20 under $20 (or $30) for December
Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team
New Year’s Eve is here in a few days, so for this edition of our best value wines, our four critics have gone bubbly. But we changed it up a bit, and raised the bar to $30 in order to give you a full selection of the best of the value sparklers. Happy New Year! Pop!
Bill Zacharkiw’s suggestions
Let’s start with the value of values of sparkling wines, and the Cava from Segura Viudas. Perennial winner of my inexpensive bubbly of the year, here it is once again. Lots of finesse for a small price. Also from the Cava region, even though the winery doesn’t use the appellation name, if you want to spend an extra 11 dollars, try Josep Maria Raventos’ 2012 l’Hereu. Great depth and powerful enough to pair with richer foods.
One of my favourite sparklers of the past year is Vincent Carême’s 2012 Vouvray. Very delicate and nuanced, with a rocky, mineral finish. On a similar theme but a touch more toasty, Ferrari’s Méthode Traditionelle is a great deal at $26. Wonderfully salty finish that screams for oysters.
And finally, if you like your sparkling wines with a shade of pink, Veuve Ambal’s Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé is a great deal at $22. Pretty and elegant wine, with red berries, a hint of hazelnuts, and lots of amplitude on the finish.
Marc Chapleau’s choices
Looking for a very good crémant de bourgogne rosé, then try Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Rosé. It may not be very intense in terms of aromatics, and it is also discreet in terms of flavour, but that’s what gives the wine its finesse and class.
We don’t necessarily think Luxembourg when we think about wine, but maybe we should. The Poll Fabaire Brut Crémant du Luxembourg shows elegant bubbles, finessed aromatics, as well as a dry and refreshing acidity.
A classic from the Loire, the Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection Brut shows subtle and engaging notes of honey. There is great precision here with respect to both flavours and structure. A sure thing year after year.
An excellent choice from the Languedoc is the Laurens Clos des Demoiselles 2011. Made in the méthode traditionnelle (like champagne), from the Crémant de Limoux appellation, this blend of 60% chardonnay with chenin blanc and pinot noir shows delicate notes of brioche, is full-bodied, flavourful, and quite dry. For just over $23, it’s one of the best sparkling wine values at the SAQ.
And finally, a perennial sure value sparkling wine that is really not far from an entry-level Champagne, we have Prestige Moingeon Brut. Perhaps it lacks the depth of Champagne, but it’s close. Delicately brioché and lively, with a finish that is pure elegance – and without a trace of residual sugar.
Nadia Fournier selections
The best crémants de Bourgogne are those which resemble Champagnes. This can be explained because of both geographic proximity, as well as that they use the same grape varieties. The Vive la Joie 2008 from Bailly Lapierre, a co-operative affiliated with La Chablisienne – is made with two of those Champagne grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir. While the name might be a touch «kitsch», the wine is excellent and highly recommendable.
Also in that «vinous» style, but this time from Jura, the Crémant du Jura from the Tissot family is always a must try, both for its quality and uniqueness. André and Mireille have given the reigns of the family domain to their son Stéphane, who has blossomed into one of the most talented winemakers of his generation. Taste this and you will begin to understand why.
While sparkling wines were quite marginal in Quebec until very recently, they are now made in nearly every grape growing region in the province. It makes sense as acidity is of primordial importance in making quality sparkling wines, and Quebec’s cool climate is ideal for producing higher acid grapes. Domaine Les Brome’s Courville Brut 2011 is a great example of both the progress and the promising future that this style of wine will have in Quebec.
At its best, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene (prosecco is the name of the grape variety) is a joy to drink for both its lightness and for its nuanced aromatics. The fact that the bubbles come from the charmat method (in large stainless steel tanks as opposed to the second fermentation happening in the bottle) takes nothing away from the quality. The Bisol Crede 2013 is without doubt amongst the best from this appellation available at the SAQ.
Due to the efforts of the Cusiné family, the historic domain of Parés Baltà has made enormous progress over the past 20 years. Made with parellada, maccabeu and xarel-lo, organically grown, their Cava Brut is full of ripe fruits while still maintaining a beautiful freshness. A wine with a great personality and an excellent value at $17. What more could you ask for?
Rémy Charest picks
Get some bubbles in a glass, and it’s sure to bring the party atmosphere up a big notch, whatever the bubbles may be – wine, cider or, why not, a really good beer. And that’s why, for this final set of affordable recommendations, I decided to touch on every one of those categories.
Let’s start with a real classic: an all-chardonnay sparkling wine. One of my favourite wines this year in the bubbly category, comes from a Beaujolais producer, Pierre-Marie Chermette of Domaine du Vissoux. His Crémant de Bourgogne is remarkably finessed and remarkably well-priced. Lemony freshness, floral notes and a delicious, mouthfilling intensity. Make sure you get more than one bottle.
On a simpler but oh-so-friendly note, Blanquette de Limoux is a category of sparkling wine that will make your wallet smile, as Christmas gifts may have weighed it down just a tad. Made mostly from Mauzac, a typical white grape variety from the southwest of France, it’s a cozy, simple, yummy bubbly to share in good company. For under 20$, here are two solid ones: Domaine de Fourn and Première Bulle by Sieur d’Arques.
On the local front, many Québec wineries produce some lovely sparklers, but most are small lots and available only at the cellar door (like the one from Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille, fresh and lively, which I truly enjoyed). If you only have time to run to the SAQ, Québec ciders are much easier to acquire. At just under 20$, a classic like Michel Jodoin’s Cidre mousseux rosé is a generous and bright drink – at least as good as any sparkling wine at the same price.
Finally, I’d like to go outside of Chacun son vin’s normal range to suggest something a bit different: a really, really nice beer.
Québec brewers have been progressing by leaps and bounds, these last few years, and that has given birth to some truly remarkable beers that are worthy of a toast on any special occasion. The Gastronomy Series created by Glutenberg brewery, in cooperation with François Chartier, has been providing a whole range of new and unusual flavour profiles. The latest creation in this series, Myrcène de Glace, brewed with vidal must and pomace from Domaine Les Brome, is particularly brilliant, and successfully combines elements of wine and beer. The aromas are reminiscent of muscat and litchi, the texture is silky and bright, and the finish shows very well-balanced notes of hops. With all that and more, you’ll be happy to raise a celebratory glass with your friends, when New Year’s hits, and just as glad to stick your nose back in the glass, with a resolution to spend 2015 seeking out more unexpected delights.
The complete list: 20 under $20 for October
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