Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some New Year's Eve tipples in tune with Auld Lang Syne.
By Sam Wylie-Harris
The final flourish
Ahead of the countdown to midnight and the start of 2013, there's no denying that New Year's Eve is the night to imbibe the party spirit.
As we wait for the bells to chime, it's a celebratory evening teeming with expectation and there's an eclectic flight of wines available that stand up to the occasion.
Cocktails make a splendid choice for social gatherings, but mixing several martinis at once can take up valuable celebration time.
To turn out something that's fizzy, cold and refreshing when the doorbell rings, try this recipe using an old favourite, Harveys Bristol Cream, Spain (£7.50, 75cl, Asda). Sherry is enjoying a revival and this blend of fino, amontillado, oloroso and pedro ximinez is sweet and rich with raisin, while the full-bodied style makes it an ideal mixer.
:: Harveys frosted apple & ginger
50ml Harveys Bristol Cream, 50ml premium pressed apple juice, ginger ale
Fill a highball glass with ice, pour over Harveys and apple juice. Slowly top up with ginger ale, swirl with a cinnamon stick and leave in the glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and apple slices.
For revellers who don't want to peak too soon, party nibbles and lively wines that compliment each other will keep the conversation flowing.
If you're in the market for a versatile white that bridges the gap between sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, try a zesty chenin blanc such as Taste the Difference Fairtrade Chenin Blanc 2011, South Africa (£5.99 from £8.99 until January 1, Sainsbury's). Winner of the International Wine Challenge fairtrade trophy this year, this bright, fruity white, with its natural high acidity, works a treat with savoury canapes and Asian-inspired finger food.
For more intimate soirees, a dry white Bordeaux with an elegant label will add some extra shine to festive table settings. A golden nugget, Chateau du Seuil Graves Blanc 2008, France (£12.49 from £13.49, www.virginwines.co.uk) is a blend of 80% semillon with 20% sauvignon blanc, and this crisp wine is fermented in oak to give it extra richness and weight. A classy choice with shellfish, firm white fish or roast pork.
It's not always easy to find comfort reds for under a fiver, but Aldi has a Spanish gem that's ideal for a hearty pre-party buffet or casserole dish. A new release for the holiday season, try Toro Loco Reserva 2008, Spain (£4.99, Aldi). A blend of tempranillo, bobal, garnacha and cabernet sauvignon, it spends 12 months in oak and this medium-bodied easy drinker carries blackcurrant and vanilla notes alongside subtle mulled spice flavours.
A couple of notches up the scale, Asda Chateauneuf-du-Pape Extra Special Red 2011, France (£13.37, Asda) is true to this rich and powerful style, with plenty of sweet cherry, raspberry and cassis flavours, supple tannins and a warm, savoury finish. Produced for Asda by Ogier at a good entry-level price, it won't disappoint fans of this Southern Rhone classic.
When it's time to bring out the champers, special celebration dinners and New Year's Eve toasts call for champagnes that are fresh and pure with some real presence.
At the lower end of the scale, tipplers can't go wrong with the award-winning Morrisons Best Champagne Brut NV, France (£14.99 from £22.99, until January 6, Morrisons), which has won a Which? Best Buy award for two years running. Two-thirds pinot noir for strength and body with one-third chardonnay for finesse, the first nose is rich and complex with hints of baked brioche, followed by subtle mineral notes on the palate and a lingering finish. It's a good opening gambit for bigger thirsts.
With a trend in champagne circles for zero-dosage (sugar-free) bubbles, small-grower champagne houses, such as Andre Clouet, have found a growing market for this bone-dry style of champagne. Exceptionally fresh, try Andre Clouet Silver Brut Nature, grand cru a Bouzy, France (£25.40, www.tanners-wines.co.uk). The ornate metallic label certainly chimes with New Year's Eve, and this 100% pinot noir champagne is dominated by toasty aromas with tangy, citrus fruits and great acidity - dry, delicious and clean as a whistle.
Fairly priced for the quality, Franck Bonville Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, France (£39, Marks & Spencer) is decadent and rich with a voluptuous palate and lovely long length. Made from 100% chardonnay with patisserie aromas and mouth-filling honey, it's full yet delicate and a stellar choice for a sparkling shindig before the fireworks light up the sky.
:: Best buy
Mellow yellow... Lemon liqueur brings to mind limoncello, an after-dinner drink that's sweet and tangy. However, Salvatore Calabrese Liquore di Limone (£23.69, 50cl, www.thedrinkshop.com) takes this Italian classic to new heights by slowly macerating the finest Amalfi lemons in a fine cognac. With no artificial colours or flavourings, the zesty aromas, brisk acidity and hint of fine spirit will certainly perk up the palate on a gloomy winter's day.
:: Liquid news
Santa Baby... Lucky lottery winners who manage to scoop more than a £1 million over the Christmas holiday may be interested to learn Penfolds, Australia's most famous winery, has launched the Penfolds Luxury Collection. Available from December 21, The Collection includes a stunning Grange Set spanning six decades. From the inaugural 1951 vintage through to the current 2007, the 56 bottles are signed by winemakers past and present. The set includes 13 magnum cases with a rare Penfolds 2004 Bin 60A and 2008 Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz, along with £50,000 to spend on Penfolds wine and a VIP trip to the Magill Estate in Adelaide. Penfolds Luxury Collection, £1.2 million, from Hedonism Wines. For more information, visit www.hedonism.co.uk