Although the New Year is only hours away, there is still time for some last-minute drink shopping. The recent bad weather and the consequent reluctance of some online retailers to take orders for Scotland has encouraged us to think local. Where better to start, then, than with that treasure trove of wine, Rhymers Fayre in Abbey Street, Melrose?
This is naturally the time for bubbles and Ian Gribbin at Rhymers Fayre reckons that he has a light and crisp Italian fizz that is just perfect – Santa Margherita Prosecco Brut (£11.99). This really is top of the range Prosecco with delicate floral flavours of peach and acacia and a really appealing freshness, and is a million miles ahead of everyday High Street Prosecco. If, however, only champagne will fit the bill, then Ian recommends the stylish Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale Brut NV (£26.99) with its zippy lemon fresh flavours yet elegant richness. Its superb balance probably owes much to the mathematical symmetry of the blend (practically one third each of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay) and many commentators put the resulting cuvee ahead of brands costing £10 or more.
Local supermarkets, however, can also muster a presentable champagne or two. Consider, for example, my pick of the standard own label champagnes – Tesco Finest Vintage Champagne 2004 (£24.99). It combines the rich, toasty touches of vintage champagne with lively citrus-based acidity. Similarly, for a good offer on splendid non-vintage champagne drop into the Co-op for the light, balanced and slightly nutty Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV, right, which they have reduced from £26.66 to £17.77 until 4 January.
Although the quality of champagne below £15 varies enormously, I can unhesitatingly recommend Champagne Veuve Monsigny Brut (£9.99 at Aldi), right, as a reliable, crisp and rounded entry point version. It is a blanc de noir (i.e. one that uses only black grapes whereas blanc de blanc involves exclusively Chardonnay and others mix the two).
If you want sparkling wine rather than champagne, then how about the fresh and racy Cava Prestige Brut (down from £7.99 to two for £12 at M&S until 31 December)? This cava is made for M&S by the prestigious Freixenet outfit and has really appealing apple-centred acidity that you can detect almost as soon as the cork goes pop.
Away from the world of fizz, there are a couple of other excellent wine deals. For those of you that enjoy New World chardonnay with a bit a lemony zing and soft, creamy texture make sure your shopping list includes Casillero Del Diablo Limari Chardonnay which is reduced from £7.49 to £4.99 in Morrisons until 2 January. Equally, for an excellent value red, head off to Asda for Rigal The Original Malbec 2009 (down from £7.67 to £5 until into the New Year), right. This is a soft and chewy red with deep cherry and plum fruit topped off by a hint of cinnamon. It successfully makes the statement that Malbec’s French homeland still makes a decent bottle or two despite all the recent success Argentina has had with the grape.