Sara’s VINTAGES Preview – Jun 11, 2016
Beat the heat with Bubbles
by Sara d’Amato
No better way to beat the heat than with a crisp, well-chilled glass of bubbly which is why this week’s VINTAGES sparkling wine feature has arrived in the nick of time. Sparkling wine is doubly refreshing due both to the high acid nature of these wines, a result of the underripe character of grapes sourced for sparkling wine, as well as the bright texture of the bubbles themselves. Thankfully this week you don’t have to overreach yourself on expensive Champagne as the offering is quite broad and includes many well priced and top quality sparklers – lucky you!
There are a few categories worthy of your attention that are highlighted in these selections. One that is top of mind for me, that I pay due attention to when travelling the world’s wine regions, is Charmat Method wine. I am always anxious to try these simpler wines of great value as the quality and number of offerings worldwide is on the increase. For you sophisticates who seek out Traditional/Champenoise Method wines, it is worth opening your prospects to these commonly thought of as “lesser wines” that encourage everyday enjoyment of sparkling wine. At accessible price points, these selections are worth your consideration.
Charmat method wines are distinctly different from those produced in the traditional method as these wines attain their bubbles by a second fermentation in a pressurized, sealed tank as opposed to in the bottle itself. The carbon dioxide is trapped and bubbles are formed in the tank as opposed to the bottle. Although there is contact with the lees that adds body, depth and flavour, contact overall is less. This lower cost, large production method can be done in a way that offers broad appeal and sometimes surprising complexity.
A memorable Charmat method wine in this release is the return of Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 Sparkling ($24.95) made from a blend of select muscat varieties, low in alcohol and widely appealing. Think of a local version of Moscato d’Asti with a great deal of character. Another fine example is Emiliana Organic Brut Sparkling ($15.95) – an organic wine at an accessible price due to its Charmat Method of production. Despite its non-traditional style, the sparkler exhibits great focus with obvious attention to detail from vine to finish. A terrific value, be sure to stock up for the warm weather ahead.
We Canadians love sparkling wine and our local production has been experiencing wide international acclaim. Both Peller of Niagara’s Ice Cuvée and Henry of Pelham’s Cuvée Catharine (regular LCBO listings) were presented at this year’s Prowein, one of the world’s most important international wine shows. As Canada Day festivities approach, you may want to think about serving one of our local specialties. From this release there can be nothing more fitting than Creekside’s Backyard Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc ($24.95) – utterly refreshing and with pronounced sauvignon blanc character.
Another Canadiana option is Tawse 2014 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling ($19.95). This Sekt-like sparkler offers impressive complexity at a steal of a price. This third vintage of the popular bubbly is now certified both organic and biodynamic and is perhaps the most interesting incarnation yet.
New world Traditional Method wines can offer terrific value and rival good quality entry level Champagne. Two such wines in this release are worthy of serious attention. First is Domaine Chandon’s Blanc de Noirs at $30.95. Not new to California, the renowned Champagne house established roots in Yountville in 1973. With grapes planted in top site in Yountville, Carneros and Mt. Veeder, Chandon has the ability to offer impressive quality sparklers with serious complexity.
Not to be missed is Graham Beck’s 2010 Brut Rosé ($21.95). Graham Beck is a pioneer of sparkling wine in South Africa and we see far too few of Beck’s wines come through VINTAGES. Made in the Cap Classique method (South African for Traditional Method), this sparkler offers a great degree of charm, smoky, earthy goodness and a voluminous palate.
Finally, the Old World is no slouch when it comes to serious sparklers but unfortunately, in this release, the offerings of Champagne are not particularly exciting. Therefore, save your money and look to more modest styles that are sure to surprise and captivate.
The ever-consistent Bailly-Lapierre Brut Crémant de Bourgogne at $24.95 is a first-rate Blanc de Blancs style Traditional Method cuvée offering comforting brioche character from fine lees ageing. The most Champagne-esque of the release at half the price. Don’t miss out on this consumer favourite that is sure to sell out quickly.
Happily, a go-to refreshing sparkler Prosecco is recommended in this release. Wines from the DOCG region often offer more complexity and better balance than their DOC counterparts. Seeking out these DOCGs is usually an assurance of higher quality Prosecco. A surprising DOC example is Fantinel’s Extra Dry Prosecco at $16.95. A fun trivia fact: the term Classico, used in Italy to communicate that the grapes are sourced from the original delimited area of the appellation, cannot be used on Prosecco labels as it would cause too much confusion with the term “Classical Method” (not typical for Prosecco wines).
The prolific Trentino region, Italy’s most northerly wine region, is home to superior quality sparklers. This mountainous area comprised of high altitude vineyard sites is ideal territory for cool climate growing of high acid fruit. If you are curious to give these mountain wines a try, look for Rotari’s Brut Rosé ($17.95) made from pinot noir and chardonnay. Mid-weight and exuberant, this Traditional Method bubbly is sure to impress.
If you need a bit more fizz, check out Michael Godel’s mix below. Then stay tuned next week for David Lawrason’s Buyers Guide to zinfandel and other top picks from the June 11th release, with contributions from Michael and myself. In the meantime, Steve Thurlow recommends best values in the general list section of the LCBO perfect for summer barbecue season.
From VINTAGES June 11, 2016
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