Toast The New Year With This Delicious, Fairly Priced Fizz

Wine editor MARY DOWEY selects the perfect CHAMPAGNE for NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS

Champagne Bénard-Pitois Brut Réserve Premier Cru NV

Yes, most of us have eaten and drunk too much already…but it wouldn’t seem right not to raise a glass to good fortune in 2018. Whether you’re planning a rollicking evening with friends or a quietly reflective one by the fire, champagne is the obvious choice – traditional, stylish and exhilarating. This one is a brilliant buy.

It reflects one of the most exciting trends in the champagne region: the rise to prominence of small, family producers whose wines are impressive enough to rival those of the famous grande marque houses in terms of quality. That’s not all. Because they spend much less on bling advertising than the big names, their champagnes tend to come at less eye-popping prices. In Ireland excellent non-vintage champagnes from small houses tend to sell at €35-45 compared with €50-65 for NVs from high-profile outfits.

Now run by the third generation, Bénard-Pitois makes flavoursome, full-bodied champagnes as you might guess from the blend for this one: 60 per cent Pinot Noir for structure and depth; 40 per cent Chardonnay for delicacy and elegance. The smooth, creamy texture is helped along by the use of oak barrels for a certain percentage of the base wines – an infrequent practice that is still prized by (among others) renowned Champagne Bollinger, based only a few kilometres away.

What I particularly like about Bénard-Pitois (and indeed Bollinger) is that, underneath generous notes of citrus, yellow apples, butter, toast and a hint of honey, you’ll find a refreshing, almost savoury finish. Sweetness is held deftly in check. And those flavours linger deliciously.

If you serve this bubbly as an apéritif, be sure to offer some canapés with it – maybe smoked salmon or cheese puffs. Or give it a longer opportunity to shine by serving it at dinner. It will hold its own with fish, poultry, veal, pork or middleweight vegetarian dishes, especially if any of these involve a creamy sauce and/or mushrooms.

I wish you a sparkling new year.

Alcohol: 12%

From Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin &, €36.95.


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