‘Tis the season … for Champagne, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco, Crémant and more. You name it—around this time of year, if it bubbles and pops we love to drink it.
First, the good news about sparkling wine. Bubbles are no longer just for celebrations and glorified cork-popping. Sparkling wine has come of age as a food wine—and with good reason. If you’re not sure what you might be cooking—or what kind of wine you might need to pair with a meal—there’s no better bottle to have handy in your fridge. Yes, you could even call it the ultimate #Breakfast #wine.
Most bubbles contain a respectable degree of acidity. That makes them slam dunks for dishes that might be rich or over the top, as well as happy to play along with leaner, perhaps even mineral tastes—like oysters on the half shell. But they can also work nicely with tomato based sauces, so why not with pizza and pasta? Or chips n’ dip? The list goes on. But the bottom line is that bubble is beautiful with just about anything—as well as on its own.
What to buy? One golden rule: don’t get too hung up on price. While there’s no need to blow your budget, the more interesting bubbles may not necessarily be the cheapest. But a few dollars more will often yield a just reward.
(If you’re in Vancouver and into Champagne, you’ll want to check out Marquis Wine Cellars’ extensive offering of Growers Champagne (likely the biggest in town). Added bonus: the 6-bottle 10 percent discount.)
Here’s what’s on our holiday horizon this year: a bevy of bubbles, each a little bit different.
A Quartetto of Prosecco
Mionetto Treviso Brut. Classic DOC Prosecco in a snazzy package that verges on festive, from a long established, century old producer. A steady stream of bubbles and a good mousse with aromas of apple and honey notes that carry through onto the well structured palate. Excellent value for BCLS $17.99 but even better at $2 off through December. 89 pts.
Sommariva DOC Prosecco Vintage 2015. From a long established winemaking family in the Veneto that focuses solely on Glera (Prosecco) in the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Pretty, fine bubbles with fruity citrus and some flinty hints plus good mouthfeel, yeasty notes and a clean end. A more serious than usual take on Prosecco, with structured elegance that’s worth a few dollars more. 90 pts. $25
Giusti Rosalia Prosecco Treviso DOC Extra Dry. Here’s another Prosecco that pops up for its fresh and lively personality. Fruity-floral and apple notes on top, followed by a well balanced palate with citrus hints before a clean end. (PWS) $23 90 pts.
Bottega Prosecco Vino Dei Poeti. It’s hard to not to miss Bottega Gold, arguably the most glitzy packaging of any Prosecco lineup in the market. But this more slightly more subtly packaged Bottega Brut also delivers very nicely in the bottle. Floral, apple and stone fruit on top before a fresh tasting and lively palate of apple and zesty citrus with a splash of acidity. BCLS $16.49 until Dec 31. Regularly $17.49, 90 pts.
A bevy of BC Bubbles
Blue Mountain Sparkling Brut “Gold Label”. I could devote an entire post to BC bubble—and maybe I will. However, I keep coming back to this BC wine, which has pretty well set the bar since it first arrived, a couple of decades ago. A truly respectable nod to Champagne, the Pinot Noir – Chardonnay blend sports a stream of fine bubbles, some of those classic toasty brioche notes on the nose and a mouth-filling mousse, with elegant apple citrus flavours through the mid-palate. BC. 91 pts. $25.
Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative Ancient Method 2015. It’s been many years since a winery has had as much impact on the Okanagan Valley in such a short time as Okanagan Crush Pad. Now OCP is starting to ramp up its sparkling wine program—and this bottle is just a teaser of what’s to come. From the winery’s new, dramatic Garnet Valley Vineyard, high up in Summerland, comes this organic, truly natural (unfined and unfiltered) Pinot Noir was bottled during fermentation. A smooth mousse and fine bubbles, with herbal and bready notes on top, before a yeasty, broad and well textured dry palate with citrus, sage and earthy notes and a crisp end. $40 91 pts.
Fitz Brut 2012. When, a few years ago, the pioneering Fitzpatrick family sold Cedar Creek to Mission Hill, I wondered what would come next. In April 2017 they’ll formally pull the wraps off Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards (at what used to be Greata Ranch), complete with below ground showcase cellars and contemporary bistro with jaw dropping views. This bubble is the centrepiece of the all estate grown lineup. The steep sloped vineyard on the west side of Okanagan Lake loses its afternoon sun about 2-3 hours before most of the surrounding area. The marginally ripened grapes are ideal for sparkling. Classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a splash of Pinot Meunier, aged on the lees for at least three years, yields toasty notes on top, with fine bubbles apple and citrus notes, followed by a crisp finish. $32.50 90 points.
Tantalus Traditional Method Blanc de Noir 2013. Made from old vine Pinot Noir (planted 1985), here’s another excellent wine from this East Kelowna trailblazer. Pretty, pale pink in the glass with a lively stream of bubbles and good mousse. Lifted red fruits on the nose followed by a bright, vibrant palate with definite pinot character underpinned by citrus notes with a lengthy finish. Think oysters on the half shell with mignonette! PWS c. $28 91 pts.
A clutch of Cava
Spain is well known for its value priced cava but these two stand out as good examples of what may be found for a few dollars more…
Agusti Torello Mata Cava Brut Reserva 2012. You’ll probably have to shop around to find this Spanish newcomer, just now arriving on local shelves. A blend of all indigenous Macabeu, Xarello and Parellada it’s a definite step up from everyday Cava. A fine stream of bubbles, with some toasty notes on top with a hint of sage, followed by a well balanced apple toned palate with a touch of caramel, good mouthfeel and acidity with a lengthy end. PWS c. $27, 91 pts.
Parés Baltà Cava Brut. OK. I’ll admit it. This sparkler never fails to make my list. It’s one of bubbles’ best kept secrets and just a little bit different from your typical Cava. This organic producer uses bees to pollinate and sheep to graze and fertilize its vineyards. Floral on top, more subtle, rounded and creamy, toasty notes, quite light on the palate—and certified organic. BCLS PWS $20-$22 90 pts.
And more …
Baron Fuente Grand Millésime 2006. Vintage Champagne can be pricy—and rightly so—but this blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir (from a family whose history in Champagne dates from the 17th century) is one of the best vintage deals going. Look for toasty, bready notes up front with a palate defined by mineral undertones, citrus and stonefruit, good mouthfeel and a clean close. BCLS $56. 91 pts.
Kim Crawford Fizz. We don’t see much (because they drink most of it) but the Kiwis make some excellent bubble. This crisp, citrus edged sparkling Pinot-Chardonnay comes from different parts of Awatere and Marlborough. A fine stream of bubbles with a solid mousse, definite bready notes with good focus and mineral undertones through a dry close. BCLS $30, 90 pts.
Jansz Tasmania Premium Cuvée. Not so long ago, wine lovers outside of Australia heard little about Tasmania because most of its production wound up in big brand blends, most notably sparklers. This Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend sparkler (cheekily referred to as ‘Méthode Tasmanoise’) sports a persistent stream of bubbles with pear, citrus and a very Champagne-like bready note, all for just BCLS $27.99. 91 pts.
Yes, I know, that’s 13 …
PWS = Private Wine Stores ±
BCLS = BC Liquor Stores