Nothing says ‘I love you’ like the gift, or the sharing, of a bottle of sparkling wine. Well, unless your sweetheart doesn’t like sparkling wine. Then it says, ‘I find you contemptuous,’ or ‘Your feelings don’t matter to me.’ Which would make me question why you were together in the first place. But let’s think positively, shall we, and use the premise that you both like — or at least your significant other likes — bubbly. Then she/he is happy and feels spoiled and adored, and you’re sweet, thoughtful and/or chivalrous.
Anyway, there’s just something about sparkling wine, be it Champagne or a bubbly that doesn’t come from that esteemed region in France. While there are many reasons to enjoy it these days — it’s refreshing and delightful at any time, and goes exceedingly well with heavily sauced or spicy foods, in that it cleanses the palate with every sip — folks still seem to associate it with special occasions. And while I urge — and indulge in — sparklers at any time, I also agree that it adds an extra-festive touch to get-togethers and celebrations.
While I have my favourites, I’m always keen to try new ones. And I had the opportunity to taste a lot of new-to-me bubblies over the holiday season, and purposely held off writing about them until Valentine’s Day was almost upon us.
The tried and true favourites for me always include Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne ($68.99) and Pol Roger Brut ($61.81), but those are pretty hefty price tags. And while I’m transported EVERY time I have one of those libations, there are dozens of other bubblies out there, the price points of which come in at far more reasonable levels.
For instance, the splendid Steller’s Jay Brut from our very own Okanagan Valley. At $23.49, this has the elegance of true Champagne, with a bread-like aroma and taste elevated by citrus and apple flavours. This lovely Canadian product is delicate and creamy and finishes with floral notes. It’s a great beverage that’s sure to please any dry bubbly fans. It was my favourite of six at the Brandon Wine Society’s December tasting — I even chose it over the Champagne that was on offer!
The Berlucchi "61" Franciacorta Rose from Italy was my second favourite that night. Made in the traditional method, it’s 55 per cent pinot noir and 45 per cent chardonnay. The colour was an impressive salmon-pink, and as always, I loved the yeasty, bready hints that, for me, take any bubbly to a near-perfect level. Complete with berry aromas and teeny, tiny bubbles, this was a beaut, not only in taste, but in appearance. There’s just something about hoisting rose-coloured glasses!
Another great bet is the Danzante Prosecco, also from Italy, a fresh and crisp wine with lots and lots of bubbles that sells for $19.18 a bottle.
For those who like something just a little sweeter (not terribly sweet, but definitely not dry either), the Devil’s Rock Riesling Sparkling Wine from Germany may just fit the bill. While the label proclaims it to be dry, it’s not-off-to-medium-dry would certainly be more accurate — but it’s an enjoyable beverage nonetheless. With peach and apricot aromas and flavours, this is a fresh and crisp beverage that costs only $13.98 a bottle.
Incidentally, the Devil’s Rock impressed the heck out of me in terms of its durability. With a special bubbly-preserving cap, I put probably half a bottle of Devil’s Rock in the fridge overnight, and when I reopened it about 22 hours later, I swear it was every bit as bubbly as it had been the night before. Usually, even with the cap, sparklers will lose up to about 25 or 30 per cent of their bubbles, which makes them not quite as good as they were upon original opening, but still completely drinkable. But I couldn’t tell any difference from the freshly opened Devil’s Rock and the already-opened one I enjoyed the next day.
Finally, a cautionary note: While I used to think beer was the worst culprit for causing oral flatulence, sparkling wine, at least for me, takes the prize here. I’ve been embarrassed more than once by the major belches that have emanated, unbidden and unheralded, from my gullet. Not exactly a great capper for a romantic evening, but perhaps it’s the great equalizer. Elegant wine, an (hopefully) elegant lady, and an anything-but-elegant expulsion of air. But it’s reality. It happens. Just be ready.
So, as one of my elementary-school classmates put it, also inelegantly, in a red, hand-made, heart-shaped card all those years ago, Happy VD!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 8, 2014