Sparkling wine sales continue to boom around the world thanks to the overwhelming success of Prosecco, which has won over consumers with its fruity and frothy character and relatively inexpensive prices. While there are more serious examples of Prosecco, the style that’s most in fashion falls into the cheap and cheerful category.
For that reason, Prosecco is well represented in Canadian markets and can certainly add some sparkle to your upcoming holiday festivities. But if you’re looking for a different experience, one that adds some richness to your refreshment, you should consider the expressive range of sparkling wines that have been fermented in the bottle that you’re opening.
Sparkling wines made in the traditional method (or méthode traditionnelle), which is the time- and labour-intensive manner popularized by the Champagne region of France, can offer a pleasing mix of fruit flavours as well as nutty, toasty or bready notes that come from the dead yeast cells that helped to create the bubbles. After an initial fermentation to create a base wine, the wine is bottled with a carefully calculated amount of sugar and yeast to produce the desired amount of fizz. The bubbles are captured in the solution by a crown cap closure and the amount of time aging with the yeast particles (known as lees) will have an impact on the aromas, flavours and texture of the finished wine.
Champagne is the best-known version of bottle fermented sparkling wine. But there are different versions produced by slightly different methods worldwide. Some aspire to be elegant and refreshing, others flavourful and refined. The 10 sparkling wines recommended this week encompass a range of crémants from other regions of France and some stellar bubblies made in Canada. Sparkling wines, especially bottle fermented ones, have quickly become some of the country’s best wines. Compelling and delicious, they’re ideal choices to have on hand for the upcoming holidays whether or not you’re feeling particularly festive.
De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé (France)
This well-priced traditional method sparkling wine is made in a crisp and refreshing style from cabernet franc grapes. The salmon colour and lightly fruity flavours make for an attractive rosé that’s best enjoyed with food. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $25.99 in British Columbia.
Grande Cuvée 1531 de Aimery Crémant de Limoux (France)
This crisp and refreshing sparkling wine presents a mix of citrus and pear flavours, creamy mouthfeel and fresh finish that make it easy to appreciate. It also works well as a base for mimosas and other sparkling wine cocktails. Available in Ontario.
Haywire The Bub Bottle Fermented and Aged 2016 (Canada)
Based on a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay from B.C.’s Okanagan region, this vibrant sparkling wine offers interesting herbal aromas and flavours alongside the expected lemony citrus and toasty notes. The palate is fresh and focused, with creamy mousse and an earthy/minerally aftertaste. Available direct through okanagancrushpad.com.
Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blancs 2015 (Canada)
Henry of Pelham’s sparkling wine program continues to move from strength to strength, with the focal point being this rich and refreshing estate-grown vintage bubbly. Refined toasty and nutty notes add interest to the core of lemony and citrussy fruit flavours. This is balanced and complete, with a long finish. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through henryofpelham.com.
Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc de Blancs Brut 2014 (Canada)
This single-vineyard and single-variety sparkling wine comes from the family-operated Lightfoot and Wolfville in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Following its secondary fermentation in bottle, it was aged for four years on the lees (the dead yeast), which imparts some bready and toasted notes to the citrussy profile. A really exciting sparkling that offers value for the price. Drink now to 2025. Available at the above price, direct through lightfootandwolfville.com. $44.99 in Nova Scotia.
Schramsberg Vineyards Rosé Brut 2017 (United States)
Schramsberg never fails to impress, particularly when it comes to this tasty and refreshing rosé, which is made from a blend of mostly pinot noir and chardonnay from various vineyards spread across Sonoma, Napa and other parts of Northern California. Its mix of berry, citrus and yeasty notes strikes a nice balance of fruity and savoury, which makes this a terrific aperitif or sparkling to enjoy with appetizers or a meal. Available direct in Ontario through thevineagency.ca, sold as a case of six bottles.
Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne (France)
Taittinger’s popular multi-vintage Champagne is always made in an expressive and enjoyable style. The mix of floral, fruity and toasty flavours and creamy texture gives it mass appeal. Available in Ontario at the above price ($60.70 until Jan. 3), $69.99 in British Columbia ($64.99 until Jan. 2), various prices in Alberta, $59.25 in Quebec, $69.99 in New Brunswick.
Two Sisters Vineyards Blanc de Franc 2017 (Canada)
This marks the second vintage from which winemaker Adam Pearce has produced a vibrant and intense sparkling wine using early harvested cabernet franc grapes grown at Two Sisters in Niagara-on-the-Lake. An interesting aspect is that he disgorges the wine in batches of 1,000 bottles so there’s still some Blanc de Franc 2017 aging on its lees in the cellar for future release. I’m looking forward to seeing how the added richness and complexity helps to balance the zesty citrus and pear profile, which makes this a terrific apéritif or pairing for oysters and seafood. Available direct through twosistersvineyards.com.
Veuve Ambal Crémant du Bourgogne Grande Cuvée Brut (France)
A mix of pinot noir, chardonnay, aligoté and gamay adds weight and complexity to this well-made traditional method sparkling wine from Burgundy. There’s a creamy character on the palate that carries to a crisp, refreshing finish, which make this an easy to appreciate style that works with a meal or on its own. Available at the above price in Ontario, $19.65 in Quebec.
Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old Champagne (France)
Veuve Clicquot remains one of best-known Champagne brands in Canada, where stores are typically well stocked with its popular Yellow Label for the holidays. The creation of Extra Brut Extra Old allows the winemaking team to craft a different expression, by using more reserve wines and a longer period of aging on lees to produce a flavourful and incredibly well-balanced style. The use of more aged wines adds richness to the texture, which is balanced by juicy acidity for a lingering toasty finish. Available in British Columbia and New Brunswick at the above price, $99.75 in Quebec, $101.78 in Nova Scotia.
Globe and Mail subscribers can register to join Christopher Waters on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. ET for a wine tutorial on buying bottles for the holidays, developing your palate and serving for best enjoyment.
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