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
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot