Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2012 (£96,10, hedonism.co.uk) Over the course of this year – or so I’ve been told by numerous wine merchants – many of us have been spending what we would have spent on big nights out on special food and drink to have at home. On New Year’s Eve, then, it’s likely many of us will be putting funds saved from not going to that overpriced and unsatisfying meal in that overcrowded restaurant or ticketed pub (look, I’m trying to look on the bright side) towards a smart bottle of fizz. Champagne, still the definition of fine sparkling wine for the majority of wine drinkers, is likely to be the biggest beneficiary at the end of a year that has not been at all kind for producers in the French region. And for a real treat, there are some outstanding wines from some of the region’s greatest ever vintages around at the moment. Look out for the 2008s and, in the case of the pristine, luminous, graceful all-chardonnay from the small house of Bruno Paillard, the classically styled 2012s.
Domaine de Veilloux Crémant de Loire (£26, buonvino.co.uk) A little more accessible in price but staying in Champagne, Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV never disappoints: with its trademark balance of richness and verve, it’s consistently one of my favourites of the big name non-vintage wines, and with 25% off at Waitrose until the New Year, it comes in at a very reasonable (for top-flight champagne) £36. For a lesser-known name, I was impressed by the combination of depth and nerve in grower-producer Laherte & Frères Ultratradition Brut NV (from £29, thewinesociety.com; woodwinters.com). Outside the hallowed northeastern region, French sparkling wine has improved markedly in recent years. Languedoc’s elevated cool-climate enclave of Limoux is a consistently superb source of bottle-fermented wines at reasonable prices, with Château Martinolles Crémant de Limoux Rosé Brut NV (£15.95, jeroboams.co.uk) a sleekly stylish subtly berry-scented example. Further north, in the Loire Valley, Domaine de Veilloux’s small-production, biodynamic chardonnay fizz is gorgeously, intensely bright, lively, yet fine-textured.
Vaux Cuvée Vaux Sekt Brut, Pfalz, Germany 2016 (£16.70, jascots.co.uk) Beyond France, the UK’s sparkling scene deserves much of the praise that’s been heaped on it in recent years, with several new entrants giving the more established names a run for their devalued pound. New (to me) this year were the prize-winning Roebuck Estates and the latest releases from the Rathfinney project, both in Sussex, although the English sparkler I enjoyed most this year was on old bottle of the original top English fizz, Nyetimber Classic Cuvée, I’d been saving up for a special occasion (in this case, more of a consolation during the height of lockdown). You can buy the latest, impeccable blend direct from the winery for £36.99 (nyetimber.com). Most of us associate Germany with riesling, but recent years have seen winemakers make enormous strides with pinot noir reds and sparkling wines, and Vaux’s zippy, zesty, yet creamy example offers plenty of bang for buck on this most unusual of NYE’s.