Sparkling wine is made several different ways. The Champagne method involves a second fermentation in the same bottle. In the Charmat, tank or cuvée close method (all the same), the second fermentation takes place in a large tank and the wine bottled under pressure. Through the Transfer method, the wine is actually fermented in the bottle, but then transferred to a large tank to clean it up and then rebottled under pressure. Another method is injection, or carbonation, where CO2 is simply pumped into a tank of still wine. Occasionally some light bubbly is created by stopping fermentation through chilling thus leaving some slight natural CO2 in the bottle.
Whether for toasting, launching ships, partying or special occasions, sparkles is the wine of choice because of its exuberant character. There’s just something about the bubbles that entice. For matching shellfish, simply prepared poultry or soft young cheeses, there’s nothing finer. In my mind, one does not need a reason or excuse to open a bottle of bubbly. The mere popping of the cork is celebration enough. With the festive season not that long off, it’s never too early to take a gander at what choices are available to us out there. Here are some selections that I have not written about before, or not for a long while, to get you thinking about it. Most are available at LCBO/Vintages and some only at the wineries. I apologize for any missing prices, as they were not available at the time of printing.
From Champagne, France, come some lovely samples. Roederer Non-Vintage Brut Premier (toasted brioche, apple), Mumm Cordon Rouge $59.95 (toasty, minerally, grapefruit, apricot), Perrier-Jouet NV Grand Brut $64.95 (honey, exotic fruit, spice, elegant), Cattier Chigny-Les-Roses Premier Cru $39.95 (bready, dried fruit, citrus, flowers) and Piper Heidsieck $49.95 (biscuit, apricot, citrus) are all good bets.
Champagne-method sparkles from other countries deliver great value for the dollar as well. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $28.25 (California) (floral, vanilla, citrus, melon), Jackson-Triggs 2006 Entourage Brut $22.95 (Ontario) (toasty, nutty, floral, tropical fruit), 2008 Jackson-Triggs Entourage Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (Ontario) (herbaceous, gooseberry, toasty, citrus), and 2007 Jackson-Triggs Entourage Sparkling Merlot (Ontario) (vanilla, toast, red fruit) are worthy. Try Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut $29.95 (Ontario) (toast, biscuit, apple, pear), See Ya Later Ranch NV Brut (BC) (toasty melon, citrus, pear), Sumac Ridge NV Tribute $29.95 (BC) (apple, citrus), Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay Brut $24.95 (BC) (nutty, floral, tree fruit, citrus), Seaview Brut $13.95 (Australia) (yeast, pear, apple, apricot) or Jacob’s Creek NV Chardonnay/Pinot Noir $14.25 (Australia) (nutty, red currant, citrus).
From Spain, check out Freixenet Cordon Negro $13.95 (green apple, pear, citrus, toast), Freixenet Cordon Rosado, $12.95 (strawberry/raspberry, herbs, dates), Freixenet Carta Nevada $11.95 (apple, floral, citrus), Cristalino Cava Brut (toast, apple, peach, citrus) or Cristalino Cava Rosado Brut (cherry, currant, blackberry, citrus). For something different, give Chateau De Montgueret $18.95 (apple, pear, chalk, mineral) from the Loire valley in France a go.
Other choices that are sure to please are Cono Sur Sparkling Brut $13.95 (Chile) (honey, peach, apple, citrus), Mezzomondo Sparkling Rosé $11.95 (Italy) (red fruit, toast, citrus), Blu Giovellpo Prosecco $14.95 (Italy) (pear, apple citrus), Legends Sparkling Rosé $16.95 (Ontario) (summer berry, citrus) and the delicately off-dry Emeri Pinot Grigio $14.95 (Australia) (rose, lychee, honey).
For sweeter palates, indulge in Petalo Il Vino Moscato $13.05 (Italy) (orange blossom, honey suckle, peach, citrus), Emeri Pink Moscato $14.95 (Australia) (strawberry, musk, citrus), Kir Royale $16.95 (France) (ripe blackcurrant, citrus) or 2010 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine $69.95/375 ml. (Ontario) (honey, tropical fruit, citrus).
Remember that these are only some selections. There are many more available at your local LCBO/Vintages, local wineries and probably more to come on stream, as we get closer to the holidays.
Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge & consultant