Here’s to a Sparkling 2018: A Bonanza of Bubbles

Sparkling wine time is here. And I’m late to the party. My apologies. We’re a tad backed up here in the executive suite at Hired Belly HQ. Plus most of the staff has been down with the flu…

Sparkling has evolved. These days—from Cava to Sekt, Prosecco, Crémant (and, yes, Champagne) you can pretty well take your pick. Not to mention that here in British Columbia we’re making more and more good bubbles. The fact is there really are very few ‘bad’ bubbles. But just as in still wines, some bottles deliver more than others.

A few factors should dictate as to where you spend your sparkling dollar. Above all, who’s going to be drinking it? If Uncle Fred can’t tell the difference between Cava and Champagne or just doesn’t care, then it’s obvious. Save your hard earned Champers for later!

Sparkling every day!

The best news about sparkling wine is that we’re popping our corks not only at New Year’s but year round. Bubbles are no longer just for celebrations. They’re making more appearances at the table. There’s good reason for that. Sparkling wines are the most flexible and food friendly around. How come? Most offer a decent amount of acidity. That makes them perfect for contrasting with rich dishes or just as happy with oysters on the half shell. Pizza, pasta, chips ‘n dip—whatever takes your fancy. Sparkling wine will almost always do it proud! Which is why you should have at least one bottle of sparkling in your fridge at all times. Seriously!

Prosecco comes of age

Bottega Gold range sparkling wines

Bottega Gold comes in all shapes and sizes

Earlier this year I was lucky to spend a day with Sandro Bottega at his family’s winery in the heart of Italy’s Prosecco country. We tasted a wide range of wines, including, of course, the odd Prosecco. ;-).

Sandro has transformed the winery his late father established in 1977. He’s added a distillery and acquired wineries in Valpolicella and Montalcino to make Amarone and Brunello. But Prosecco—especially the celebrated Bottega Gold—is at the core. Bottega’s Bacur Gin has just landed …


A tasting at Ana Spinato turned out to be one of the year's best ...

A tasting at Ana Spinato turned out to be one of the year’s best …

In the same week I visited Ana Spinato, where we also tasted Prosecco and more. In fact the set tasting, with carefully chosen meats and cheeses, was one of my highlights for 2018. The discovery here was semi-sparkling, strawberry toned Raboso, which I truly hope we’ll eventually see in B.C. (along with other Rabosos). It’s perfect with pancetta and other meats.


Blue Mountain kicks it up. Again

A trio of Blue Mountain Recently Disgorged (RD) Sparkling wines

A trio of Blue Mountain Recently Disgorged (RD) Sparkling wines

You’ll (always)  find Blue Mountain Brut on my perennial list below. However, in mid-November I was wowed by the winery’s newest Recently Disgorged releases. Reserve Brut 2009 and Blanc de Blancs, at around $40-$45, represent extraordinary value for these wines which are the apex of BC sparkling. I scored them both at 93 points, the 2013 Rosé RD 91 points. Consequently, if you’re a BC sparkling wine lover you will want to track them down. And if you want to learn more about the blossoming BC sparkling wine scene, read my Quench story. 

You’ll be amazed at how much is going on.


British Bubbles on the rise…

Gusbourne English Sparkling wine. Only in Toronto. Pity...

Gusbourne English Sparkling wine. Only in Toronto. Pity…

It’s still a rare bird around these parts. But English sparkling wine is popping up with regularity. And when Cactus Club wine guru Sebastien LeGoff hands you a glass of crisp Gisbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013 (so far available only in Toronto) you know something’s up. Here’s to more English sparkling in 2018. Although I know that Nyetimber’s also around, it would be nice to find even a couple more producers out there. Anybody listening?

Based on these and other tastings, here are my last-minute sparkling picks for New Year or any time of year. These wines are all good value for money. (There’s even one here for Uncle Fred!) You’ll find a few of them are hold-overs from last year’s picks. I make no apologies. Those wines are stalwarts in my opinion. And they’re always on my ‘go-to’ list.


Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Yes, I’ll confess to a certain bias for this house and its style. But it just seems to get better every time I try it. From the toasty brioche and tropical aromas to the quite substantial and well textured palate there’s a seamlessness and finesse to this Champagne that, for me, makes it textbook. BCLS $69.99 92 pts.

Blue Mountain Brut Rosé 2013

Arguably one of the best sparkling méthode traditionelle rosés you’ll find anywhere. A classic blend of mainly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay sports a stream of fine bubbles with lively mousse, lifted strawberry and cherry notes with a gently earthy hint before a well structured palate defined by good acidity and citrus notes. $32.90  91 pts

Agusti Torello Mata Cava Brut Reserva 2013.

Vintage Cava takes things to the next level. A blend of indigenous Macabeu, Xarello and Parellada delivers fine bubbles, toasty notes on top with a hint of sage, followed by a well balanced apple toned palate with a touch of citrus, good mouthfeel and acidity with a lengthy end. BCLS $29.49, 91 pts.

Bottega Prosecco DOC Treviso Il Vino Dei Poeti Brut

Up front floral and orchard fruits with a vibrant stream of bubbles and good mousse precede a rounded and gently creamy palate of apple, citrus and pear notes through a lingering close. 90 pts. BCLS $17.49

Bottega Prosecco Superiore DOCG Treviso Il Vino Dei Poeti Gold Brut

From all Valdobianne grapes, persistent, fine bubbles in the glass with up front white flower, citrus and orchard notes before a gently creamy, mouth-filling, well structured palate with apple, pear and almond hints before a lingering gently zesty finish. BCLS $27.49 91 pts.

Anna Spinato Spumante Brut Rosé Organic

Great value for an organic sparkler. A lively stream of bubbles yields a solid mousse. Red fruit and floral notes precede a subtle, raspberry and strawberry toned palate. Fun and flexible.  BCLS $15.99 90 pts.

Anna Spinato Moscato Organic

Excellent, off dry but not too sweet Moscato with fresh and fruity personality, citrus and stone fruit on top before a gentle peach and lemon toned zesty palate makes for the perfect partner to custard and pastry desserts. BCLS $15.99, 90 pts.

Parés Baltà Cava Brut 

Dedicated 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. PWS $22 90 pts.

Haywire The Bub.

Arguably the best Bub to date sports fine persistent bubbles, a yeasty toasty top, with citrus and leesy notes on the palate plus pleasing ‘pinosity’ and mouthfeel, all wrapped up with a mineral background, lively acidity and strong finish. $29.90 92 pts.

Villa Conchi Cava Brut Seleccion.

Good value Cava shows up front toasty notes and orchard fruits before a clean and fruity palate with apple and citrus notes. BCLS $16.99 89 pts.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva

IMHO, the best mid-priced Cava in the market, and one of the most consistent for a mega producer. It’s the fallback fizz in our house, as you get a pretty decent wine for the dollars. Good mousse, citrus and tropical notes with just the right amount of heft and acidity to make it a truly flexible food partner for everything from curry to crab. BCLS $15.99 90 pts.

Villa Sandi Il Fresco Rosato Spumante Brut NV

Light and lively blend of Glera and other local grapes delivers plenty of bubbles with appealing apple notes on top before a subtle citrus toned palate and crisp, clean end. Everything Wine 17.49 89 pts.

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut

The perfect party quaffer, easy sipping bubble with orchard notes before apple and citrus hints on the fresh palate before a good close. BCLS $12.99 89 pts

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:00+00:00 December 30th, 2017|Wine|2 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.


  1. Sam Hauck December 30, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    An enjoyable read. Alas, I am not at home at the moment so my enjoyment was somewhat muted by the lack of one of these delights in hand.

    I was glad to see the addition of the Cristalino which has only just recently been brought to my attention. What are your thoughts on the NZ Sophora? It’s my new favourite at that price point.

    Cheers, Tim.

    Happy New Year! Ching, ching!

  2. Tim Pawsey December 30, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Sam, Thanks! Yes I have tasted the Sophora wines when they first came in and liked them. Time to revisit. cheers! TP

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