There’s nothing that says ‘festive’ like a bottle of bubbly.
But there’s been a strong movement lately to try to encourage people to consume sparkling wine not only on celebratory occasions, but anytime. It’s a lovely beverage that shouldn’t be limited to special events or milestones or what have you. Why else would people mix it with orange juice in the morning and call it a mimosa? I guess because that’s a way to legitimize drinking alcohol before noon!
But seriously, or perhaps not so seriously, the time for bubbly is always. And while I, too, am urging folks to consider sparkling wine any time of the year, there’s no question it’s top-of-mind when New Year’s Eve is imminent.
And since Tuesday is looming, it seemed logical to trot out a few choice bubblies for your consideration. It seems that every year, vintners release new and different sparklers, and what follows are just a few of those. Incidentally, while Champagne still reigns, the great ones like Pol Roger, Moet & Chandon, Tattinger, and Veuve Cliqcuot, fabulous though they are, are not usually on everybody’s affordable list, especially at this time of year. If you want to spoil somebody, or even yourself (because you’re worth it!), by all means get some Champagne. But as much as I love it, if I can find a bubbly I really like and get three or four bottles of it for the price of one bottle of Champagne, that’s what I’m going to do almost every time.
In fact, many of the sparkling wines out there are produced using the same method as Champagne, so really, you’re paying a lot for an appellation and a name (and granted, usually a splendid wine) when something much less expensive will often do.
I love the yeasty and doughy quality of Champagne, though, and while that’s sometimes — if not often — missing in the, for lack of a better word, ‘lesser’ bubblies, there’s a hint of it in the very reasonably priced Cristalino Brut Cava from Spain. This wine is quite light but very pleasant, and not quite as lemony as some Cavas, which makes it really easy to take, especially for me and especially at $12.99 a bottle. The Cristalino Brut has a smoothness, a creaminess about it that appeals to me a lot.
I’ve fallen in love with Proseccos over the last couple of years, and the Danzante Prosecco from Italy is definitely one to try. This one is extra brut, and features lingering cascades of pin-point bubbles that create that creaminess — described in wine-speak as ‘a rich, lively mousse in the glass.’ Trust me. It’s creamy. ’Nough said. With a crisp, rich bouquet and velvety smoothness on the palate, this is a really lovely wine for what I think is a respectable price — $19.18 a bottle.
At a party a few weeks back, I tried a Prosecco I’d had before and thought was good, but hadn’t really made notes on it. And while it’s not over-the-top amazing or anything like that, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t over-analyze it — this was a party, after all, and one of the down sides — and there are very few — of being a wine aficionado is that one finds oneself always assessing and investigating and sampling and rating and ranking and so forth. But this time, I just tried it and liked it. And ‘it’ is the Zonin Special Cuvee Prosecco Brut, also from Italy, and it costs $13.53.
For something a little different, try the Devil’s Rock Riesling Sparkling Wine. It has peach, apple and citrus aromas and is fresh and vibrant — exactly what one might want from a bubbly. Although the label says it’s dry, there’s certainly a hint of sweetness there, so this might be the perfect compromise for those who like their bubbly not crazy-sweet but perhaps a tad sweeter than many of the bruts out there. From Germany — naturally — the Devil’s Rock Riesling Sparkling sells for $14.05.
Back to Spain for the next one, and if pink is your colour, this wine’s for you. But don’t let the colour fool you. The Codorniu Pinot Noir Cava Brut is 100 per cent Pinot Noir, but it’s not even remotely sweet. It’s dry and elegant but really gutsy, and makes for a great aperitif or palate cleanser between courses. I think it’s a bargain for $18.07 a bottle. And just as an aside, it comes in a very heavy, interestingly shaped bottle.
Another favourite, which I mentioned last week, is the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. It’s lush and fruity and spicy, and is just a sophisticated, refined, beautiful bubbly for $22.49.
So here’s to a fabulous, festive New Year’s Eve for all, and a healthy, happy, hopeful New Year to follow. Cheers, 2014! And welcome!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 28, 2013