Finding Champagne bargains at this time calls for a toast, says Don Kavanagh.
There has been a lot of bubbly on the menu recently, which might seem strange in this cruel winter we're not enjoying. For most people, sparkling wine - especially Champagne - is something for warmer, more festive months. However, if you're a committed bubbles drinker now is a good time to be thinking about it.
With many new vintages about to be available, there are often some real bargains to be had at this time of the year.
I managed to find some utterly gorgeous Drappier Carte d'Or Champagne recently for less than $45 a bottle, which is ridiculously inexpensive considering the quality.
Similarly, I've noticed Hunter's great Mirumiru Marlborough sparkling for less than $30, and Cloudy Bay's Pelorus for a similar price.
I've raved on about the quality of New Zealand bubbles in the past, but I feel duty bound to point out some other fantastic drops I've tried recently.
Brown Brothers is probably best known here for its bright and breezy Zibibbo sparkling muscat. But its Patricia range of super-premium wines is divine, especially the sparkling version.
Deep and yeasty with Champagne-like aromas of brioche and warm apples, it's an effortlessly classy wine that has to be tried to be believed.
But there is no substitute for real Champagne, if only for the cachet that the name carries.
Wines from elsewhere might be as good, if not better, as wines, but the name Champagne carries great weight.
And few carry as much as Pol Roger, the last of the family-owned Champagne houses.
I sat through a flight of their wines recently and they remain among the most charming in existence.
From the racy elegance of its non-vintage standard bearer to the effortless greatness of the Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1999, Pol Roger is truly one of the greats.
The Brut Vintage 2000 might not have come from a memorably great vintage, but for me it sums up all that is great about Champagne.
Toasty, rich and yeasty, with a lovely burst of fruit in the middle and finishing light, lingering and lovely - it is elegance personified.
And while Champagne may be wickedly expensive, this is a good time to go hunting.
Certainly, there are specials before Christmas, but they will be the usual suspects, not offering any great value but simply coming down to the price they should be at all times.
In this off-season, however, you can find some real bargains. Happy hunting.By Don Kavanagh