Put a little sizzle

into your wine glass!

When was the last time a bottle of dessert wine graced your dinner table?  Sadly, even the savviest wine lovers routinely overlook the joys of Vins Doux Naturels, Sauternes, Stickies, Ports and Sherries. Pity, really…

Unlike these lovely sweet wines, however, sparkling wines at least have a history of being enjoyed at celebrations.  Around New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, wine lovers remember there’s more than just sizzle in a blissful glass of bubbly.

Inexpensive sparkling wines are often vinified using the Charmat Method, where the second fermentation happens in a large stainless-steel tank rather than in individual bottles. It is then bottled under pressure in a continuous process.

From Spain’s J.G Carrion - the largest single winery in Europe - Opera Prima Brut (862144) $9.99 offers intense and attractive aromas of pear, lemon and grapefruit. Streams of sizzling effervescence tickle the tongue with every sip of this seriously affordable imported bubbly.

First thing that comes to mind when we think of sparkling wines is that they are white. Although authentic Italian Lambrusco comes in a variety of styles and sweetness, these uncommon sparkling wines are most often red.

Not to be confused with the better-known cheese from the same Parmigiano-Reggiano region, west of Bologna, Medici 

Ermete I Quercioli Lambrusco Reggiano Secco (64311) $18.99 is a sparkling dry red with intriguing aromas of anise and violets and bright, sassy cherry and raspberry flavours.

Our cool climate growing conditions here in British Columbia lend themselves to the production of sparkling wines that are brisk, bright and high in natural grape acidity. Unencumbered by the kinds of prohibitive rules and regulations in traditional ‘Old World’ jurisdictions our local winemakers take full advantage of their own preferred varieties.

Corcelettes is a Swiss family run boutique winery located on 15 acres of hot, dark rocks in the pristine Similkameen Valley. Corcelettes Santé (672980) $20.79 is an off-dry bubbly with classic sizzling, bright characteristics. Made from Viognier, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Subtle honeyed apricot flavours fill the first sip followed by crisp apple, melon and lime notes.

Using a very traditional Champagne-styled blend of 40 per cent Pinot Meunier, 40 per cent Chardonnay and 20 per cent Pinot Noir, Joie Plein de Vie Brut 2015 (509208) $23.65 also gets its fizz from the less labour-intensive Charmat method – in that prosecco style.  Strawberry, cherry and cranberry flavours sizzle across the tongue on first sip with a tart twist of grapefruit and rhubarb in the finish.

The bubbles in all sparkling wines are one of the not so well-known reasons they are widely used as ‘social lubricants’. A smattering of the alcohol in the wine is carried up into your sinus

cavities by the tiny bursting bubbles. Being well supplied with rich bilateral blood circulation, your sinus cavities help the alcohol seep very speedily and directly into your arterial bloodstream and on to your brain.

Before Champagne, sparkling wine was made very naturally – if often accidentally – as unfiltered bottled wines warmed up in the cellar in the Spring and spontaneously refermented in the bottle. No extra sugar or yeast is added to cause refermentation in the bottle in today’s more deliberate version of this ‘Ancestral Method’.

From grapes grown in a single vineyard in Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley, Bella Chardonnay Methode Ancestrale Brut 2016 (366696) $42.99 is unfined and unfiltered.  Don’t let the scattering of tiny particles still left in the bottle bother you.  Instead, focus on the ripe apple and pear notes in this exceptionally natural sparkling wine.

Champagne’s ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’ is the very labor-intensive process in which wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle. Unlike the Ancestral Method, the process begins with the 

addition of a ‘liqueur de tirage’ - a wine solution of sugar and yeast - to a bottle of still base wine, producing a secondary fermentation inside the bottle.

With a high proportion of Pinot Meunier in the blend Baron-Fuente Grande Reserve Brut Champagne (738617) $48.99 is ripe, warm and accessible. Blended from 10 per cent Pinot Noir, 30 per cent Chardonnay and 60 per cent Pinot Meunier. It offers fresh apple and ripe pear flavors framed by lemon and pink grapefruit acidity. Pair this well-priced Champagne with soft white cheeses to see its fruit flavours shine!

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