FOOD AND DRINK
Bottle Shop: Lovely Bubblies Below $50
Five fantastic sparkling wines that are made everywhere from South Africa to Nova Scotia – and yes, Champagne
Sure, a bottle of champagne makes a nice occasional treat, but there are other perfectly worthy sparkling wines beyond the pricey stuff from France. From crisp South African bubbles to fruity East Coast Canadian fizz, these five bottles will add glitter and glam to your holiday season – just one of them is champagne proper. Here are Billy’s picks for celebratory bubbles under $50, in ascending order by cost (prices are from Ontario, and links lead to LCBO product listing).
Graham Beck Brut Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Sparkling
South Africa doesn’t hold much real estate on the sparkling wine shelf, but one of the few representatives is worth looking out for. This wine from Graham Beck is a first-rate sparkler at a fetching price. Made in the méthode champenoise – meaning the traditional French method, where the bubbles are created by a secondary fermentation in the bottle – the nose is a rich mélange of apples, nuts and toast. It’s a dry, balanced wine to be enjoyed during the cocktail hour with smoked fish appetizers or stuffed mushroom caps.
Carpenè Malvolti Spumante Brut Rosé
Don’t let those cheesy Spumante Bambino ads from the 1980s bias you against this delightful wine from Carpenè Malvolti. (Spumante means “sparkling wine”, further proof that everything sounds better in Italian.) This wine’s bubbles are created in pressurized tanks – known as the Charmat method, the technique was developed in Italy and is also used with prosecco. The colour here is faint pink, the nose offers a wallop of peach and raspberry, and it’s surprisingly dry and creamy on the palate. Chill a case and let the party ensue.
Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling 2014
Benjamin Bridge’s distinctly Canadian Moscato-style sparkler is the poster boy for Nova Scotia’s burgeoning wine industry. Made from a blend of grapes that includes L’Acadie Blanc and New York Muscat, it’s faint peach in colour, lightly effervescent, and low in alcohol (7%). Fruity and floral, it’s technically sweet but a rip tide of acidity pulls the wine into off-dry territory. It’s is a terrific match with spicy food, and hits the spot as a postprandial palate cleanser.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava
The basic Brut Reserva from Segura Viudas is consistently one of the best value sparklers on the planet. For an extra $15 you can upgrade to the winemaker’s stellar, top-of-the-line Reserva Heredad. The leaden bottle looks like a weapon from Game of Thrones, but for some, that could be part of the allure. Expect a crisp, clean, citrusy wine with beguiling complexity and unwavering balance. From sushi to baked salmon to a crown roast of pork, this cava with go with just about anything.
Marc Hébrart Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
When it comes to champagne, don’t be duped by flashy marketing from overpriced luxury labels. Look for small producers, like Marc Hébrart from the Marne Valley, which delivers the goods without picking your pocket. Like other champagnes made 100% from Chardonnay grapes it’s labelled as a “blanc des blancs”; Marc Hébert’s rendition is a relatively rich style, with a nose of toasted almonds, baked apple flavours and a creamy mousse. Open at Christmas dinner if glazed ham or roast turkey is on the menu.