Bonfire Night might make members of the House fidget in their seats, but the idea of blowing up Parliament brings a little anarchic glee into our lives. There's nothing like a sparkler to get you in the mood for, er, sparklers, and if you don't want to push the boat out too far for Guy Fawkes, Marks & Spencer's Sparkling Burgundy NV, £11.99, will give you a biscuity, weighty fizz at an affordable price. Add a dash of Sainsbury's quintessence of cassis-like Taste the Difference Blackcurrant Liqueur, £8.99, 20cl, either to that or your favourite cheap cava, and there you have your very own grown-up Kir Royale.
For explosive luxury at a less than incendiary price, one of the top-value supermarket champagnes on the market is Asda's gold-medal winning 2002 Extra Special Vintage Champagne, £20.17, a nine-year-old blend with a briochey, toasty mousse of bubbles and a silky creaminess. If, before lighting the fire under the Guy, you like the idea of playing the patriotic card, you might give Sainsbury's 2007 Taste the Difference English Sparkling Brut, £19.99, a whirl for its vinosity and tangy Anglo-Saxon freshness. Or if you haven't already discovered this guy, the 2009 Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury from Sussex, £21.99, Waitrose, is a proudly stylish English blend with a rich, champagne-like mousse of bubbles and a lick of acidity.
Bonfire Night food (see Mark Hix's recipes on page 50) requires reds with autumnal warmth and spice, such as the dark-fruited, spice-scented southern French 2009 Domaine des Crès Ricards 'Alexaume' from Mont Baudile, £9.99, buy 2 = £7.99, Majestic. A notch up in power, Sainsbury's 2008 Taste the Difference Priorat, £9.99, delivers strawberry-jam fruit and grippy tannins all balanced by high-altitude, cool-climate crispness. If a red ever summed up autumn bonfires, the 2001 Rioja Reserva Especial 2001, Viña Ardanza, La Rioja Alta, £22, buy 2 = £17, Majestic, is it – a traditional rioja whose succulent, strawberryish fruit plays second-fiddle to the complex, smoky characters of maturity. Ratcheting the heat-factor up a notch, the 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition, Domaine Giraud, £26.75, Lea & Sandeman (020-7244 0522), brings young Rhône's typically muscle-bound spicy, juicy plum and raspberry fruit and peppery opulence.
Coming in from the cold, an electric blanket of sherry or port is what you need. Gonzalez Byass' Apostoles 30-Year-Old Palo Cortado, around £15.99, half-bottle, Waitrose, Berry Bros & Rudd (0800 280 2440), is just such a fortified – and fortifying – aged sherry, smoky caramel and coffee blending with a mild sweetness of dried apricot fruit and a nutty aftertaste. Also rich and warming yet elegantly dry, Sainsbury's bronze-hued Taste the Difference 12-Year-Old Oloroso, £7.99, in half-litre, displays toffeeish dried fruits and grilled nut and caramel complexity. As for port, there's warmth, sweetness and spice in abundance in Marks & Spencer's 2005 Late Bottled Vintage Port, £9.99, down from £12.99, a youthful port with a spicy aromatic quality, juicy dark-berry-fruit richness and concentrated treacle-toffee flavours.
Tawny devotees will warm to Ramos Pinto's fabulous 10-Year-Old Tawny Quinta de Ervamoira, £18.50, half-litre, Fortnums, slurp.co.uk, £32.95, bottle, Roberson (020-7371 2121), a complex port rich in liquid walnuts with an intensely nutty aftertaste. Light the blue touch paper...
The Wine Gang Christmas Fair 2011 ticket giveaway
The Wine Gang is five of the UK’s most respected wine critics: Anthony Rose of The Independent, Joanna Simon of House & Garden, Tom Cannavan of wine-pages.com, David Williams of The Observer and Jane Parkinson of janeparkinson.com.
For the third year running, they have put together an incredible all-day festival of wine in Edinburgh where you can taste from 300 wines priced £6 to £80, take part in a fun and a free wine walk conducted by the Gang, and meet and learn from our tutored masterclasses on Chablis, Chile, Portugal and Argentina.
This is Britain’s brightest, best and most relaxed wine event and is a fabulous chance to plan your wine drinking for Christmas and beyond. Many of the exhibitors at the fair will be offering exclusive discounts on the day, too.
We have three pairs of tickets to the event, including a masterclass of your choice (subject to availability) to give away (each of the three prize packages is worth £70). Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wine Gang Christmas Fair 2011, The Merchants Hall, Edinburgh; Sat 12 Nov; £20, early bird £15, optional tickets for each masterclass £15; ticketSOUP.com; 0844 481 8898.
The closing date for this offer is midnight, Friday November 4th 2011.