Wine: champagne always enhances an occasion

IT’S NICE to have a treat every now and then. Although many everyday buying decisions are based on price cuts – or what shouts at you from the chiller cabinet – who can resist a glance or three at those more expensive bottles? For those occasions when all that interesting stuff is just too tempting, here is my regular selection of really impressive special occasion wine.
M&S Caruso e Minini PerriconeM&S Caruso e Minini Perricone
M&S Caruso e Minini Perricone

And what special occasion wouldn’t be enhanced by a glass or two of champagne? Jacquart has recently introduced a new, top of the range version, and it is a stunner. Jacquart Alpha Cuvee 2005 (£71.56 at Exel Wines in Perth) gives brioche and mint on the nose supported by firm yeasty flavours. It also has a fascinating mousse – the bubbles seem to disappear quickly in the glass, but then burst back into life in the mouth, combining lively lemon acidity and a touch of apple with the flavour of lemon cream biscuits.

Champagne, of course, is forever associated with that clever old monk, Dom Pérignon, and the 2011 Torres Salmos Priorat (£18.49 from Waitrose Direct) also pays “homage” to a set of churchmen. These are the Carthusian monks who grew vines in this part of Catalonia as long ago as the 12th century. Today’s versions, like this example, tend to be dark, intense affairs with mellow, black cherry and bramble fruits married with silky chocolate flavours. Enjoy, then, this full-bodied red with firm tannins but elegantly polished by time spent in French oak barrels.

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Let’s stay with the Torres family, but switch to the founder’s granddaughter, Marimar, and her vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley. Her 2009 La Masia Pinot Noir (£31.72 from is a rich and smooth red, with a textured depth. It balances cherry and raspberry fruit with all-spice and cloves to give weighty but bright pinot.

Morrisons Gallo Moscato WineMorrisons Gallo Moscato Wine
Morrisons Gallo Moscato Wine

Heading south to Chile, where Concha Y Toro set the benchmark with the country’s first “ultra-premium” Carmenere. The bar is clearly being kept high with its 2009 Terrunyo Carmenere Block 27 (£15.73 at – a dark and powerful red wine. It matches mellow cherry and mulberry fruit with bell pepper, mint and mineral notes, and the inevitable chocolate finish. Stocks are limited, however, as the switch-over to the 2010 vintage begins.

Carmenere is making its mark with drinkers and another grape variety having an impact is Cabernet Franc. In the 2009 Pompois Anjou Rouge Nicolas Reau (£17.35 a bottle when you buy six at Exel Wines, Perth), Cabernet Franc is used to give a soft, smooth and light-bodied wine, with raspberry notes balanced against herbal and spicy vanilla tones.

When you’re spending that wee bit extra, opting for a well-known house often pays off. The 2010 Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Champ Gain (£42.99 at Vino Wines shops in and around Edinburgh) is a gorgeous pale straw colour, with toasty vanilla notes on the nose, balanced by rounded orange and peach scents. There is a perfect balance between fruit and acidity.

Our final luxury wine comes from New Zealand, where the 2012 Esk Valley Verdelho (£11.99 at the seven Ellies Cellar shops in Central Scotland) provides a full-flavoured yet light-bodied white, with orange on the nose giving way to clementines on the finish and a rich honeyed undertone. The acidity is fresh, but completely in balance delivering what, to me, is an absolute star.

2012 Caruso and Minini Perricone

Sicily, 14 per cent

A very unusual red with vibrantly bright raspberry, cherry and bramble fruit, good acidity and a lingering nutty but mocha-centred finish. Good “drink anytime” wine but, surprisingly for the region, the texture is light – although, less surprisingly, the alcohol is anything but.

£7.99 at M&S

2012 Gallo Family Vineyards Moscato

California, US, 8.5 per cent

The Muscat grape is popular in America at the moment and it’s easy to see why with examples such as this soft and light dessert wine, which avoids being cloyingly sweet and one-dimensional by harnessing refreshing lemon and sherbet touches to enliven its sweeter orange and peach notes.

£6.99 at Morrisons