” 

List of participants in Ireland
List of events in Ireland 
List of growers participating in portfolio tastings

 

Website & Social Media

www.realwinefair.com
https://www.facebook.com/RealWineFair
https://twitter.com/realwinefair@RealWineFair
https://www.instagram.com/realwinefair/

www.lecaveau.ie
@lecaveau1
#RealWine

Rose Wine

Some Valentine’s Day Sparkling Rosés

This post originally appeared on TheTaste.ie


I think many people are unduly harsh about Valentine’s Day; where others see a day where they’re ‘forced’ to jump through hoops, I simply see another excuse to enjoy myself. Think about it: what are the clichéd components on Valentine’s Day? Posh chocolates, flowers, a nice meal and some good wine, all shared with your loved one … if you find cause to dislike any of the above then I think you’re missing out on one of life’s pleasures.

And yes, it’s been over-commercialised, but what hasn’t been nowadays? As Alfred Wainwright famously said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” So change your mind-set about Valentine’s Day: grab someone you love (whether romantically or platonically), pick up one of the delicious bottles of wine below, put together some gorgeous food, and enjoy the fact that you’ve been given another excuse to experience some of the finer things in life.

 

Jacob's Creek Sparkling RoseJacob’s Creek Sparkling Rosé

RSP €18.49, but currently on offer in O’Brien’s Wines for €17

I’ll readily admit that, in my early years in the wine trade, I ensured that I volubly turned my nose up at Jacob’s Creek in order to reassert the fact that I was now a wine professional.

However, when I actually tasted the stuff I was surprised – then delighted – to find that it’s actually quite tasty stuff. Not complex, not life-changing, but very tasty and quite enjoyable indeed. It has simple strawberry and cranberry flavours, nice lively bubbles and a touch of sweetness to help it all slide down easily.

If you’re just looking for enjoyable pink fizz, then you can’t go wrong with this old reliable.

 

Graham Beck Vintage Brut RoseGraham Beck Vintage Sparkling Rosé
RSP €29.99 from The Corkscrew, Dublin; WineOnline.ie; and other good independent off-licences nationwide.
Currently on offer for €24.95 from Mitchell & Sons, Dublin

South African winery Graham Beck is famous for their sparkling wines, with the company’s efforts often being held up as the very definition of the Methode Cap Classique, South Africa’s version of the traditional Champagne method.

Their regular Graham Beck Sparkling Brut has been enjoyed by Nelson Mandela, Barak Obama, Prince Harry, and Bono, amongst many others and here they apply the same care and attention to a single-vintage rosé which has been lauded by critics worldwide.

This is basically rosé Champagne in everything but name: made with two of the traditional Champagne grapes – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – it’s produced via the traditional Champagne method and has the typically light yeasty aromas and creamy complexity with strawberry pastry all the way to the long finish. A very fine example of the style.

 

Devaux RoseDevaux Cuvée Rosé

RSP €59.99 from Fallon & Byrne; Clontarf Wines; Thomas’s of Foxrock; Terroirs, Donnybrook; WineOnLine.ie; and Miller and Cook, Mullingar

If you’d like to impress your loved one with a slightly more obscure Champagne, this rosé offering from a lesser-known Champagne House is a must, especially when it over-delivers on flavour given the price.

Expect strawberries and raspberries of course but I got lots of hazelnuts and white pepper from this very delicate wine too, a richness that belies Devaux’s location at the region’s sunnier southern location. A really fine treat and a rare find.

 

Bollinger Rose╠üBollinger Rosé

RSP €85 from O’Brien’s Wines, nationwide; Fresh Supermarkets, Dublin: Joyce’s of Galway; Ardkeen Superstores, Waterford; and other good independents nationwide.
Currently on offer from Mitchell & Sons for €65.95.

When all the stops are being pulled out, then really you need look no further than Bollinger Rosé. Like Devaux above, Bollinger are proud of and famous for their Pinot Noir, using a substantial proportion of it in all of their Champagnes which gives them that distinctive Bollinger body and character.

But it wasn’t until 2008 that Bollinger decided to create the Rosé to let their Pinot shine more brightly, and it’s a wonder why they waited so long. It has a distinctive, deep strawberries-and-cream flavour topped with cinnamon and spice. Really, this can’t but be enjoyed with the most decadent, fine foods, like oyster, scallops and even red meats delicately done, such as beef carpaccio.

The Australian Wine Fair 2016

Our Antipodean adventures continue.

Tomorrow – conveniently the day after Australia Day – there will be an Australian wine fair in the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, which really can’t be missed.

The details?

2016 Wine Australia Consumer Tasting
When: Wednesday 27th January 2016
Time: 6.30pm to 8.30pm

Where: The Gallagher Gallery of the Royal Hibernian Academy
How Much: €15
Tickets: click here to buy! 

