Best buys

Mostly wine but occasionally beer, whisky, gin and other drinks that I think represent really good value. Sometimes because they're on promotion, at other times because they're exceptional quality.

 The Ivy Gin and Fevertree clementine tonic

The Ivy Gin and Fevertree clementine tonic

It’s two for one in the bottle slot today - a terrific new gin and the perfect matching tonic.

The gin is the Ivy restaurant’s new centenary gin, made for them by Chase. It’s a smooth, elegant, aromatic, slightly herbal gin with ivy, spruce needles, and sage as three of the botanicals.

They sent it with a couple of bottles of Fevertree’s new limited edition clementine and cinnamon tonic* which, garnished with a slice of fresh clementine, was the perfect match with just a delicate note of clementine in the background. (Don’t try the same trick with Fentiman’s Mediterranean orange tonic water which tastes like orangina.)

I’m hoping it will work equally well with other gins as the Ivy's is expensive (£50 at John Lewis). I tried it with a bottle of export strength Tanqueray I happened to have to hand and it wasn’t as good. I’m wondering if a simple gin like Gordon’s - or even Aldi’s low cost equivalent would work.

You could also drink it on its own with ice and slices of clementine and maybe a few pomegranate seeds to pretty it up.

Anyway I’m laying in stocks - it would make the perfect Christmas G & T. And the Ivy gin would make a great gift for any gin aficionado.

(Incidentally it went perfectly with some smoked salmon with an orangey gravadlax my friends had brought along)

* The tonic is £1.69 at Waitrose and Ocado.

Good bottles to celebrate Hallowe'en

Good bottles to celebrate Hallowe'en

If you’re looking for a bottle to celebrate Hallowe’en on Tuesday here’s couple that hit the spot perfectly.

Philip Shaw Edinburgh Sparkling

This one wins the prize for the best label - it comes as a bit of a surprise to find it’s a sparkling wine. with the bright green skull it’s hard to see when else you would drink it. Certainly not to accompany a proposal!

It’s made by Philip Shaw in Orange in New South Wales Australia and is a classic Champagne blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Perhaps not quite the depth and complexity you’d expect for £22.99 (at Waitrose) so it’s a shame they haven’t got one of their 25% off discounts but it’s original and perfect for the occasion. Maybe pair with a packet of Monster Munch?

Chronic Cellars Suite Petite

There’s also a range of skeleton themed wines from Chronic Cellars in Pasa Robles, California, Try the 2014 Suite Petite, an exuberant blueberry scented Petite Sirah for £17.99 or £15.99 on their ‘mix six’ deal. Most British retailers have at least one from the range - Tesco has a 25% off six bottles deal at the moment which brings their suitably blood red Chronic Cellars La Muneca down from £13 to £9.75 so if you’re buying them online you’ll have to get them delivered by tomorrow (October 30th). They'd all be good with a chilli con carne

Colomban Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois

Colomban Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois

If you’re a fan of dessert wines here’s an absolutely cracking bargain from Lidl’s latest limited edition release which went on sale on Thursday.

It’s an award-winning* Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois from the Languedoc for just £5.99 a 50cl bottle which is plenty for 4 and could even stretch to 6.

Although it doesn’t have a vintage on the label it’s beautifully light and fresh with a lovely apricot fruit flavour. Perfect now with in-season apple and pear tarts but at this price it would be worth laying in a couple of bottles for Christmas.

Another wine you might enjoy is a fresh-tasting Touraine Sauvignon Blanc from the 2016 vintage which compares favourably to some of the Sancerres I’ve tasted recently. (2016 wasn’t a fantastic vintage in the Loire but at £6.49 this is an decent buy)

Look out for my Guardian column next weekend for my pick of the Lidl reds

* a silver medal from the Concours General Agricole

Zünftler Black Forest Cherry Schnapps

Zünftler Black Forest Cherry Schnapps

If you’re planning to celebrate the start of Oktoberfest this weekend (yes, in September - I *know*) snap up this full-size bottle of Zünftler cherry schnapps from Lidl for just £14.99

It’s drier than kirsch (think grappa rather than a liqueur) and packs quite a punch but would be good as an after dinner shot after a hearty wurst-laden meal*. You can drink it as a frozen shot but having tried it that way I’d serve it at room temperature and let anyone who wants to add an ice cube or two. Handsome bottle as well if you want to take it along as a present.

Celebrate your own Oktoberfest!

Lidl is also stocking two really cheap German beers over the next couple of weeks - a Festbier and Wheat Beer - both at 99p and a shandy-style drink, Naturtrübes Radler, for 59p. I haven't tried any of these so can't vouch for them but I'd take a chance on the beers.

Alternatively try this delicious recipe for Oktoberfest chicken

 Wine of the week: Tesco finest McLaren Vale GSM 2015

Wine of the week: Tesco finest McLaren Vale GSM 2015

If you’re mystified by the initials GSM they stand for grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, three Rhône grape varieties which are often blended together in Australia to make generous hearty reds.

As an added bonus this one is made by one of South Australia’s most talented and idiosyncratic winemakers Chester Osborn of D’Arenberg which makes even the full price of £8 a bargain and the current discounted price (25% off until 18/9 if you’re buying groceries from, an absolute steal - much better value than the Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet from the same range)

What would you drink it with? Same sort of things as shiraz - a nicely-charred steak, a late summer barbecue, a good homemade burger and a Sunday roast would all work well. I’d even put away some for the Christmas turkey …

Another wine I’d pick up while you’re at is is the 2016 Hans Baer Pinot Noir - yet another cracking German red* which is on offer at £6 (so £4.50 on this promotion) Perfect (lightly chilled) if you like lighter reds, with seared salmon or tuna for instance.

*remember the Black Star a couple of weeks ago?

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