Not all bubbly is Champagne…

Did you remember to start your festive feasting with a glass of bubbly?

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Christmas or Kwanzaa…there’s less than a 50/50 chance that you popped the cork – or pried a cap – off a bottle of sparkling wine to start the sipping before your finest feast of the season. With New Year’s coming there’s still time…

Not necessarily the first place you’d think of looking for sparkling wine, South African bubblies are just beginning to appear on our shelves. Two Oceans Extra Dry Sauvignon Blanc $13.29 is the most affordable of the three South African bubblies commonly available. The ‘grassy’, gooseberry character of the grape frames green apple, mango and melon fruit flavours.

Over the last few years Prosecco has become the best-selling sparkling wine in the world eating into the market share of France’s legendary Champagne. Prosecco production passed Champagne’s five years ago and is now 75 percent higher at 544 million bottles.

The best selling Prosecco in Canada has been marked down $2 from $17.99 for the month of December. At this bargain price Il Vino dei Poeti $15.99 mingles flavours of apples, pears and peaches typical of the Glera grape with a touch of creamy crushed white nuts. Look for the elegantly molten gold teardrop label on the bottle.

Marketed as chic but not pretentious, Prosecco’s success is undoubtedly tied to its price. In the same price range, Spain has been producing its sparkling Cavas in the north-eastern Penedès from Parellada, Macabeu and Xarel·lo grapes for more than 30 years

Usually $16.99, this month Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (+158493) is $15.49. It is a blend of 50 per cent Macabeo, 35 per cent Parellada and 15 per cent Xarel·lo… and a teaser of earthy citrus, apple and almond flavours. Quite rich and ‘creamy’, it has that authentically ‘champenoise’ toast-iness .

South America also makes bubblies, though only a handful are currently available here in BC.

Chilean connoisseurs should try Cono Sur Brut Rosé which is usually $18.99 but priced for December at $16.99. Made by the less costly charmat method (…like Prosecco!) this is Bio Bio Valley Pinot Noir coaxed into pretty pink party mode. Light strawberry fruit flavours mingle with cherry and sassy rhubarb over a core of apple and grapefruit.

Here in BC we have numerous choices. Our cool-climate vineyards help the grapes grow to full ripeness with the necessary levels of natural malic and tartaric acidity that great sparkling wines require.

Mt.Bubbles $21.99 – from West Kelowna based Mt.Boucherie Estate Winery – blends grapes from Lost Horn Vineyard in Okanagan Falls and Lazy River Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley’s South Cawston into a fully flavoured off-dry bubbly. Semillon and Riesling provide a base of apricot, peach and lemon rind aromas and flavours and a dash of Gewurztraminer adds lychee and rose petal notes.

In most wine lovers minds, sparkling wine from France means Champagne. And affordable examples start at $50.

In reality, almost every wine growing region in France makes some kind of sparkling wine from whatever grapes grow favourably. Often they are called ‘Cremant de…’ whatever region.

A blend of 70 per cent Chardonnay and 30 per cent Poulsard and Pinot Noir, Domaine Rolet Pere & Fils Cremant du Jura Brut $32.99 is an unusual bubbly that incorporates notes of plum and apricots over the green apple base. Traces of almond and toasty brioche betray the ‘Méthode Champenoise’ aging on the wine’s creamy lees.

And, finally, instead of indulging in an expensive bottle of Champagne this year… Consider attending the 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival which runs February 23 through March 3, 2019. Tickets for all public events go on sale Wednesday, January 9 at 9:30am.

Check VanWineFest.ca for details on the fantastic variety of events available.

Have a safe and very Happy New Year!

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com

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