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Vine lines: Ring in the New Year with some beautiful bubbly

I love bubbly.

And I’m not really sure why.

Maybe it’s because most of the wine I drank when I first started doing so all those years ago were bubbly, soda-pop-esque wines — Lonesome Charlie, Jordan Valley Crackling Rosé, Bianca Fontana, Caselvetro — and I adored them.

Or perhaps it’s because I was, for years, an addict of Coca-Cola. I’d drink gallons of the stuff — really — and I couldn’t wait to have more. The consumption of soda, or soft drinks, as they were called back then (are they still?), was very sensibly rationed by my parents when I was a kid they knew they weren’t good for me — but when I became an adult, and independent, and could make my own choices, I opted, foolishly I now know, to make up for lost time and drink all the Coke I wanted.

Only after gaining 20 pounds did I even contemplate my then-favourite beverage as the culprit, realizing that although I thoroughly enjoyed my non-stop fixes of that oh-so-satisfying indulgence, I was ingested roughly 800 to 1,000 calories a day of the stuff.

So I quit. Cold turkey. And it was tough, let me tell you. But switching to water (and with the added assistance of a couple of serious surgeries, the fallout of which resulted in extended hospital stays and precluded any food entering my system for two different 10-day periods), I lost the extra pounds that were so annoying me, and have managed to keep most of them off.

But now all I drink is water and wine. Water during the day, and wine during the evening. (With some water thrown in during those night-time hours, of course. C’mon — I’m not a total lush!) And while wine certainly isn’t calorie-free — an average bottle is about 600-700 calories — I don’t drink nearly as much of it as I did my precious Coca-Cola.

But again, I suspect my former Coke addiction is at least one of the reasons I’m so fond of sparkling wine. Bubbly marries my current passion with the fizzy beverage of my younger years.

I suppose the one caveat is that I don’t like sweet bubbly — crazy-sweet bubbly — but ones with a hint of sweetness are OK. That said, and because sparkling wine is so inextricably linked to celebrations, and particularly New Year’s Eve, here are some to try.

The Cristalino Brut Cava from Spain is quite light but very pleasant, and not quite as lemony as some Cavas, which made 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 appealed to me a lot — I like sparklers that have some of the qualities of true Champagne, and this is one of them. And while I’ve loved almost every Champagne I’ve ever tried, the Cristalino Brut is a great substitute, particularly at about one-fifth the cost.

Kevin Kotyk, Product Consultant at the Shoppers Mall Liquor Mart, suggested I give the Willm Crémant D’Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut in France a go, and I’m glad he did. This wine is 100 per cent Pinot Noir, and its aroma and flavour are quite citrusy. But then it gets a bit creamy, which is always great in my books. Another plus — the flavour lasts seems to last an eternity. This is one of those wines that goes a long way, simply because it lingers.

A sip continues to give pleasure for several minutes — it sort of coats the tongue, allowing the flavour to blossom and mellow, then turn to a toasty vanilla on the finish. And that ability to endure, if you will, makes it more than worth $17.30. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, this would be a great sparkler for you, since, as mentioned, it’s got a lot of citrus going on. Chard lovers might find the Cristalino a little more to their taste.

Back to Spain for the next one, and this little beauty was one of my favourites at the Westman Wine Festival this year. Also 100 per cent Pinot Noir, the Codorniu Brut is a beautiful wine in more ways than one. It has very, very low residual sugar, and while it’s a perfect shade of pink, 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 $17.99 a bottle. And just as an aside, it comes in a very heavy, interestingly shaped bottle.

For those who like something a bit sweet with a little extra something, Dr. Zen Zen Gold Sparkler from Germany has been around for years under a variety of different names, including Gold Heaven. It continues to make people happy, both because of its uncomplicated nature, and the harmlessly ingestible flakes of real gold that make it look stunningly lovely in a flute. Nothing says festive like glitter in a glass, especially if it matches your outfit! The Gold Sparkler sells for $17.87 a bottle.

So celebrate what has been as you raise a glass to what’s to come. Happy New Year, everyone!

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 29, 2012

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I love bubbly.

And I’m not really sure why.

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And I’m not really sure why.

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