Eating Out: Buy now while excuse lasts

COMING right up: New Year's Eve with a vengeance. New Year's Eve on steroids. The one-and-only, long-awaited Millennium. If you haven't already done your buying for the big occasion, put down that turkey sandwich and read on.

Research by various retail organisations indicates that over half of celebrants will be celebrating at someone's home, rather than at a restaurant. The low- key approach was confirmed in an NOP survey which found, as of 11 December, that 60 per cent of revellers hadn't made plans yet and only 7 per cent regarded the event as "very exciting".

I'm on the side of the 7 per cent. But that doesn't mean I plan to see in the New Year with a boiled egg, a cup of tea, and an early night. I expect to experience some degree of intoxication. And I know, in principle if not in detail, the sort of drink that will induce it: something expensive. You should follow suit - whatever the word expensive means to you. When you look back on the big M in 20 years' time, you should envy your former self for the glorious tinctures that coursed down your throat. On this occasion, trade up or you're letting yourself down.

I've decided to give recommendations in two price categories with two reds and two whites in each. All can be purchased without recourse to mail order. And since all will improve with age, why not buy one to drink now and one to keep?

pounds 10 AND ENVIRONS: Whites begin with Montes Alpha Chardonnay 1998 (around pounds 10 from Majestic, Wm Morrison, Harvey Nichols and elsewhere), a richly oaky, gorgeously full-flavoured cocktail of fruit from prime sites all over Chile. NB, it's on offer at Majestic at pounds 8.99. Then another New Worlder, Laguna Ranch Chardonnay 1996 (pounds 10.99, 85 Tesco stores), a generously oaked Sonoma wine in which butterscotch richness balances with lovely citrus. Bonterra Sangiovese 1998 (pounds 11.99, Oddbins), compulsively slurpable, each slurp rewarded with intense, sour-black-cherry fruit; huge concentration; ample finish. Chateau Reynella Basket Pressed Shiraz 1996, McLaren Vale (pounds 11.99, Waitrose and elsewhere), with exquisitely deep, complex flavours of spice and ripe berries; decanting (necessary) will wake it up in time for dinner.

pounds 15 TO pounds 20: Petaluma Chardonnay 1997, Piccadilly (pounds 14.99, Oddbins and Waitrose), one of the best examples of the grape I have tasted from Australia, a perfect assembly of opulent elements - peach and tropical fruit flavours, buttery oak - which somehow manages to be subtle and delicate in spite of its power. I'd love to taste this alongside Meursault 1994, Chateau de Meursault (pounds 17.99, Safeway, Unwins and Waitrose), equally opulent but in classic nutty style. For reds, I go first to Chateau Haut-Batailley 1996, Pauillac (pounds 19.99, Oddbins), from a selection that represents one of the few Bordeaux buys in the High Street at a sensible price. Light, structured, excellent. And too young, of course, but decant and give it time to grow in the glass. La Rioja Alta 1989, Gran Reserva (pounds 19.99, Majestic and Waitrose), by contrast, is mature, warmly oaky Rioja from a great producer, with complex balance found too rarely nowadays from this region. Utter delight.

FINALLY: three Champagne choices, all recommended in previous editions. Cheapest: Pol Roger 1990 (around pounds 35, Sainsbury's, Bottoms Up, Majestic, Oddbins), fantastically creamy and voluptuous. Majestic will let you have it for pounds 26.99 if you buy two. Middle-price: Bollinger 1990 (around pounds 42, widely available), one of the greatest wines of this great vintage. Absolute top whack: Noble Cuvee de Lanson 1988 (pounds 55.99, Thresher, Wine Rack). This is nutty, mellow, fully mature; ultimate sensuous luxury. If, for whatever reason, I didn't buy that, I would have Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1990 (pounds 67.99 from Oddbins or pounds 55.99 from Majestic, if you buy two). But be warned, Champagne stocks may be dangerously low at this late stage.

On a personal note, in case you're wondering, my own revels centre on a hotel in Brighton with various children in attendance. The scope for Bacchanalian excess will thus be limited. But I am going to take along a bottle of Champagne - either Krug Grande Cuvee (around pounds 65-70, widely available), the best and costliest non-vintage on earth, or Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1990 (pounds 54.99, Bottoms Up and Wine Rack).

That's it for 1999, folks. But to greet the New Year, my fellow devotees of the Bloody Mary should buy a bottle of good vodka. Cut the stem off one red chilli and score it with a sharp knife. Peel two cloves of garlic. Blanch all in boiling water, dry them, and pop into the bottle. Screw on the cap. Keep in the freezer till next week, when all will be revealed. Happy New Year.

Auld Lang Syne: if you don't know the single malts made at the Ardbeg distillery, you're missing out. Ardbeg 17-Year-Old (around pounds 30, widely available) is one of Islay's greatest hits. It is salty, malty, massively peaty, sweetly oaky and smoky. Earlier distillations (Ardbeg 1975 and Ardbeg 1978) are available from Oddbins for pounds 44.99 and pounds 36.39 respectively (and from specialist merchants as well). Whisky specialist Jim Murray calls anything before 1976 `a masterpiece'. Hint, hint.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor