December is a month to celebrate and Champagne has been an undeniable celebratory drink over the centuries.
Stylish and chic, fizz has been associated with fun since middle 17th century when London society discovered the “uplifting” effect of this amazing wine from Champagne with its smooth, seductive bubbles exploding on the tongue in a frothy array of fruity, brioche-like goodness.
“Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France and most people think of champagne as a very expensive commodity.”
However, almost every other region of France, as well as many other countries around the world, produce sparkling wines, often using the same techniques and grapes as champagne at the fraction of the price.
In Champagne, the grapes used in the production of champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Of the French sparkling wines, the best come from cool-climate areas such as Burgundy, where they are called crémants de Bourgogne. In the Loire Valley, sparkling Vouvrays, made from Chenin Blanc.
Alsace makes Crémant d’Alsace, a blend of traditional champagne grapes and Alsatian grapes such as pinot gris, pinot blanc, and riesling. Depending on the blend, they range from tart and citrusy to a steely, minerally sparkler.
Spanish sparkling wine, Cava. A great choice for value as they are vinified in the traditional method. They are earthier, with a deeper golden color and less acidity.
Italy’s most well-known sparkler is Prosecco. Produced in the Veneto region and made with the grape of the same name. Usually dry, with crisp acidity, citrus character, and vibrant floral notes. German sparklers are known as Sekt. Mostly made from a variety of white grapes and have a zesty minerality.
Here at home, Ontario produces excellent sparkling wines. Both Niagara and Prince Edward County have the same cool-climate climate, limestone-based soils and grape varieties as the Champagne in France with ideal conditions for sparkling wine production.
Sparkling wines come in a great range of sweetness levels, from dry to sweet and are labeled according to their dryness, with extra brut being the driest, followed by brut, extra sec, sec, demi-sec and doux.
This range of styles makes sparkling wine a great aperitif and also one of the most food-friendly wines. Serve it throughout the meal as it pairs well with anything, from caviar to popcorn and every course in between, cleansing the palate after each sip. Here are a few of my favorite Champagne-alternatives to ring in the New Year in style!!
Delightful Franciacorta non-vintage sparkler vinified in the traditional method with 75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Nero grapes. The essence of Franciacorta crafted the Ca’ Del Bosco way minimizes the contact with oxygen every step of the way. From washing and drying the grapes prior to fermentation, using gravity to move the must rather than pumping over, to oxygen-less disgorgement and bottling. This results in minimal levels of Sulphur Dioxide used and purer and longer living wine. Beautiful brioche nose from 25 months sur lies maturation, golden straw color, aromas and flavors of stewed apples and peaches with perfectly balanced acidity. Fine, persistent mousse and lingering, clean finish. Fantastic as an aperitif and a great companion to creamy cheeses.
Truly an incredible price point for the quality of this delightful Argentinian sparkler from Mendoza’s Uco Valley. An interesting blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Semillon and 10% Malbec, vinified by charmat method. Pretty pineapple nose, bursting with aromas and flavours of granny smith apples. Extended maturation on its lees imparts complexity and inviting aromas of freshly baked brioche. Luxurious mouthfeel, persistent mousse and lingering finish. Great aperitif or paired with sushi and seafood dishes.
Expertly crafted in Tasmania, Australia’s home of great sparkling wines, this pleasing Cuvée is vinified with the fruit grown on selected, cool climate vineyards across the island. Seductive aromas and flavours of honeysuckle, lemon and wild strawberries with a whiff of toasted hazelnuts. Perfectly balanced with bright acidity, creamy, luxurious mouthfeel and fine, persistent mousse. Clean, polished, lingering brioche-tinged finish. Perfect for special occasion sipping paired with succulent oysters.
From the vineyards planted on the rolling hills along the Niagara Escarpment comes this juicy sparkler. Vinified in the Méthode Traditionnelle from Chardonnay grapes only, Featherstone Cuvée Joy won Best Sparkling Wine of the Year at 2015 All Canadian Wine Championships. Instead of the traditional mushroom-style cork, it’s closed by the bottle cap for easy access (no sabering required). Well-balanced and complex with crisp acidity and aromas and flavors of lemon drops, ripe apples, and buttery brioche mingle on the tongue in a cloud of fine, persistent bubbles.
Rich and complex Niagara vintage sparkler, vinified with hand-picked 100% estate grown Chardonnay from the Short Hills Bench vineyard, crafted with great finesse and elegance. Abundant aromas and flavours of lemon drops and buttery apple pie, subtle floral notes and pronounced minerality. Fine, persistent bubbles, and a lingering creamy finish. Great served with smoked salmon crostini, sprinkled with capers and finished with a splash of lemon juice.
Fantastic value Alsatian sparkler vinified in the Traditional Method with 100% Pinot Blanc grapes. Rich and dry with crisp acidity and concentrated aromas and flavours of green apple, lemon zest and buttery brioche with a subtle touch of minerality. Fine, persistent bubbles and a clean finish. Extremely versatile and food-friendly, serve as an aperitif and throughout the meal.
Vinified from 100% Chardonnay grapes with the use of Charmat method and natural yeast to preserve the character of the varietal. Refreshing with vibrant acidity and aromas and flavours of grapefruit, green apples and freshly baked bread. Creamy mouthfeel with fine bubbles and a long, lingering finish. Fantastic value. Great match to slightly spicy dishes.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!