What to drink this week
If you need an excuse to drink Champagne, Christmas certainly qualifies, enthuses Harry Eyres
Not to be confused with the elm-leaf beetle, this small, brown stocky insect has a lot to answer for, namely the annihilation of once common elm trees. Females bore into the tree, where they lay eggs in channels they’ve chewed between the bark and the hard wood, allowing the fungal spores that beetles carry to enter and infect the majestic elm. Simon Lester At the family home in the Chilterns where I spent almost all my festive breaks until 2013, the serious business of Christmas—the eating and drinking part—was announced by the popping of a Champagne cork. This tended to be something rather good—taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs or Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame—because my wine-merchant father, although an atheist, had a quasireligious belief in good bubbly.
Why you should be drinking it
There doesn’t really need to be an excuse to drink Champagne, but Christmas, when all the joys and sometimes tensions of a family come together, is certainly a good one. Prices this year, especially if you go up a notch or so from standard non-vintage, look remarkably—and perhaps unrepeatably—good.
What to drink
Those sharp-eyed and -nosed buyers at From Vineyards Direct have come up with a winner in the form of Champagne Ruffin et Fils Cuvée de Réserve (£19.95; www.fromvineyardsdirect. com). This 70% Pinot Meunier grower’s Champagne makes a positive, bold impression; it’s expressive on the nose and full-bodied on the palate as well as being great value. Two of the best larger retailers, Waitrose and Majestic, have managed to source excellent vintage Champagne at nonvintage prices. Waitrose Brut Special Réserve Vintage 2005 (right, £24.99; www.waitrose.com) is a beautiful, mature bottle with lots of Chardonnay florality and great length—well worth the extra outlay. Heidsieck & Co Gold Top Monopole 2009 (£25.99 or £19.99 if you mix six; www.majestic.co.uk) is extremely ripe on the nose and full-bodied with long, satisfying freshness. For multi-vintage complexity, go for Jacquesson Cuvée 739 (£45; www.bbr.com).