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Time to enjoy a drop of bubbly; liquid news.

NOTHING signals a celebration like the sound of champagne corks popping, and New Year's Eve is a night you want to taste that gentle fizz more than ever. Whether it's before, or after the stroke of midnight, here are some brilliant bottles to sip with the chorus of good wishes, kisses and party streamers in the countdown to 2014.

The International Wine Challenge voted Marks & Spencer the toast of the town for its own-brand bubbles, and have awarded them four Silver medals for stellar sparklers like Charles Orban Blanc de Noirs NV, France (PS30, Marks & Spencer). Vigorous and rich, this stand-out champagne is made only from black grapes and the 50/50 blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier balances freshly baked bread aromas with a full and luscious mouthfeel, finishing with refreshing citrus fruits on the handsome finish.

Elsewhere on the high street, Asda's Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru NV, France (PS17.50 from PS19.75, Asda) also hit the right note with the judges and this gold medal winner is pinot noir dominant with just the right measure of chardonnay for some floral charm. Structured and elegant with toasted nuts and tropical fruit on the nose and a streak of minerality, these tiny beads of bubbles have a beautiful depth of flavour.

Surprisingly outstanding value is Selfridges Selection Esprit Brut NV, Henri Giraud, France (PS26.99 from PS29.99, www.selfridges.com), produced for Selfridges by Henri Giraud, owner of a string of vineyards making some of the finest wines in Champagne. His Esprit is 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay and this liquid gold is opulent and fresh with peachy fruit flavours, toasty vanilla notes, a powerful mouthfeel and a giant of a finish.

Lighter on its feet but just as classy, Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Champagne, France (PS24.99, Waitrose) is made from 100% chardonnay and has a beautiful, feminine nose with aromas of hazelnuts and brioche, a rich mouthfeel with pure, ripe fruit and a delicious softness on the finish.

Best Wine Merchant of the Year 2013, The Wine Society carefully vet their own-label vino and The Society's Champagne NV, France (PS29, www.thewinesociety.com) is everything you could ask for in an easy-drinking style. A classic blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, it's blessed with a generous bouquet of toasty nuts and yeast, a full and fruity palate with good acidity, and enough power and finesse to stand up to the occasion, the toasts, and the ubiquitous rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Brits, as the largest importer of champagne, have always had a thirst for vintage wines (grapes from a single year), which normally indicate an outstanding harvest and a designer price tag. However, if you fancy the rich rewards of grand cru grapes without the over-spending, some supermarket own-label vintages offer excellent value.

The Co-op scooped a gold medal for their The Co-operative Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne 2004, France (PS23.99 from PS26.99) and another gold medal winner was Sainsbury's Taste The Difference 1er Cru 2005 Vintage Champagne, France (PS25.99).
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Dec 20, 2013
Words:514
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