Jingle Fizz: Your Guide to Last Minute New Year’s Sparklers

Dashing down the street  ♪♫♫ In your one horse Hyundai  ♫♪♪♫ 
To the LCBO we go  ♫♫♪♪♫  Honking all the way ♪♪♫ 
Hear the cashiers sing  ♪♫♫ Making their New Year’s bright ♪♫♫ 
Oh what fun it really ain’t  ♫♫♪♪  To buy bubbly for tonight…

John Szabo at  work

John Szabo at work

You have to get to the LCBO yourself, and endure the line-ups. We can’t do much about that (except to dangle the sugar plum of how nice it would be to buy your bubbly at your supermarket instead). We can however help you select wines of good taste and good value, which is right in our wheelhouse. Below four WineAlign critics – John Szabo MS (pictured here), Sara d’Amato, Steve Thurlow and David Lawrason – have assembled their bubbly picks for New Year’s Eve. They are arranged by type/price category and were available at the LCBO on December 28.

Champagne (Over $35)

Champagne can only originate in the Champagne region of France, and generations of wily marketers have made it “the one to buy” when a statement of prosperity underlies the buying decision. So for those toasting to a happy and prosperous New Year, here are four fine ‘champers’:

Taittinger Brut Réserve ChampagneBonnaire Blanc De Blancs Brut Grand Cru Champagne 2004Bonnaire Blanc De Blancs Brut Grand Cru Champagne 2004
Champagne, France
$59.95 Vintages #721035

Here’s a classy, complex, vintage blanc de blancs grower champagne (Bonnaire owns and farms their own vineyards – they do not purchase any fruit), with notably toasty-caramel-honeyed notes and depth and power well above the mean. The palate is fullish and well balanced, with superior length. Fine champagne all around. Tasted November 2012. John Szabo, WineAlign.com

Taittinger Brut
Champagne, France
$59.95  Vintages #814723

This classic, elegant, concise and tightly knit style is often a hit with women and perfect for an elegant soirée. With an aromatic and enveloping nose, the palate boasts notable verve and a playful interplay of savory, sweet and sour. Finish is quite dry with lingering notes of white peach, persimmon and sea salt. Sara d’Amato, WineAlign.com

Louis Roederer Brut Premier ChampagneNicolas Feuillatte Brut ChampagneLouis Roederer Brut Premier
Champagne, France
$63.95 Vintages Essentials #268771

A beautiful delicate champagne with fine aromas and flavours. Expect baked apple and pear fruit with toast, ginger, white peach and vanilla notes. It is light on the palate with well integrated soft acidity and excellent length. Fine as an aperitif but also consider with delicately flavoured poultry and fish courses or pastry. This is the sale price until January 6. Steve Thurlow, WineAlign.com

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut
Champagne, France
$ 44.55 LCBO #537605

Nicolas Feuillate is one of the great business success stories of Champagne in modern times. In 30 years it has grown from being a small estate to a co-op of over 5,000 growers and the third largest selling Champagne in the world. This “basic” non-vintage Brut spent the minimum three years ageing on the lees, with a fairly simple fruit-driven aroma of pear/apple, with a hint of vanilla and very mild yeasty notes. It’s light bodied, quite crisp, lemony and fresh with good to very good length. Serve well chilled as an all-purpose aperitif and seafood bubbly. Last Tasted November 2012.  David Lawrason, WineAlign.com

Ontario Sparkling ($20 to $30)
With cool climate growing conditions similar to Champagne, as well as limestone based soils, Ontario vintners are moving quickly to create excellent sparklers made  from the same grape varieties (chardonnay and pinot noir) in the same ‘methode champenoise’ (second fermentation in the bottle). And the best Ontario bubblies are still cheaper than the cheapest Champagnes.

