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A SPARKLING PERFORMANCE; Liquid news.

YEAR in, year out, we all have our favourite blue-chip labels but the grand marques in Champagne love to impress us with a special vintage or limited release from time to time.

To tap into our thirst for one of France's greatest exports, here are some brilliant bubbles to charm a loved one.

Canard-Duchene Authentic Green, PS28, Oddbins: One of Champagne's most beautiful vineyards in the Montagne de Reims region, Canard-Duchene's first organic champagne offers tipplers the chance to raise a glass to Mother Nature. Awarded an eco-trophy by the Montagne de Reims National Park for its wine-making facilities at Ludes, its organically certified cuvee is a blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot meunier and a top up of pinot noir. Exceptionally fresh with aromas of citrus and honey, a delicate fruity palate and good acidity, these fine bubbles are the green light for discerning drinkers to salute responsible viticulture.

Taittinger Vintage 2005, PS38, Majestic: Founded in 1931, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger is the latest family member to run this illustrious house, and his daughter, Vitalie, cites the 2005 vintage among her favourites. There's no doubting the prestige cuvee Comtes de Champagne is the jewel in the crown, but this latest release is made exclusively from grand cru grapes and is a 50/50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir.

Rich and sumptuous with aromas of freshly baked brioche, and mouth-filling honey and fresh fruits with a hint of pink grapefruit to give some extra complexity, it's a trophy choice from this hot and dry year.

Ayala Millesime Brut 2002, PS42.95, www.champagnedirect.co.uk: A stunning sparkler for champagne connoisseurs fond of a dryer style, Ayala has a real corker with its 2002 vintage.

This grande marque house once supplied the Palace, and according to the late Queen Mother, it was the favourite champers of George VI.

Bought by Bollinger in 2005, Ayala produces a Brut Zero Dosage (sugarless champagne) which goes beautifully with shellfish, but this 2002 has the richness, body and weight to accompany an entire meal.

Pinot noir dominant with chardonnay for finesse and minerality, there's brioche and chestnuts on the nose with a deep, rich palate and impressive structure. Gosset Grand Millesime 2004, PS59.95, www.champagnedirect.co.uk With its claim to fame as the oldest wine house in Champagne, Gosset made its sparkling debut in the late 17th century and this old-style champagne marries delicacy with strength.

The Grande Millesime 2004 is 55% chardonnay and 45% pinot noir, and this tour de force from chef de cave Jean-Pierre Mareigner is built to last.

Exuberant on the nose with nuts, dried fruit and citrus notes, complex fruity flavours and a honeyed floral note with a hint of marzipan on the long finish, its finesse and complexity will age gracefully. Fit for a king or queen.

Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blancs 2002, PS70, www.bbr.com Winston Churchill's champagne of choice, Pol Roger named one of its cuvees after the great man, who loved its robust and mature style.

A tribute to his fine taste, who's to say this loyal devotee would not have been seduced by the beguiling flavours of Blanc de Blancs 2002?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Feb 1, 2013
Words:530
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