Happy New Year’s Eve!
Today many of you will be scrambling to buy all the things you still need for tonight including Champagne for the midnight toast.
Champagne is the king of bubbles with a storied history unto itself. Winston Churchill, a fan of Pol Roget, asserted, “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.”
I prefer Coco Chanel’s approach to the drink: “I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.”
But! Not all bubbles in a glass can be called Champagne. Any sparkling wine produced outside of the region (and rulebook) of Champagne in France, has to go by other names.
Sparkling wines from the Veneto region of Italy are called Prosecco; those bubbles produced in Catalonia, Spain, are called Cava. In Portugal, sparkling wines are referred to as Espumante. In Germany, they are called Sekt. Canada and the USA simply call their sparkling wine, ‘sparkling wine’.
The topic of bubbles is a deep and interesting one and a lovely topic in which to lose oneself, but for the sake of this post, I want to focus on rock solid sparkling wines to consider for New Year’s Eve or any other occasion—like Monday perhaps, or when you’re in love (or not).
If you’re set on Champagne, consider Veuve Clicquot, my favourite for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s the egg-yolk yellow label—as ubiquitous to this brand of Champagne as the turquoise blue of Tiffany is to jewellery— that draws me in; maybe it’s the fact that the business was taken over in 1805 and successfully run by the veuve (widow) Clicquot after the death of her husband, but mostly, I love Veuve for those tiny tight bubbles that are assertive, yet delicate at the same time, and burst with flavours of honeydew, poached pear, citrus, nuts and cream. At around $70, Veuve Clicquot makes a fantastic gift for any occasion.
It should be noted that you can find a good entry-level Champagne for around $40 (CDN), but I’m a little particular to the widow. Girl power, and all, you know.
You can find fantastic sparkling wines outside of Champagne for $20 and up, and if you’re in the Edmonton area, searching for a wine first on liquorconnect.com can help you find a store that carries the wine you’re after without having to put miles on your car. Make sure you call the store first before making the trek though as often the store may be out of what is shown on the liquor connect website.
I’m fond of crémant (French sparkling wine made in the same method as Champagne but outside of the Champagne region) from Alsace and Savoie, particularly the Varichon et Clerc privilège from Savoie, a refreshingly crisp, well-balanced sparkling wine full of pear, vanilla, and almond with a creamy, toasty finish. About $20 and usually available in Edmonton at Color de Vino and Vines at Riverbend. Call first! You can sample it at Bundok, if you want to try before you buy.
If you want something really unique, look for a vin mousseux (sparkling wine) from Luxembourg. This tiny country is beautiful for many reasons but remains relatively unknown for their wine making. Take advantage of that because the price is definitely right. The Jasper Wine Market has a fantastic section devoted to super value wines. They carry the Bernard-Massard Brut, an elegant Pinot Noir from Luxembourg with crisp bubbles, and delicate red berries and floral notes on the palate. Perfect with lobster. Approx $22.
You can hardly ever go wrong with Prosecco, and I agree with wine maven/co-owner, Lisa Caputo of Cibo Bistro who claims Bellenda to be her ongoing favourite. Indulging in this Prosecco is like inhaling a field of flowers while letting ripe berries melt on your tongue. Bellenda is a pretty wine. However, that being said, Lisa let on that a negroamaro sparkling wine called Donna Lisetta from Leone de Castris is recently rivalling Bellenda for her attention. This is worth noting because there’s hardly a person in Edmonton that I trust more than Lisa Caputo when it comes to bubbles.
The Bellenda can be found at Color de Vino, and the Donna Lisetta is carried by Kegs and More, Color de Vino and Hicks Fine Wines in St. Albert. Stop by Cibo to sample a glass and order some of their fantastic salumi to pair with it. Exquisite. Again, both wines are in the $25 range (at the stores).
The sparkling wines coming out of the Okanagan Valley in B.C. definitely deserve your attention. Many of these wines have stood their own (and won!) against award-winning wines from other parts of the world including those from France. If you can get your hands on a sparkling wine from Noble Ridge or Stoneboat or Summerhill or Blue Mountain or Bella or Haywire or Tantalus or Meyer or pretty much any Okanagan bubbly (I can’t name them all!), please please purchase and support them. The average price of an Okanagan sparkling wine is about $40.
New Year’s Eve is a night of pleasure; of fantastic food and wonderful friendship. It is a time to enjoy, reflect, and celebrate to the fullest.
Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”
So, here’s to a happy, happier New Year. May it be as joyful and exuberant as the bubbles in your glass.