Sparkling wine is the all-purpose dinner and entertaining treat: it goes with anything and everything. Here’s a sizable shopping list of current releases, from under $20 to over $200. Let your palate and your budget be your guide. All are nonvintage, except where noted; many are most easily found at the wineries, although a lot of the higher-end models can be found at select B.C. LDB stores.
We’ll begin with Prosecco—Italy’s welcome wine has found great favour in B.C. in recent years. A decade ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a bottle of Prosecco in local stores; now there are dozens. This light sparkler has captured the hearts, palates, and pocketbooks of wine lovers in these parts. A very pretty one, in terms of both taste and packaging, starts the list.
Anna Spinato Organic Prosecco ($14.99)
Smooth and bright, this is a perfect kickoff to a dinner party. The bright-green bottle is festive, and the flavour is crisp and clean with just a hint of sweetness.
Veuve du Vernay Brut and Brut Rose ($13.99 each)
Grab ’em both, as they go fast. Tasty and fresh, with nice little bubbles; very food-focused. The rosé can also be found in some stores in a 200-millilitre bottle for $4.65. Widely available and a best buy.
Yellow Tail Bubbles and Bubbles Pink ($12.49 and $13.99, respectively)
The best-buy bubble from Australia’s megaproducer makes all taste buds tingle, and the price is right. Their easily opened Zork closure isn’t unique to Yellow Tail: Cowichan’s Rocky Creek Winery (see below) had it first.
Pascual Toso Brut ($14.99)
One of only a handful of Argentine bubbles, this is bright and a little steely (in a nice way). It’s a restricted listing, meaning you’ll have to search for it in some of the indie stores.
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut Mousseux ($16.99)
Another value-priced sparkler from Down Under: fresh and full, it tickles the nose as well as the palate. One that will keep your whole dinner company, so stock up.
Escorihuela 1884 Extra Brut ($19.99)
Another new one out of Argentina, made in the time-honoured way from 70 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Pinot Noir. Full and bracing; worth searching for. A unique, rich taste.
Gray Monk Odyssey Rose Brut ($19.99)
This is one of B.C.’s nicest pinks, with deep flavour and lovely acidity. Well built and well suited to holiday dinner fare, especially. Made from Gamay Noir and Pinot Meunier, with lots of fruit flavours and a rich and creamy finish.
Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut ($23.90)
One of my top three picks at a recent Blue Mountain portfolio tasting, this is classic stuff: crisp and scintillating, very dry, with a terrific, toasty nose and a silky, long finish. Try the winery in the Okanagan or your favourite indie store.
Domaine Chandon Brut Classic ($23.99)
One of the first of the new breed of California sparklers to arrive here in the ’70s, and still one of the best. Fresh and soft, yet crisp. The producers suggest you “look for nutty flavours…that build to a refreshingly dry finish.” I was just going to say that.
Orofino Moscato Frizzante 2011 ($24.90 from the winery, where it’s already sold-out—only 300 cases were made. There may still be a bottle or two floating around in a private store)
A winning blend of Moscato, Riesling, and Pinot Gris “all grown in Cawston”, the winery’s home turf. Nicely dry and not at all sweet, as well as very deep and rich. As always, a fine achievement from John and Virginia Weber’s little “strawbale” winery.
Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rose ($25.95)
Crémant is what the French call their Champagne-style wine if it doesn’t come from Champagne; this is one of the best available at the LDB. The blend is mostly Pinot Noir, with a little Gamay. It’s subtitled Perle d’Aurore ("Pearl of the Dawn") and tastes as pretty as it looks. They make 30,000 cases a year, so unlike the Orofino, above, you won’t have any trouble finding it.
Forbidden Fruit Flirt Sparkling Peach Wine 2011 ($29.95)
From my favourite fruit winery, located in the Similkameen Valley, this is a bright, peachy, beautiful bit of bubble, with a slightly sweet aftertaste that really likes desserts. Forbidden Fruit has surprisingly wide distribution in Vancouver private stores, especially some of the bigger ones. And there’s always the winery in Cawston. I think this is their first bubble; may there be many more.
Katherine’s Sparkle and Jubilee ($30 each)
Two sparklers from Vancouver Island’s Rocky Creek Winery. Katherine’s is named after the winemaker’s second daughter and is made from Ortega, Gewürztraminer, and Bacchus. Tart and fresh, it’s best served as a predinner sipper. The Jubilee is also made according to the méthode champenoise, but from Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. It's softer, lighter, and a little sweeter than its sister bubbly. Both are easily sourced from the winery and some indie stores. Both feature the easy-off, resealable Zork closure. But who’s got sparkle left over? Especially at the holidays? No one I know!
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2009 and Blanc de Noirs 2008 ($39.99 and $45 to $55, respectively, depending on the retailer)
Schramsberg is arguably California’s finest bubbly, and I’ll argue that with anyone. Here are two examples of their art and craft: stunning, full but dry, fruity sparklers with beautiful aromas and a rich, complex finish. Definitely worth the quest to locate them. It’s hard to pick a favourite; get both for pleasure and comparison if your budget has any room.
Dom Perignon Blanc David Lynch Edition ($221.95)
Speaking of budgets, this one breaks mine! Every once in a while, the Domsters get someone artistic to do a special label/package design; this is the newest, by the iconic filmmaker and designer. (I never did put my Jean Paul Gaultier red lace-up corset bottle by Heidsieck in the recycle bin. Well, they probably wouldn’t have taken it because of the vinyl covering. There was an Andy Warhol bottle [2002 vintage] for only $213.49! There may be one left in one of the signature stores.)
This is a stunning Champagne, as you know, and this is a stunning bottle. A class act all the way, as befits the grande marque. The year’s special treat.