On The Social, we chat about terrific sparkling wines for the holidays. Most people think of champagne as the drink of choice for this season. But when the price of an entry-level bottle starts at $60, you might want to consider other bubblies, which offer great taste for a fraction of champagne’s price.
Natalie, let’s start with what’s the difference between champagne and other sparkling wines?
Although champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France, almost every other region of the country and many other countries around the world produce sparkling wines, often using the same winemaking methods and grapes as champagne.
So let’s start off with some Canadian bubblies – tell us what you’ve brought for us today.
Chateau des Charmes Sparkling Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario V.Q.A.
This is a terrific sparkling wine with aromas of fresh field strawberries. Winemaker Amélie Boury created a rich and satisfying bubbly made from Chardonnay grapes (blanc de blancs). Pair with shellfish, smoked fish, and turkey.
A lovely, off-dry sparkling rosé. This bubbly achieves its sweetness from a dosage of cabernet icewine. Aromas of field berries and raspberries. Pair with fruit cobbler or flan or raw oysters with a red berry mignonette.
Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rosé Sparkling Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A.
Most sparklers are a blend of the traditional champagne grapes — pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, and, like champagne, they are labeled according to their dryness, with extra brut being the driest, followed by brut, extra sec, sec, demi-sec and doux.
Due to warmer climates and style preferences, New World sparklers tend to be fruit-driven compared to the Old World.
This range of styles makes sparkling wine a great aperitif, one that whets the appetite (just the sound of the cork popping can get most people salivating). It is also one of the most food-friendly of wines, able to pair with ingredients such as eggs, cream, vinegar, olives, spicy dishes, oysters and green vegetables that can overwhelm other wines. Its acidity and effervescence cleanses the palate after each sip. During holiday celebrations, serve sparkling wine throughout the meal, not just when toasting.
You also have some Italian sparkling wines
Cupcake Prosecco. A terrific, zesty, vibrant DOC Prosecco with aromas of golden apple, Asian pear and white peach. Perfect as a sipper on its own or pair with shellfish.
Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco Veneto D.O.C., Italy
La Marca Prosecco A crisp, dry Italian sparkling wine with notes of lemon zest and lime. What an amazing bubbly for the price. Ideal for celebrations and gifts. Perfect as a chilled aperitif or companion to seafood.
La Marca Prosecco Veneto D.O.C., Italy
Italy produces sparkling wine called prosecco, is a dry, crisp wine, with a vibrantly floral, citrus character. About a third of proseccos are called frizzante; they have a lighter mousse than the majority of proseccos, which are described as spumante, or fully sparkling.
We also have some bubblies from Spain
Segura Cava Terrific value in this well-made, toasty and refreshing bubbly from Spain that’s a third of the price of Champagne. Segura is one of the most respected producers of Cava, the Spanish name for sparkling wine. Terrific earthy aromas mingle with toasted almond and some green apple. Great aperitif or try it with roast turkey, fried chicken, or yes, even potato chips. Elegant, layered, refreshing.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Penedes, Spain
Villa Conchi Brut Selección Cava Cava D.O., Spain
Spanish sparkling wine, or cava (meaning cellar), offers some of the best values. Cavas are made using the traditional champagne method, but with three white Spanish grape — macabeo, parellada, xarel-lo and, increasingly, with chardonnay. By law, cavas are aged in the bottle a minimum of nine months; the grand reserves, thirty-six months. Cava spends less time on the lees (the wine’s dead yeast cells) than does champagne, and it therefore tastes less yeasty and more earthy, with a deeper golden colour. Like Italian sparklers, a warmer climate means that cavas are less acidic than champagne; however, they can still be refreshing.
Opening any sparkling wine requires a special twist, since the pressure inside the bottle is equal to the tires on a city bus. Ensure that the wine is well chilled before opening it: twenty minutes in ice water works best, but three hours in the fridge will do too. Forget those giddy Formula One winners who spray one another—no matter how merry you feel, shaking the bottle before opening it could mean taking out a few tree ornaments, or even an eye. Just remove the foil and wire casing from the top, then keep one hand firmly on the cork while using the other to slowly turn the bottle at its base. The pressure inside the bottle will push the cork out by itself.
Tall, narrow flute glasses are best to preserve the bubbles in each bottle. Even though saucer-shaped coupe glasses were molded after Marie Antoinette’s breasts, they allow champagne to go flat. You can even do away with the glass completely and sip through a straw from a mini-sparkler, a seven-ounce bottle that several leading producers now sell. Champagne is a great aperitif to whet the appetite—just the sound of the cork popping gets most people salivating. But it’s also one of the most food-friendly of wines. It partners well with tough holiday dishes that overwhelm other wines: olives, spicy hors d’oeuvres, cheese, oysters, eggs, cream and vinegar. Champagne’s effervescence cleanses the palate with each sip. Try the shabby-chic combination of champagne and potato chips—champagne’s acidity softens the perception of the salt.