Champagne flutes await at Cornucopia© Tim Pawsey photo
Over here at HB’s swank, granite and glass adorned, soaring corporate HQ, we’ve been busy popping a few corks, drafting our list of go-to holiday bubbles.
Sparkling wines (and Champagne for
some a few most occasions) are a must-have this time of year. The question is: Are you getting enough Bubble for your Buck?
There’s no shortage of selection. From Spanish Cava to French Crémant, German Sekt and all kinds of sparkling wines in between on the heady ladder up to ‘Big C’ Champagne.
While most of us cherish the taste of real bubbles, when reality strikes we’re drawn to more wallet friendly drops. A growing number of sparkling wines taste as good as they look in the glass, put on a festive air and make pretty nice party companions.
The Hired Belly knows all too well that living with Champagne tastes on a beer budget can be a challenge at the best of times: Here’s a quick list to pin to the fridge—or pixel into your iphone!
• Dr. Loosen—easy sipping sparkling in classic Sekt style offers yet one more excuse (if you ever needed it) to drink Riesling, with its lively mousse, fresh apple notes and natural fresh fruit-forward style. Think anything spicy. A pretty smart package too. BCLS $16.99, 89 pts.
• Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rose Perle D’Aurore. We were impressed with this sparkling wine in Burgundy earlier this year. More subtle red fruit with good acidity and focus, preceded by some nice bubbles in the glass. BCLS $24.99 (Another VanMag top 110 winner; On special from $26.99 until Dec 28)
• Spain makes Cava—arguably the best value bubble around. The more I drink, the more I come back to Segura. The regular Segura Viudas Brut is a very versatile food match. You can drink it with everything from cracked crab to curry. But this time of year, pink is the festive drink…
Segura Viudas Brut Rosé. We tasted through quite a few sparkling rosés and found this was a whole lot less cloying than some. Good bubbles, with long lasting mousse, lively and fruity, with raspberry, cherry and citrus notes. Smart package too. (BCLS $14.99, 89 pts.).
• Prosecco. These days we’re all drinking more Prosecco than ever before. Why not? It’s affordable and easy to enjoy with all kinds of bites. There’s a full range, from affordable sparkling organics such as…good value Villa Teresa Prosecco (BCLS $17.97) to easy sipping, lively drops like apple and pear toned Valdo (BCLS $20.99).
Prosecco has also gone upscale recently. Take nicely structured Giusti Prosecco Brut: apple and floral notes on top with a good stream of bubbles, creamy and gently citrus on the mouth-filling palate. (Private wine stores $26-ish. 90 pts.)
• New World. Just about everywhere is turning out half decent bubble these days. Nose around and you can find some great deals, such as Pascual Toso Brut. This well priced sparkling Chardonnay from Mendoza, (Argentina) sports a touch of apple, some creaminess and a soft finish. Easy quaffing and easy on the wallet—a perfect party wine. (Everything Wine: $16.99 89 pts.)
© Tim Pawsey photo
• Back in BC, we’re always delighted to taste Okanagan pioneer Blue Mountain Sparkling Brut Gold Label. This crisp and clean sparkler sports a stream of fine bubbles with a toasty nose and mouth-filling mousse with firm apple citrus notes through the mid-palate. $24-$26, Private stores, 91 pts.
• The Big C
With some flattering sparkling imitators but no serious substitutes on the horizon, Champagne still rules. And while serious Fizz discounting isn’t quite the blood sport here it is in the U.K., you can find the odd whisper of a deal.
Roederer Brut Premier (currently at Everything Wine and BCLS $63.99—$4 off, 90 pts) is a delicious blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, a fruity and floral topped drop with enduring mousse, subtle nutty, citrus and baked apple hints, crisp, quite full bodied with moderate acidity and good length.
We’d also be remiss to forget Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve… It’s 20 years since we were introduced to Charles on our once-in-a-lifetime race around the world. It’s still not only a sentimental favourite but also impresses us every time we taste it—as we did last week to celebrate the anniversary of our return home. Heidsieck remains one of the most consistent NV Champagnes on the market and we love it its definitive brioche top and elegant structure and vinous, seamless quality. BCLS $69.95, 91 pts.
Often as not, Vintage Champagne (as opposed to Non-Vintage) is worth a nod—and the few extra dollars.
© Tim Pawsey photo
For a worthy splurge, head to Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 04. While most Champagne is a blend of different vintages, this is the exception. It jumped out from a line-up of heavy hitters at a recent tasting, with floral, citrus and fruity notes on the nose, followed by a complex, mineral and very focused palate with keen acidity, citrus and stonefruit notes, through a generous and lingering close. Beautiful, gift-worthy package (But you might just want to buy one for yourself…). BCLS $81. 92 pts.