Thinking of buying some bubbles in the next few days? You’re not alone. By far the majority of Champagne quaffed during the year is consumed during the holidays—and the same goes for sparkling wine.
Here in the swank surroundings of Hired Belly corporate HQ, while we relish the taste of Champagne as much as anyone, we’re also impressed by the remarkable range and quality delivered by sparkling wines. While there is no substitute for ‘Big C’ Champagne, do your homework and you can find good tastes and value at every price level.
• Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. A lovely balance of toast and fruit in this wine that’s made in Sonoma by a winery connected to the Freixenet empire. And they know a thing or two about sparkling wine. Mainly Pinot Noir with about 8 percent Chardonnay, on the nose you get pear and nutty notes, followed by a creamy, mousse-y structured palate with some nice toast and yeasty notes with a hint of spice. It all makes for a great food wine too. 90 points. BCLS $29.99
• Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé. This just off-dry rosé is made from Pinot Noir with a splash of Gamay—and it’s delicious. Pretty pink in the glass, with a flash of cherries and a peristent—very festive—mousse. Think Oyama’s creamy porcini paté. BCLS $25.95 90 pts. OK, so I’m going to cheat a bit here. I found this Bouillot ad kicking around—and I like it as much as the wine, so Im running it … (Click it to see a bigger version)
• Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Nature. The holiday workhorse, a true Cava deal, with some bread-y notes on top followed by citrus and floral notes on a medium dry palate with good bubbles and surprising structure. Over-delivers at $12-$14, 87 pts. BCLS and Private Wine Stores.
• Pascual Toso Brut. A perennially good, reasonably priced sparkler from Argentina. 100 percent Chardonnay, it has a touch of apple, some creaminess and a soft finish. A perfect party wine. Private wine stores c. $16 89 pts
• Rocky Creek Katherine’s Sparkle. Here’s a fun wine from the Cowichan that’s worth a nod. Quite unique, made from Gewurz and Bacchus, it sports floral fruity notes on top before a more fruit driven palate with plenty of bubbles up front and a touch of acidity. They say ‘popcorn or chips’ and we say, why not? c. $30 89 pts. Comes with a Zork closure too, which means you can keep it fresh for a couple of days if you don’t want to finish the bottle. Private stores such as Edgemont.
• Yellow Tail Bubbles Rosé. Guess who else has decided that Zork tops make sense? This little winery in New South Wales makes wine consumed by some two million people around the world daily. This is “drink don’t think rosé”, a frothy crowd pleasure that’s perfect as a festive reception wine, with persistent bubbles and a creamy, light palate. 87 pts. $13.99
• Blue Mountain Sparkling Brut “Gold Label”. From one of the pioneers who identified the potential for BC sparkling very early on, this refreshingly clean, traditional Pinot-Chardonnay sparkler sports a stream of fine bubbles with a toasty nose and mouth-filling mousse with firm apple citrus notes through the mid-palate. Still one of the “gold” standards for BC. 91 pts. $24-$26
• Cipes Brut. Summerhill’s sparkler celebrated 20 years last year, a reminder that the winery started out very much as a sparkling house. Eric von Krosigk’s Riesling and Chardonnay blend (with a dash of Pinot Blanc) produces appealing apple and pear notes on top followed by firm, food friendly acidity and a broad, creamy mouthfeel. BCLS $24.95 91 pts.