Angels Gate Archangel Chardonnay Brut 2010Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs BrutCave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut
Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$29.95 LCBO #213983

The Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut (traditional method) delivers significant depth, complexity and minerality, on top of pure crisp citrus fruit. The palate is supremely well-balanced, crisply acidic, and the finish lovely and lingering. A really lovely local bubbly that enters into the realm of fine non-vintage champagne blanc de blancs. Tasted October 2012. John Szabo, WineAlign.com

Angels Gate Archangel Chardonnay Brut 2010
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$18.95 LCBO #227009

It is difficult to beat the price/quality ratio on this local gem. Produced in the traditional method, this blanc de blancs is surprisingly rich with elegant toasty notes and creamy mousse. Celebrating ten years in the business, Angels Gate continues to create well-priced, honest sparkling wines. Sara d’Amato, WineAlign.com

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine BrutTrius BrutHenry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut
Niagara Peninsula, Canada
$29.95 LCBO #217521

A serious sparkling wine from Ontario with a delicate nose of lightly toasted bread, apple and pear fruit with baked lemon and floral complexity. It comes with a new label and is much improved. After the delicate nose, it is surprisingly rich on the palate with lots of ripe fruit balanced by soft acidity and a mineral layer. Very good length. Try with pastry nibbles or smoked fish. Steve Thurlow, WineAlign.com

Trius Brut
$24.95 LCBO #284539

This has been a consistent gold medal performer in national wine shows. It’s pale yellow in colour with a piquant, fresh, well integrated nose of dried apple, hazelnut and lemon. It’s light bodied, dry with very good acid grip, and at last tasting it seemed to have more acid and piquancy, with a firm, lemony, dry and nutty finish. The length is very good to excellent. The underground bubbly storage cellar is among the largest in Canada and an impressive visit. This is also available at Andrew Peller’s Vineyards wine stores. David Lawrason, WineAlign.com

Other Countries (up to $20)
Under $20 sparkling wine can be successfully made anywhere in the world, although cool climates that provide natural acidity are generally better. The grapes become more varied and sometimes localized (as in Italy and Spain), and the wines are often ‘bubblized” by re-fermenting in a tank (the charmat method). But some good traditional method champenoise sparklers can also be found at this price.

Ruhlmann Signature Jean Charles Brut Crémant d'AlsaceBisol Crede Brut Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene SuperioreBisol Crede Brut Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore
Veneto, Italy
$19.95 Vintages #297242

Always a full step above the mean, Bisol delivers proseccos of superior refinement and class. Although the Crede is one of the “entry level” bubblies from the house, it has marvelous perfume, classic for the variety, full of fragrant pear and green apple, lemon blossom and fresh sweet green herbs. The palate is fullish, creamy yet fresh, with excellent intensity and vinosity. This is certainly priced in the premium range for the category, but well worth it in my view. Terrific length. John Szabo, WineAlign.com

Ruhlmann Signature Jean Charles Brut Crémant d’Alsace
Alsace, France
$19.95 Vintages #297853

As featured in my latest holiday recommendations, this knock-out crémant made by the traditional method champenoise is ever worthy of a festive celebration and won’t break the bank. Bready, toasty, chalky, earthy, creamy flavours prevail on the palate of this richly compelling Alsatian find. Sara d’Amato, WineAlign.com

Yellowglen Pink SparklingSegura Viudas Brut Reserva CavaYellowglen Pink Sparkling
$11.95 LCBO #15867

Every time I try this wine I think that it is a pretty amazing everyday bubble! This blend of pinot noir and chardonnay over delivers for the money. An orangey pink with fine bubbles that persist well with ample aromas of cherry, toffee and bread with a hint of stewed strawberry. The palate is fairly rich with an air of elegance and the finish holds focus and lingers for a long time. Don’t over-chill or you will miss the fruit and aromas. Steve Thurlow, WineAlign.com

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava
$14.25 LCBO #216960

This Spanish cava made from local grape varieties by the traditional method continues as one of the best buys in sparkling wine – and it has been for years!  It displays classic olive, green pear and lime aromas. It’s light to mid-weight, brisk and lively, with a nervy centre and some softness on the edges. Chill well. David Lawrason, WineAlign.com

From all of us at WineAlign, have a safe and happy new year.   ♫♪♪♫ 

The complete list: New Year’s Sparklers 2012

Oggi Pinot Grigio Delle Venezia 2011

Rosehill Wine Cellars