Wine: Let's get fizzical

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Time was when the words "le beaujolais nouveau est arriv" set off a pitter patter of eager feet towards the shelves of wine merchants and supermarkets around the country. The true meaning of the phenomenon of this anorexic mid-November plonk was that it set off an early starter's gun for the Christmas rush to stock up on drink. Since beaujolais nouveau became old hat, however, and with the new arrival of the New World early bird, supermarkets and high street chains have been forced to devise alternative strategies to get us through the doors at this time of year. The month of December is critical for a wine retailer's annual balance, and with the competition reaching fever pitch, the new battle for our hearts, minds and glasses will be fought over bubbles.

To kick off the bubblefest, Marks & Spencer has lopped 10 off the Union Champagne's mature 1996 Cuve Orpale Grand Cru (previously 39.99) and a fiver off most of their champagne range for the entire month. It doesn't take a genius to work out that the best buys here are the good quality champagnes that start out cheapest. In that category I would put (after knocking the fiver off) the stylish Ayala Brut, 17.99 and Saint Gall Blanc de Blancs, 16.99, the truly sumptuous vintage 2002 Saint Gall Grand Cru, 19.99, and, for elegantly dry sophistication, the grower's champagne, Tarlant Brut Zero, 19.99. Majestic too has some worthwhile cuts, most notably 10 off the creamy rich Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, which comes in at 19.99, a 30 cut in James Bond's thoroughly classy 1999 Bollinger Grande Anne, and 44 off the immensely seductive 1998 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, making it an almost affordable luxury at 65.99.

If you haven't cottoned on yet to the Threshers deal, everything on a three-for-the-price-of-two basis makes a lot of sense at a time when you need to stock up. In the case of bubbly, that means a third off its Bollinger Special Cuve Brut to bring it down to 26.66. Waitrose is usually among the best for sparkling offers, and this month, until 11 December, it has 25 per cent off its excellent Bredon Brut NV, down from 14.79 to 10.99 and Taittinger Brut Rserve NV, making it 21.74, while after the 11th, 7.50 off Duval-Leroy Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru NV, reduces it to 13.99. Tesco's deals are also split across the month. If you get to the store before Tuesday, you can still pick up the fabulous 2003 Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave with a fiver off at 21.99, while until Tuesday, Sainsbury's has a hard-to-beat 8 off Piper Heidsieck Champagne NV, down from 22.99 to 14.99.

If you're looking for cheaper fizz for parties, cava is often a good bet. For December Codorniu Vintage Brut Cava and Codorniu Vintage Ros Cava are half-price at Tesco at 4.99, while Sainsbury's too has good deals on Codorniu. For cheap and cheerful, the respectable Vineyard X Cava comes down from 5.33 to 3.99 when you buy three at Threshers. Good discounts are not all about fizz though, and there are some other pretty good wine offers worth looking into. Among them, www.marksandspencer.com has a number of different chablis in 6-packs, with the excellent 2006 Jean-Marc Brocard at 56.50 a half case along with an opulent Pouilly-Fuiss lookalike in the 2006 Macon-Davay, Les Belouzes, from Domaine des Maillettes at 45.50 a half case. Taylor's nuts and raisins 10-Year Old Tawny Port is down from 12.99 to 9.99, Marks & Spencer, and for the extremely sweet of tooth, the viscously marmaladey Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, is down 1 to 7.49, Waitrose. For more great offers and the best Christmas wines, tune into our 50 Best Wines in two weeks' time.

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