Most of us forget to include sparkling wines in our otherwise well-thought-out dinner plans.
Maybe because of the traditional hype around popping corks on New Year’s Eve – which just by the way is really a waste of the wonderful effervescence! – even the most recently converted wine lovers will probably find a bottle of sparkling wine to open on Dec. 31.
If that wine is full of bubbles and fizz and comes from Spain, it’s likely to be a Cava. Most Cavas are produced in Catalonia, in north-eastern Spain. Only wines produced in the traditional method – with the final effervescent fermentation taking place in the bottle you purchase – may be labelled Cava.
Jaume Serra Brut Nature Cava (291500) $11.55 is without a doubt the most affordable sparkling Cava from Spain. It pours a bright pale yellow in the glass and offers an intense aroma of fresh citrus fruits, some herbal notes and hints of flower petals.
Not to be left out, Germany produces their own sparkling wines that are often called Sekt.
With Germanic origins, the hugely popular, Henkell Trocken (122689) $13.49 is dependable, consistent and made today from classic grape varieties sourced from France – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc.
Although its affordable price begs the question, don’t look at Prosecco as being just the poor man’s Champagne. Produced by the much less labour intensive ‘Charmat’ method – Prosecco is held in large stainless-steel containers for 8-12 weeks before being bottled under pressure, helping it retain all the fresh, bright, fruity flavours.
New to BC, Casa di Malia Organic Prosecco (994954) $18.99 is an organically-produced gem. Quite light and delicate, it leads with crisp flavours of freshly-cut green apples and pears and produces lovely streams of tiny bubbles.
Noticing the success of Prosecco, our own local winemakers have begun to make their own versions by the same Charmat’ method. The results are nothing short of wonderful!
From Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley, Unsworth Vineyards’ Charme De L’Île (671289) $22.99 is a remarkably well-balanced and tasty Prosecco-styled sparkling white wine made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a splash of the innovative hybrid Sauvignette. Bright green apple, fresh pear and honeyed peach flavours predominate.
Just recently Unsworth Vineyards introduced a prettily pink version of Charme De L’Ile Rosé (671289) $22.99 made from 100 percent Cowichan Valley Pinot Noir with festive notes of cranberry, pink grapefruit and ginger with a creamier, more full bodied finish!
The bubbles in all sparkling wines are one of the not so well known reasons they are widely used as ‘social lubricants’. A smattering of the alcohol in the wine is carried up into your sinus cavities by the tiny bursting bubbles. Being well supplied with rich bilateral blood circulation, your sinus cavities help the alcohol seep very speedily and directly into your arterial bloodstream and on to your brain.
An Okanagan Valley blend of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Joie Plein de Vie (509208) $23.65 intrigues with a medley of green apple, cherry, rhubarb and cranberry flavours that make it a perfect pick for pairing with turkey!
With their own unusual inflection on the classic French Champagne recipe Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut (471672) $24.35 marries 56 per cent Pinot Noir with 39 per cent Chardonnay and 5 per cent Pinot Gris. Using ‘méthode traditionnelle’ techniques and aged on its creamy ‘lees’ for 24 months, this delicious bubbly intrigues the taste buds with crisp notes of lemon and grapefruit and a hint of toast.
The dominant chalky sub-soil of the Champagne region in France is punctuated by limestone in the southernmost zones and areas of heavier clay elsewhere, giving a real range of mineral possibilities throughout Champagne’s various sites. Champagne may be the world’s finest sparkling wine because it is largely a blended wine of many parts and a myriad of micro-terroirs.
Made from grapes grown in Ecueil, as well as Villers Allerand and Bouzy, exclusively from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards, Nicolas Maillot Platine Premier Cru Brut Champagne (666776) $62.49 is a blend of 80 per cent Chardonnay and 20 per cent Pinot Noir into an elegant bubbly with notes of hazelnut and almond over honeyed apple and apricot.
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