New Year New Booze—

As 2018 draws to a close and we welcome in the New Year, some of us will be welcoming it with open arms and others kicking and screaming and throwing a tantrum because we don’t want 2018 to end… That may be because it’s been wonderful, or for the fear that 2019 is going to be even worse. Either way, whether you are planning on raising a glass or two to celebrate or drowning your sorrows, you may as well do it properly!

Deciding what to drink on the biggest party night of the year can be a daunting task. Admittedly some years ago I found it much easier as I would tend to opt for a crate of terrible but cheap lager and before I was even technically old enough to drink (whoops) it was easier still, as it would be whatever the nice man who lingered outside the local Londis would buy for me. Nowadays though, it’s a little more difficult. Damned discerning drinking!

So, being a handy boozer to know, I thought I may be able to help… or hinder…

One thing is certain: New Year’s Eve would not be right without a drop of fizz! There is surely no other way to bring in the New Year than drunk as a (responsible) skunk, trying to open another bottle of bubbly in a rather panicked way, while Jools Holland counts you in, just in time for it to explode all over the living room and drench granny, who fell asleep at 9:25pm. If only for Granny’s benefit, it’s well worth drinking something decent. First impressions count after all and 2019 is less likely to be kind to you if you haven’t welcomed it into your home with a glass of something fizzalicious.

Depending on how many you are catering for, I tend to suggest sticking to either cheap but very tasty party fizz or something really special, delicious and indulgent.

 

For bargain bubbles of brilliance, you really ought to go for Cava. Many folks very unfairly consider Cava as Prosecco’s boring sibling – Not flash, not that fun, not very interesting and a downer on the party. Nowadays though this image couldn’t be further from the truth. If it’s value that you are after and if you are prepared to spend around £12 you can find some truly delicious, often biscuity, full-flavoured and fun Cava, which will bring a dash of Spanish pizzazz to the occasion. A good Cava can satisfy the Champagne lover and the Prosecco glugger alike and all for serious bang-for-buck!

If you are having a quiet one (or feeling especially/uncharacteristically generous) then you really ought to drink something which is a real treat. Champagne would have been the obvious one for years but I will personally be enjoying a top English fizz. For those of you who don’t know, English Sparkling Wine, in the last few years, has become a very tasty beverage. The best are made from the same trio of grapes used for Champagne and made using the same production method too, yet for £30 you can find some truly excellent, boutique and special English sparkling, whereas you might be looking at big-brand brut NV Champagne. If I were you, I would bring in the New Year with a glass of something English. Look out for the likes of Ridgeview, Camel Valley, Hambledon and Nyetimber. There are many more wonderful producers. In fact, if you haven’t yet gotten on the English Sparkling bandwagon then you ought to make exploring the wonderful wines of blighty your New Year’s resolution! It’s never too late to get on board and see what the fuss is all about!

I’m a lover of beer. In fact part of my day job at The Wine Society involves buying the range of beers, which is a total, utter pleasure. After all, the one thing I fancy after a wine tasting is a beer! The country is awash with brilliant brews so if you’re willing to mix things up a little then why not make it a Brew Year’s Eve and drink a few “crispy bois”.

Winter is the best time of year for dark beers and I for one thoroughly enjoy a Porter or a Stout. I’ve already bought myself a few bottles of The Brother Sean Belgian Stout from London’s Anspach & Hobday Brewery, which is well worth a try. It’s silky, smooth, chocolate notes make it a very easy drinker and winter warmer.

If you fancy staying away from the dark side and would like to move towards the light, Burning Sky Brewery, of Sussex, are making perhaps the best saisons in the country. What’s excellent, too, is that both The Brother Sean and many of Burning Sky’s delicious beers come in 75cl Champagne bottles, making them excellent for sharing (and even better for not sharing!).

Sometimes though it’s something as simple as finding a decent red and a decent white which causes the most stress. There is something really fun about finding wines which are exceptionally drinkable yet a little out of the ordinary! In the best cases they make for a conversation starter and in the worst cases they are at least thoroughly enjoyed. If you are a real nightmare person to be around, you can have great fun boring the pants off your guests by trying to make them blind taste the wine and guess the grape. Don’t be that person.

 

Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s greatest white wine export and if you are willing to spend around £12 a bottle you can find some truly delicious examples. Most commonly, it’s a crisp, dry white wine which has zingy freshness, succulent lime and peach fruit and just a twist of mouth-watering white pepper on the finish. It lends itself wonderfully to pairing with all manner of nibbles but crucially is delicious on its own. If you buy decent GV, then it’ worth trying your best to keep hold of a couple of bottles for 2 or 3 years, as good examples have an amazing ability to age. I am currently drinking a delicious grü which is from 2015 while writing this (likely explains a lot) and I enjoyed a stunningly gorgeous 2012 GV from a wonderful winery called Jurtschitsch the other night. Both would have cost around £16 at the time of buying! You’re hard-pressed to find many white wines at that sort of price which offer both immediate drinkability and ageability at that price from elsewhere! For zippy, crisp examples look out for wines from Rainer Wess and for a richer, more fruity style, Bernhard Ott is the guy. It’s well worth dipping your toe in the GV water!

It’ll be red wine from Greece for me this NYE. Apostolos Thymiopoulos is arguably the most exciting winemaker in Greece at the moment and he makes wonderful wines from the Xinomavro grape. If you like decent Burgundy but fancy a change then look out for his Rapsani. It’s a little fuller-bodied than Pinot Noir but every bit as magical

Frankly, if all else fails, a double Gin & Tonic and a decent boogie should do the trick!

In his day job, Freddy buys wine for The Wine Society, the world’s oldest wine club, where he specialises in wines from Eastern Europe, Austria, England, Australia and New Zealand. When he isn’t wearing his wine hat, he has his beer hat on instead, travelling the UK visiting and working with some of the country’s best craft breweries.
Freddy grew up in North Yorkshire and is now based in Hertfordshire where he enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic fireside snuggles and making up pretend pastimes for biographies.
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