Putting some sparkle and fizz into your flute…
Even if they overlook them all year long, wine lovers remember sparkling wines on New Year’s Eve. Celebrate by popping the cork off a bottle of bubbly!
Very few wine styles pair so well with virtually every type of food. The combination of the palate-scrubbing effervescence of the fizzy bubbles of carbon dioxide and the refreshingly high natural acidity of the wines makes them solid picks for wine and food pairing.
‘Cava’ is Spain’s sparkling answer to France’s Champagne, made from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo grapes with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir just starting to creep into the blends.
Very attractively packaged - with the silhouette of a hummingbird feeding from a trumpet flower cut out of a colourful garden scene - Real de Aragon (694844) $12.99 is a cheerful example of Cava. There’s a twist of lemon rind, fruity McIntosh apples, a touch of honeyed apricot and a swirl of grapey sweetness in the finish.
Most sparkling wines are at their best when they are very well chilled. Serious sparkling wine aficionados keep tall chilled ‘flute’ glasses waiting in the freezer and replace their glasses when they refresh the wine.
Proseccos are made from Italian wine grapes known as Glera. These are sparkling wines that are at their best when they are young and fresh. Using the ‘Charmat’ method, the bubbles are the result of a secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks. From these tanks, Prosecco is bottled fully fizzy and under pressure.
Dynamite packaging – a stylized and apparently embossed silver and bronze ‘Fleur de Lis’ on a dark green bottle give Flor Prosecco (560250) $17.95 that eye-catching edge on the shelf. Ripe, canned pear aromas and flavours dominate the first sip before sliding into lemon zest.
The bubbles in all sparkling wines are one of the reasons they are put to such good use as “social lubricants”. Nothing seems to go to our heads quite as quickly as a glass of almost any bubbly wine. A smattering of the alcohol in the wine is carried up into your sinus cavities by the tiny bursting bubbles. Being well-endowed with rich bilateral circulation, the veins in your sinal cavity carry the alcohol very speedily and directly into your bloodstream and on to your brain. Just like that!
When we think of bubblies, we generally don’t think of South America but Escorihuela 1884 Extra Brut (917476) $19.75 should be on your list. A blend of 70 per cent Chardonnay and 30 per cent Pinot Noir it sparkles with subtle undernotes of apple, mango, pineapple and lime. And yeah, these are the same folks who gave us the fabulously popular Escorihuela 1884 Malbec…
Avoiding the higher costs of making fine sparkling wines in the Champagne region of France, venerable French Champagne ‘houses’ bought vineyards and built wineries in California more than 20 years ago. From one of those, Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (265678) $22.99 sizzles from a crisp base of apple, peach and pear flavours overlaid with a light touch of caramel and fresh walnuts.
From St. Bris, near Chablis in France’s Burgundy Bailly-Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Réserve Brut NV (657742) $25.99 is made from 60 per cent Pinot Noir, 20 per cent Chardonnay, 10 per cent Aligoté, and 10 per cent Gamay. The unusual addition of Aligoté gives it a citric quality and heightens the refreshing acidity. Made in the same style as Champagne, this is a bargain-priced bubbly.
In the Okanagan Valley Stephen Cipes is an outspoken advocate for ‘natural’ wine. He explains Summerhill Cipes Brut (314419) $26.95 “ …is made from…Riesling and Chardonnay grapes that are 100 per cent organic, which has a huge impact on the quality.” This already intriguing sparkling wine is finished by aging in Summerhill’s pyramid “… where it benefits from the sacred geometry and the alignment to true north.”
Stretch your limits with Jansz Premium Cuvee (589341) $29.95 from Australia’s ‘South Island’ –Tasmania. It is a classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the style of true French Champagne. Over a bright citric base there is quite a complex mouthful of subtle fruits, creamy sweet honeysuckle and toasted nuts waits in every sip!
Regardless of your choices, designate a driver or call a cab if you plan to indulge yourself.
Have a safe and Happy New Year’s Eve!