Sparkling wine can be an af­ford­able treat if you stay clear of Cham­pagne

It’s time to raise a glass to spring. It’s just around the cor­ner and, af­ter those win­ter blues we all get at times, it’s so nice to see the days get­ting longer and the sun warm­ing things up rather than just shin­ing down.

We have a tradition in my house we re­fer to as Sparkling Wine Fri­day. At least twice a month, we open a bot­tle of bub­bles on a Fri­day af­ter work just to toast the up­com­ing week­end and to put the work week that was be­hind us. No mat­ter what the week was like – good, bad or in­dif­fer­ent – sparkling wine has a way of perk­ing things up. Yes, I know, booze has that ef­fect nor­mally, but there’s just some­thing about a bot­tle of bub­bles that puts a smile on your face like no other wine, beer or spirit can.

Some friends won­der how we can af­ford bub­bles on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, so I’m go­ing to let you in on our se­cret. Most peo­ple, when they think of sparkling wine, get stuck in the mind-rut of Cham­pagne and, yes, Cham­pagne has a way of pric­ing it­self out of the weekly bud­get. But look around at all the other places put­ting sparkling wine into bot­tles: Chile, Canada, U.S.A., Ar­gentina, Italy and Spain. Plus there’s a whole other world of bub­bles in France out­side the bor­ders of Cham­pagne.

If you look hard enough, long enough and in the right places, you can be en­joy­ing sparkling wines any day of the week you wish … and at a frac­tion of the cost of the ex­pen­sive stuff from north­ern France.

So let’s look at some of the bub­bles avail­able from our own back­yard and a few from abroad – just to broaden the spec­trum a bit.

I have been say­ing for years that the next big boon in On­tario wine will be sparkling wine, and I am start­ing to be re­warded for my Nostradamus mo­ment. And while there are plenty of new pro­duc­ers jump­ing on board, you can’t go wrong with the clas­sics who were there from the be­gin­ning.

Two such winer­ies are Trius and Henry of Pel­ham. Both are mak­ing won­der­ful bub­bles in both Brut and Rosé styles and both are ex­pand­ing their of­fer­ings to in­clude more pre­mium bub­bles. (I told you this thing is hot.) Newer play­ers in the bub­bles mar­ket are Feather­stone, which re­cently in­tro­duced a Rosé to its line of “Joy” sparkling, and Mega­lo­ma­niac, whose un­der $20 bub­ble is great for ev­ery­day and week­end get-to­geth­ers.

An­other player to look for is Flat Rock Cel­lars. It fought to have an al­ter­na­tive crown cap clo­sure on its bot­tles (same thing you find on a beer bot­tle). This win­ery makes it in two styles, both white in colour, but one has a lit­tle more sweet­ness in the fin­ished wine.

Great acid­ity and fresh­ness can be found for un­der $25 in the Spark line of sparklings from Tawse. Fi­nally, an­other great new bub­bles pro­ducer is KEW Vine­yards, which came right out of the gate with bub­bles on its wine list and cur­rently has four or five on of­fer.

If you’re trav­el­ling around On­tario this sum­mer, head east to Prince Ed­ward County where bub­bles are all the rage. Hin­ter­land has set the bar high out there – be­cause that’s all they do – but other winer­ies like Huff, Lighthall and Rose­hall Run are also show­ing what can be done in this prov­ince.

Mov­ing on to sparkling wines out­side Cana­dian bor­ders, there are value bub­bles avail­able from many coun­tries, and one of the best places is France it­self. Out­side of Cham­pagne, sparkling wine is called

Cré­mant and ev­ery northerly re­gion makes one, from Al­sace to Bur­gundy and the Loire. One such value is Château D’Eternes from the Loire Val­ley, an­other is Do­maine Rosier Cu­vée Jean Phillipe from Li­moux or the Veuve Am­bal Grande Cu­vée from Bur­gundy … all these wines are made in the Cham­pagne or tra­di­tional method, but be­cause they fall out­side the bound­aries of Cham­pagne, they don’t com­man­deer the high prices.

Other coun­tries mak­ing value-priced bub­bles in­clude Chile, Spain and Italy. In Spain it’s called Cava, while in Italy it’s Pros­ecco; Chile has yet to pick a name be­sides sparkling wine for its bub­bles. All three re­gions will get bub­bles into your glass for less than $20 and in some cases $15 – these are the wines for that ca­sual cel­e­bra­tion.

So let’s raise a glass to spring. Af­ter a long, cold win­ter, noth­ing feels bet­ter than a glass of bub­bles to cel­e­brate. Cheers!

Michael Pinkus

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