Make New Years Eve 2021 really Sparkle!
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
New Year's Eve is party time. So, what celebratory and fun drinks to serve to take everyone away from gloomy news stories, and get them in an optimistic "can do" mood for 2022?
Champagne and sparkling wine is an obvious choice, and I have written lots about my favourite and best value fizzes before Christmas, but for 2022 why not try some of the wonderful sparkling wines we are now making in England and Wales?
One of my favourites is made by Henry Laithwaite, son of Tony who founded Laithwaites, his excellent sparkling wine is called "Harrow and Hope".
why not try some of the wonderful sparkling wines we are now making in England
First made in 2013 and released in 2016, Harrow and Hope is grown on the flinty, chalky soils of the Chilterns at Marlow, overlooking the Thames valley. Traditionally made with the three great grape varietals, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meurnier, they make four exceptional English Sparkling wines, which have won lots of prizes and acclaim. Blanc de Blancs 2017, Brut Reserve No6 a blend based on all three varietals and the 2017 vintage, but with careful use of reserve wines.
Laithwaites also make the excellent Sparkling wine made in Windsor Great Park. Vines were first planted in Windsor Great Park during the reign of Henry II. In 2011 Tony Laithwaite was given the opportunity by Prince Phillip, since 1952 the then head park warden or Ranger, to select a prime site, south facing down to a lake, protected by ancient trees, and now 3 hectares planted with the three classic Champagne varietals.
The wines are extremely good, bright crisp ripe apple and white blossom aromas, lovely elegance and balance of fruit and freshness, with some bready yeastiness.
These wines are good to drink now, but in my view will be even better with a year or two more in bottle. The biggest problem is that demand is such locally, that the annual release dissappears quickly! Laithwaites have only the Brut Rose for £49.99 left, but we expect a new release this spring. The English Wine Collection still have the Windsor Great Park Sparkling White 2016 for £38, on-line.
The other New Years party trick is to make Champagne cocktails. For this, I would use a good sparkling wine, but probably nothing too expensive. Prosecco also works well.
In Majestic they currently have the amazing Chanoine Freres Reserve Privee Champagne for just £19.99 (50% off!). Plus, you can order and collect in as little as 4 hours meaning you'll have it in time for when clock strikes midnight!
The simplest "Champagne" cocktail, is to place a sugar cube in the bottom of each glass, splash two dashes of Angostura Bitters onto the cube, plus a decent splash of cognac, then top up with chilled sparkling wine. Add a garnish of a thin twist of orange peel.
Be careful not to make your cocktails too strong - it can be a long evening!
Other fun drinks with sparkling wine are Kir Royale, classically a little cassis topped up with Champagne or Sparkling Wine. If you don't have Cassis, you can cheat as a little Ribena with a little brandy works well!
Sloe Gin topped up with fizz is also great fun, some call this cocktail a Sloegasm!
If you have Prosecco, the classic from Venice is the Bellini Cocktail, freshly squeezed peach juice topped up with chilled Prosecco, delicious, refreshing and not too alcoholic.
Then of course there are the classic spirit-based cocktails, various Martinis with either gin or vodka, and Caribbean Rum based drinks.
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Be careful not to make your cocktails too strong, it can be a long evening!
We wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.
Christopher Burr, MW,
29th December 2021