Fancy a drink? Our new drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris raises her glass to the week's best buys and looks at the latest wine news.

Champagne harvest :: In lifestyles of the rich and famous, chalky soil is to champagne as the Caspian Sea is to Beluga caviar - you can't have one without the other, and the former tastes like liquid gold!

One of the most desirable, impressive and copied labels in the world, it's easy to forget that champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France, 90 miles north-east of Paris.

The delicate vines that produce this fine wine are planted on the sunniest slopes and set on a thick, chalky sub-soil that allows easy drainage, providing a unique nurturing environment.

Out of the 280 houses that produce champagne, 30 international brands live in perfect harmony using grapes either from their own vineyards, or bought from local growers to produce their own effervescent bubbles.

From the Montagne de Reims to the Cote des Blancs, armies of pickers have just taken part in the annual harvest to gather thousands of tons of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes by hand.

For Champenois to raise their tulip-shaped glasses and declare a vintage season, the grapes have to be from an outstanding harvest of the same year as opposed to being blended from reserve wines from previous ones.

Movie buffs will recognise Bollinger as James Bond's champagne of choice, and it's one of the few remaining family-owned Grande Marque houses.

With three miles of cool, chalky cellars under the pretty village of Ay, their La Grande Annee vintage lies ageing for at least six years.

To match Bond's impeccable taste, try La Grande Annee 2000 (£60, Waitrose). An exclusive blend of Grand and Premier Crus with 63% pinot noir and 37% chardonnay, it's an exceptional glass of intense aromas with a giant of a finish.

Rose champagne has been a star performer in recent years, and I think Madame Bollinger would be thrilled with their non-vintage pink bubbly which made its debut last summer.

Try Bollinger Rose (£45, Majestic) which is modelled on the Special Cuvee blend with fruits of previous harvests and reserve wines from the cellars in Ay, and a smidgen of still red wine. With signature Bolly toasty notes and a raspberry nose, it's a delicious aperitif.

When the season's in full swing, so are the creative team behind Lanson, who've taken the brand's Maltese Cross to new heights at glamorous international sporting events around the globe.

Champagne Lanson can lay claim to the only walled vineyard within the city limits of Reims, and after various travails in the mid-1990s, there's been a real renaissance in their wines.

I think Lanson's best is the vintage Gold Label, a classic blend of 50% pinot noir and 50% chardonnay. For some gentle sparkle that's rich and full with great length, try Lanson Gold Label 1998 (£36.98, Sainsbury's).

Blending non-vintage (NV) champagne is where cellar masters show their greatness, and the small family run house of Ruffin has a delicious new offering from their estate.

A blend of the 2004 and 2005 vintages, try the Ruffin et Fils Cuvee de Reserve (£17.95, case of six minimum order, £107.70,, which had a starring role in this year's Le Guide Hachette.

Pale in colour, with hints of brioche, it's full-bodied, powerful and also comes in half-bottles and magnums.

So, gold-tinted flutes and caviar spoons at the ready, what are you waiting for?

Best buys :: I hate to burst wine snobs' bubble, but supermarket own-label brands shouldn't be sniffed at! The high quality of the grape-growers sourced and the loving care that goes into making champagne should be testament to its pride of place on the shelves. Try Tesco's Silver Medal-winning Finest Premier Cru (£18.98), creamy with some yeasty richness and marvellous with oysters.

:: Stock-piling for Christmas? Set a calendar reminder for next month and save 25% on Laurent-Perrier Brut Non Vintage (£34.99-£26.24, Nov 4-Dec 1, major retailers). A blend of over 55 different Crus, this chardonnay-dominant champagne is a perfect match with salmon, trout and chicken.

Liquid news :: For King and Krug - the most prestigious name in champagne is launching a calendar of culinary masterclasses in the newly-redesigned Krug Room at The Dorchester in London from October 17. I can't promise that Krug 1981, one of the greatest champagnes of the 20th century, will be on the table but up to 12 people can enjoy Executive Chef Henry Brosi's passion for seasonal ingredients and fine wines with a series of informative and relaxed lunches. From £150 per person, for reservations and enquiries call 020 7319 7311 or email Alternatively, for a taste of the good life at home, try the legendary Krug Grande Cuvee (£110, Majestic).

:: New season, new look! Not just the reserve of the catwalk, Champagne Taittinger is about to go in-store with strong shoulders, smaller neck collars, easy-to-open foil, new labels and colour-coded cartons! The new design for its six cuvees includes the Signature Brut Reserve, Prestige Rose, Vintage Taittinger and Nocturne Sec. Taittinger Brut Reserve NV, from £33.99, available from mid-October at major retailers.