It’s also the time for wine with bubbles and there are four general categories from which to choose, all with their own price tag.
For six or seven dollars you can get bubbles in your wine, made in what’s known as the ‘bicycle-pump method’. Carbon dioxide is added to the wine by being forced into it. It adds nothing but bubbles, usually to a wine that’s not very good. You now have a wine that’s not very good with bubbles… that dissipate quickly.
For twelve to twenty dollars a bottle you can have a wine that’s fermented twice, the second time in a large closed tank retaining the bubbles, called ‘cuvée close’. The wine is then bottled under pressure. Wineries going to this amount of work usually start with a decent wine leaving you with a good wine with bubbles.
For twenty-five to forty dollars a bottle you can have wine made in ‘methode traditionelle’, the same as Champagne. The wine’s fermented twice and the second fermentation is in the bottle you purchase. It’s labour-intensive reserved for very good wine. It’s the same method as Champagne, but it’s not Champagne.
For forty dollars and up there’s the real deal. Wineries in the region of Champagne, France are the only wineries to make ‘Champagne’. Not just a wine with bubbles, it’s a place. All others are ‘sparkling wine’. Only 3 grapes are grown and the soil, geography and climate, a.k.a. terroir, is unique to Champagne.
Here’s an 11 minute video where you can view how Champagne is made.
I’m not certain drinking these two will save the entire environment, but they’ll cut down on carbon emissions. They’re delicious and they’re local, far better than shipping cardboard, glass and wine halfway around the world.
Château des Charmes Brut ‘Methode Traditionelle’ Non-Vintage
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario $22.95 (145409) 12.0% alcohol
This 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is made in the classic fashion of Champagne delivering a fine bead of glorious bubbles and a delightful way to begin an evening meal. Aromas of honeyed apple and freshly baked bread segue a crisp and refreshing attack on the palate with green apple and spiced yellow plum to the fore. It’s complex, well balanced and a top notch sparkler from Niagara.
Henry of Pelham ‘Cuvée Catharine’ Non-Vintage
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $29.95 (144873) 12.0% alcohol
There’s an array of aromas with lemon tart, toast, apple and pear among them. Well made and well priced, this delivers a persistent mousse of mid-small bubbles coupled with a crisp, refreshing attack on the palate. Flavours of zesty lemon, pineapple and ripe pear abound while the aftertaste is racy and lip-smacking good. Pour as an aperitif or with all manner of appetizer—on par with most Champagne at a lot less money. (Vic Harradine)
Spain has a long and proud history of making sparkling wine in the manner of Champagne a.k.a. Cava. They often use indigenous grapes with very good results. The following two are extremely popular and with good reason. I always recommend them and not just for the holidays, but all year long.
Freixenet ‘Cordon Negro’ Cava Brut Non-Vintage
DO Cava, Spain $13.95 (88591) 12.0% alcohol
Perhaps the most popular bubbly in North America. This opens with lifted and friendly aromas—hints of baking bread, floral, mineral and citrus notes. It delivers a fine bead of persistent bubbles, a lovely froth in the mouth and crisp refreshing flavours of lemon zest, zippy red currant and juicy ripe pineapple. It finishes on the same racy note—lip-smacking delicious.
Segura Viudas Cava ‘Brut Reserva’ Non-Vintage
DO Cava, Spain $14.55 (158493) 11.5% alcohol
The grapes are different, it’s ¼ the price and it’s not from France, but if looking for a sparkling wine with some elegant characteristics of Champagne, this is it. It delivers a dry and refreshing mouthful of tangy flavour with ripe citrussy lemon and hints of ripe yellow plum and peach to the fore. The bubbles are fine and persistent and it finishes crisp and refreshing—just the ticket to welcome guests or pair with all manner of appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.
The next four are from Italy. They’re fun wines, great to start a party or with appetizers. Sparkling wine and Champagne are incredibly versatile with food, matching up to just about any dish. The ‘Il Vino dell’ Amore, Petalo’ is sweeter than the rest.
Astoria Prosecco ‘La Robinia Extra Dry’ Non-Vintage
DOC Prosecco di Valdobbiadene $12.95 (593855) 11.0% alcohol
A well-priced, bright, dry sparkling wine, this Prosecco presents floral notes with hints of citrus and brioche. The light airy mousse dances crisply on the palate and offers tangy citrus and tree fruit flavors. A medium-long finish refreshes and awakens the appetite. Consider it to kick off a festive gathering.
Bottega ‘Il Vino dell’ Amore, Petalo’ Moscato Non-vintage
Italy $12.80 (588780)
Looking for cocktail conversation? Il Vino dell’ Amore translates to ‘wine of love’. This is very low alcohol. Exotic aromas of perfumed spice and musk billow from the glass of this lovely sparkler. There are flavours of sweet ripe and honeyed fruit that are balanced nicely on the finish with a lovely squeeze of zest and tang. Sip on its own or pair with a simple fruit flan or most fruit desserts.
Bottega ‘Vino Dei Poeti’ Prosecco Non-vintage
Italy $12.80 (897702)
This is one of the most popular sparkling wines in Ontario—all those people can’t be wrong and there’s a good chance your local LCBO stocks it. Dry and delicious, there are aromas of white flowers and lemon while the flavours are a mélange of white grapefruit, ripe lemon and pineapple. It’s fizzy and food friendly, especially with appetizers or seafood, while the texture is silky and the finish clean and refreshing.
Santa Margherita Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Sparkling Wine Non-Vintage
DOC Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Italy $17.95 (687582) 11.5% alcohol
Mineral and floral on the nose this dishes out a surprisingly generous texture and more flavour and structure than the breeding and price would suggest—this is good value. The mousse is abundant and infused with good texture and flavour—tangy white grapefruit, red currant and lemon chiffon pie. Serve to guests as they arrive and pair with stand-around sea food appetizers.
And here’s the real deal, Champagne at a fabulous price. What’s not to like?
Georges Gardet ‘Cuvée Saint Flavy’ Brut Champagne Non-Vintage
AOC Champagne, France $39.95 (924654)
This has an attractive nose of mineral, floral and heady citrus notes. There’s a lovely attack on the palate with a rush of white grapefruit and green apple flavours infused with spice and mineral nuances. It’s medium in weight and texture and offers a lingering finish that’s zesty and clean. There’s enough oomph for it to be paired with light appetizers and the attractive price allows it to be served as the welcoming wine at large gatherings.
No matter which you choose, please drink in moderation, never drink and drive.
- Use caution when uncorking, keep your hand over the cork while and after removing the wire cage to avoid causing serious eye injury. Ease the cork from the bottle with a ‘his-s-s-s’ not a pop.
- You can use an ordinary wine glass, but if the opening is large you’ll lose the fizz quickly. Tall tulip-shaped glasses called ‘flutes’ are ideal.
- Serve these, and all sparkling wine, straight from the fridge or ice bucket.
- Serve the wine chilled, but never in glasses that have been placed in the freezer.
- Pour a small amount in the glass, two ounces, let the froth subside then pour in the balance, preventing it from frothing up and spilling over the top of the glass.
- To keep a part bottle for a day or two, jam an ordinary ‘still wine’ cork in the top of the bottle and place in the fridge.
Cheers, Vic Harradine