Bub­bling up

Find your sparkling wine be­fore New Year’s Eve

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ben MacPhee-Sig­urd­son

NEW Year’s Eve is, quite em­phat­i­cally, the worst day to try to buy booze. In­stead of get­ting the party started at a proper hour, hun­dreds of peo­ple want­ing to toast the New Year scrounge through picked-over shelves be­fore wait­ing in line for an in­tol­er­a­ble amount of time. So save your­self the headache of hit­ting your favourite Liquor Mart/wine shop this Dec. 31 and jump on buy­ing your bub­bly sooner rather than later. Here’s some use­ful in­for­ma­tion for nav­i­gat­ing the sparkling wine sec­tion so you can avoid the throngs of rev­ellers this New Year’s Eve. Most bub­bly isn’t sweet. Of the sparkling wine we see in Manitoba — be it from our own back­yard or the Cham­pagne re­gion of France — nearly all of it is fer­mented dry. And while bub­bly with the word “brut” on the la­bel is al­ways dry, those with “sec” on the la­bel (French for “dry”) will of­ten have a touch of sweet­ness to them. If you want sweet, look for words like “Asti,” “demi-sec,” or “halb­trocken,” or check the la­bels for al­co­hol by vol­ume that’s FREIX­ENET NV COR­DON NE­GRO BRUT (Cava, Spain — $14.29, Liquor Marts and be­yond) This bub­bly in the iconic frosty black bot­tle doesn’t need any help mov­ing units, but it just so hap­pens it’s a re­ally good bang for your buck. A blend of in­dige­nous Span­ish grapes (Parel­lada, Ma­cabeo and Xarel-lo), the Cor­don Ne­gro brings tight chalky, lime, grape­fruit and mod­est herbal notes on the nose. It’s light-bod­ied and dry, with loads of le­mon rind, fresh lime, chalky notes on the palate and crisp acid­ity that’ll get your mouth wa­ter­ing. This great-value bub­bly scored as well as (or bet­ter than) most bub­blies at the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada, many of which were twice the price. 4/5 JA­COB’S CREEK NV BRUT CU­VÉE (Aus­tralia — $13.99, Liquor Marts and be­yond) A Chardon­nay and Pinot Noir blend — as is typ­i­cally the case with French Cham­pagne — the Ja­cob’s Creek brings green ap­ple, bread dough, tart le­mon and min­eral aro­mas. While it won’t ever be con­fused with pricier French bub­bly (it lacks the Cham­pagne’s com­plex­ity), what it does bring is pleas­ant tart ap­ple notes as well as crisp peach and pear flavours. It’s a sim­ple, pleas­ant bub­bly that won’t dis­ap­point for the price. 3/5 lower than 11 per cent, oth­er­wise your bub­bly will be pretty close to bone-dry. The fizz fac­tor. There are a num­ber of ways a bub­bly can get its fizz. Bulk producers can in­ject carbon diox­ide into the wine to make it fizzy, the same way your favourite soft drink is made. Al­ter­nately, the wine can un­dergo sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion in tanks and then be bot­tled un­der pres­sure — typ­i­cally called the Char­mat method. But for the finest, most well-in­te­grated bub­bles, look for sparkling wine that was made the “tra­di­tional method” or “meth­ode cham­p­enoise,” whereby sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion oc­curs in the bot­tle — the same way they do it in the Cham­pagne re­gion of France. Bub­bly — the per­fect food wine? There’s cer­tainly merit in the ar­gu­ment sparkling wine is uni­ver­sally bet­ter with food than ei­ther whites or reds. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, bub­bly is great with hors d’oeu­vres, sal­ads, lighter cheeses, Asian/Thai/In­dian fare, poul­try and lighter pork dishes. A fresh cava works won­ders with oys­ters and other seafood, prosecco and fresh fruit is fab, Asti and dessert marry mar­vel­lously and vin­tage Cham­pagne can even work with milder beef dishes. Here are a few bub­bily re­views to get you started — and I’ll have more bub­bly re­views on the Winnipeg Free Press web­site (www.win­nipegfreep­ress.com) as the New Year ap­proaches: BOT­TEGA NV PE­TALO IL VINO DELL’AMORE MOSCATO DOLCE (Italy — $17.99, Liquor Marts and be­yond) Moscato is a highly aro­matic grape, and this sparkling wine de­liv­ers big time on the nose, with plenty of fresh flo­ral, peach nec­tar, honey and light spice notes. It’s a light-bod­ied, medium-sweet bub­bly, with peach candy dried apri­cot and sweet le­mon notes with soft, fine ef­fer­ves­cence that brings good tex­ture. For those that like their bub­bly on the sweeter side. 3/5 DO­MAINE STE. MICHELLE NV BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT (Columbia Val­ley, Wash. — around $19, pri­vate wine stores) This Wash­ing­ton State bub­bly is made from all-white grapes — hence the “Blanc de Blancs” (white from white) moniker. And while I couldn’t find the grape break­down, it’s safe to as­sume this is a Chardon­nay-based sparkling wine. Toasty, doughy notes on the nose work well with red ap­ple, pear and flint aro­mas. There’s def­i­nitely some acid­ity on the light-bod­ied palate that’s re­flected in the le­mon and green ap­ple flavours, and a hint of resid­ual su­gar that keeps things from get­ting sour. It brings good in­ten­sity and will work well with typ­i­cal New Year Eve fin­ger foods. 3.5/5

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