Grapes used to produce sparkling wine are often the first to be picked each harvest. Unlike still or so-called table wines, the style of a sparkling wine relies on bright acidity and freshness more than ripe fruit character. Winemakers looking to make traditional method sparkling wines seek grapes that will give them a high acidity, low alcohol base wine that will be refermented in the bottle to create the bubbles.
As the 2022 grape harvest gets under way in Canada, with grapes earmarked for sparkling wine coming off the vine any day now, it seems a good time to look at a range of bubblies that are available to Canadian consumers. These sorts of roundups only typically appear leading up to the holiday season, but that only underscores an incorrect notion that sparkling wines are somehow celebratory in nature. No matter how grand, sparkling wines have been made to be enjoyed whether they are opened on a special occasion or not. They taste equally delicious on an average Tuesday night.
Sparkling wine sales continue to boom around the world. Consumption is increasing here in Canada, but not at the same rate as leading markets. Wine lovers in Germany, France and the United States are the largest consumers of bubbly. Canada is considered an emerging market for producers of fizzy wine. The most recent Statistics Canada figures, from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, show wine lovers in this country have a serious preference for red wine, followed by white. Sparkling wine represented 6.5 per cent of sales across the country.
Which is more reason to recommend and review exciting bottles of Prosecco, Champagne and other sparkling wines outside of the traditional December buyers’ guide. Blue Mountain and Henry of Pelham are two top producers of sparkling wine in Canada, but they aren’t alone. Other wineries in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia are capable of producing sophisticated and splendid bottles each year. Let’s toast to a success vintage in 2022.
Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut 2018 (Canada), $28
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $28
A blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grown on Blue Mountain’s estate in Okanagan Falls, the Gold Label Brut lists its vintage for the first time with this release. Made in a rich and refreshing style, with a bright and concentrated core of citrus and apple notes rounded out by toasty and biscuity notes. The result is a serious and approachable sparkling wine that offers terrific value for its price. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price direct, bluemountainwinery.com, $33.85 in Alberta, $34.95 in Ontario, $28.55 in Quebec.
Bottega Gold Prosecco (Italy), $28.95
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $28.95
Launched in 2000, this shiny bottle continues to stand out on the sparkling wine shelves and deliver a balanced and flavourful Prosecco from the premium Valdobbiadene region. It’s a touch sweet but offers more elegance and focus than less expensive fruity and frothy Proseccos on the market. A refreshing and rewarding mix of peach, citrus and floral notes make this seriously enjoyable as an aperitif or with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $32.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Manitoba, $28.75 in Quebec, $33.69 in Prince Edward Island.
Graham Beck Ultra Brut Cap Classique 2016 (South Africa), $29.95
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $29.95
Ultra is one of the higher end releases from Graham Beck, a winery based in Robertson that has helped draw global interest to sparkling wines made in South Africa. Stacking up favourably against much higher priced traditional method bubbies from other parts of the world, this is made with chardonnay and benefits from extended aging on lees (spent yeast cells left over after secondary fermentation in the bottle) that adds biscuity richness to the flavour and creamy texture. Chardonnay based sparkling wines are often so fresh and more vibrant, with bright apple and citrus notes. This is serious, with delicate fine bubbles and a long rewarding finish. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario.
Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut (Canada), $32.95
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $32.95
Cuvée Catharine has become one of Ontario’s most consistent sparkling wines, with an intense and lively character that gains interest from toasty and spicy notes alongside nicely concentrated citrus fruit. There’s depth to the flavour and a persistent aftertaste that adds to the appeal. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, henryofpelham.com, various prices in Alberta, $32.99 in Manitoba.
Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige (United States), $30
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $30
The riper profile of California sparkling wine shines through here, with yellow apple, melon and honeysuckle aromas making a nice first impression. Clean and fresh on the nose, while the palate offers a ripe core of fruit with some biscuit and nutty notes that carry through to a crisp finish. Appealing and approachable, this is a crowd-pleasing style of sparkling with a supple texture and medium body. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $28.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $33.49 in Saskatchewan, $24.99 in Manitoba, $29.95 in Quebec, $36.99 in Nova Scotia, $32.99 in Prince Edward Island.
Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (France), $142.95
SCORE: 93 PRICE: $142.95
Despite a history dating back to 1729, Maison Ruinart in Reims is a new discovery for many wine lovers. The house style opts for fresh fruit and floral notes over toasty or oaky richness. Made from 100 per cent chardonnay, there’s appealing harmony to this refined Champagne, which offers peach and pear notes in addition to the pervasive bright citrus flavour. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, $313.99 in British Columbia (1.5-litre bottle), $140.25 in Quebec.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava (Spain), $17
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $17
This benchmark expression of cava is consistently well-made and -priced. Its crisp and refreshing character reveals delicate green apple, lemon and light yeasty notes. The dry and distinctive personality makes this enjoyable on its own, while its price and style make this a terrific base for sparkling wine cocktails. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $15.99 in Manitoba, $15.40 in Quebec, $20.49 in New Brunswick, $19.99 in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
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