By gosh, there will be so many delicious wine on offer – if you can get there at 6.30pm on the button as 2 hours simply won’t be enough to get through all the amazing producers, amongst whom will be:

Kirrihill; McGuigan; Yellow Tail; Yalumba; Vasse Felix; Peter Lehmann Wines; Lisa McGuigan; d’Arenberg; De Bortoli; Deakin Estate; Katnook Estate; Kelly’s Patch; Thompson Estate; Howard Park; Kangarilla Road; Route du Van Wines; Woodlands Wines; WD Wines; Wirra Wirra; Penfolds; Wynns; Wolf Blass; Coldstream Hills; Beelgara; Moss Brothers; Pepperton Estate; Riddoch Run; Cumulus…

I personally can’t wait to be there, and encourage anyone with an interest in wine in general to make it their business to be there. Sure what else would you be doing on a wet Wednesday night?!

Low- and Non-Alcoholic Drinks for January

How are those new year’s resolutions coming along? Mmm hmm, I thought so. Most people seem to go cold turkey come January 1st, which is precisely the wrong thing to do given this is perhaps the most important month to be kind to yourself, what with the come-down from the holidays and the greyness and all.

So a gentle easing back into a healthy routine punctuated by small treats will yield a far more successful outcome as far as a ‘new year new you’ is concerned, in my opinion. Below is a piece I have on TheTaste.ie at the moment giving a few low- and de-alcoholised drinks suggestions, plus some nice soft drink alternatives, that will help bridge the gap from the excesses of Christmas.

 


 

Ah yes, January, the month we must all atone for the gluttonous sins committed during the festive season. Going ‘cold turkey’ is exactly the wrong way to do things though, and you’re better off cutting back than cutting out. To help, below are some drinks options that have little or no alcohol to ease the transition back to a more moderate lifestyle.

 

botelleria torres, natureo blancTorres Natureo
€7.99 and widely available

Yes, I featured the famous Natureo last year too, but I’ve no problem recommending it again as it is – in my opinion – the best de-alcoholised wine out there.

“De-alcoholised” may be a mouthful but they can’t legally call it non-alcoholic wine as there’s technically still 0.5% alcohol remaining (which is impossible to remove) but that amount is so tiny that you would need to drink three full bottles in under an hour to reach the same alcohol as one regular glass of wine!

When served well chilled it’s flavoursome and refreshing, and the ideal alternative if you’re finding it hard to put away the wine glasses for a while. What’s more at only 41 calories per 187ml glass (a quarter bottle) it’s less than half that of full-alcohol wine. Result!

 

Stonewell Tobairi╠ün CiderStonewell Tobairín Cider
€3.99-€4.69 in Baggot Street Wines, Ardkeen Waterford, and other good indies

The word ‘craft’ has been somewhat over-used at this point, but it’s always refreshing to come across a brand that so thoroughly deserves it.

Based in Kinsale, Co. Cork, Stonewell is run by husband-and-wife team Daniel & Geralding Emerson, who source their apples from orchards across Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Geraldine is from the Loire in France and comes from a winemaking family, which may go some way to explaining the use of naturally cultured Champagne yeast in the fermentation which gives Stonewell ciders their distinctive character.

Though their range is relatively small with just three ciders, you can feel the enormous thought and effort that has gone into the brand as soon as you pick up one of their bottles – truly a ‘craft’ outfit.

Tobairín (meaning ‘small well’) is their low alcohol cider made from fermented Elstar eating apples blended with fresh Jonagored juice, bringing the alcohol level to just 1.50%. Don’t just drink it as a low-alcohol alternative; why not try it as a drink in its own right paired with some pulled pork or quiche Lorraine.

 

Black Tower “B Secco” Rosé
€5.00 in supermarkets

“B” is Black Tower’s low-alcohol range, with a red, white and rosé available at a reduced 5.5% ABV and with lower calories to boot. They’ve been so popular that last year Black Tower released two “B Secco” additions, essentially semi-sparkling (i.e. frizzante) versions of their white and rosé “B” wines.

The B Secco Rosé is very soft and easy-drinking with lots of sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit, giving a no-nonsense drink made for socialising that’s great value too.

 

Ikea Dryck Bubbel Päron (Sparkling Pear Drink)
€2.49 in Ikea

Maybe a little left-field, but I had this recently and was pleasantly surprised. OK, it’s an Ikea drink so it’s not going to knock your socks off, but it was much less sweet than anticipated, a downside to most commercial sparkling juice options such as Shloer.

There’s 19% pear juice in it along with 10% apple juice (making it a “Sparkling Pear & Apple Drink” surely?) with the result being a very refreshingly simple sipper. Just don’t be tempted to add some of Ikea’s cinnamon buns to your shopping basket while you’re there.

 

M&S Apple JuiceMarks & Spencer Sparkling Normandy Apple Juice
€3.49 from Marks & Spencer

I featured the Sparkling Normandy Apple & Pear Juice this time last year and would still highly rate it, but for a change there’s also Marks & Sparks’ straight Sparkling Normandy Apple drink that offers a more crisp and lively option.

It’s a bit more linear and subtle to the Sparkling Apple & Pear variant, as well as being more fresh and zingy, given the absence of the softening aspect of the pear juice. The result is something very refreshing and moreish and perfect for wetting your whistle this January; and nicely packaged it is too.