If there's one essential wine to have on hand during the holidays it's a bottle, or preferably two, of sparkling. It's almost always the correct answer to the age old conundrum of what wine will go well with the dish you're serving.
Plus opening a bottle instantly turns a casual get-together into something special. Let's not forget that no celebration is ever truly complete without a glass of sparkling to toast the good times and better company.
So with that in mind we've partnered with some of our favourite fellow wine writers to bring you a guide to what we think are the top LCBO-available sparkling wines at this time of year. No matter which you choose it's sure to be a great sparkler for you and yours to help celebrate this holiday season.
Chateau des Charmes Brut Methode Traditionnel, NV
Price: $22.95 ($20.95 until Jan. 6th)
Availability: LCBO 224766
This is “non-vintage,” like a champagne: wines from two or three different years are in the blend. Chardonnay and pinot noir are the grapes, also like in Champagne. The nose has the bready, yeasty aromas you hope for in a sparkler as well as a sweet lemon note and some grapefruit. There’s ripe fruit on the palate, including apple and more lemon and a slight sweet note. Decent mousse with tiny bubbles, and it’s fresh without being sharp. Nice finish of riper apple fruit. This is an affordably priced crowd-pleasing party-starter. If you can step up to $30 and order direct from the winery, the Rosé version is also worth a try.
Rick VanSickle ( @rickwine – Wines in Niagara )
What is the holiday season without some bubbles to share with friends and family? I have chosen two very different styles from Niagara and one sparkler from Sonoma, California, that always delivers quality at a great price. Enjoy!
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Estate Blanc de Blanc Carte Blanche, 2007
Availability: LCBO Vintages 315200
In a lot of ways, the first vintage dated sparkling wine from Henry of Pelham reflects the warmth of the 2007 season even though the Chardonnay grapes for sparkling wines are picked much earlier in the season to preserve freshness and acidity. The nose shows warm bread, toasty brioche, complex citrus, stone fruit and lemon curd. The mousse is soft and luscious on the palate with baked apple, lemon-citrus and creamy quince fruits to go with pastry, toasted hazelnuts and enough juicy acidity to carry the flavours through a long finish. This is a fleshy sparkler, to be sure, but it’s what you want from a wine that’s already five years old. Drink now or watch how it ages for a few years. 92 Points.
Inniskillin Sparkling Icewine Vidal, 2011
Price: $79.95 for 375 mL bottle
Availability: LCBO Vintages 560367
This special bottling of sparkling Vidal icewine has quickly become a favourite of mine, and a style I hope catches on with every icewine producer in the peninsula. It starts with rousing, invigorating aromatics of sweet apricot, peach tart and exotic tropical fruits. The bubbles from this charmat method sparkler dance nimbly in the glass and explode on the palate with alluring sweetness and playful effervescence. The flavours are gorgeous with peach compote, orange peel, citrus, mango, apricot and honeycomb all delivered on a racy spine of acidity. Herein lies the future of icewine. Wow!
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, NV
Availability: LCBO Vintages 192898
This non-vintage sparkler from the cool, Sonoma side of Carneros in California is attractive for its leesy-yeasty, baked bread, pear, roasted almonds and bright lime-apple-citrus notes on the nose. The blend is pinot noir and chardonnay made in the méthode Champenoise and straddles the line between a zippy, zesty fresh citrus offering on the nose and a warm apple tart, poached pear and toasty vanilla sparkler in the mouth. Not as fresh as some, but still a delicious bubbly with a generous mousse that feels good going down the hatch.
Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Brut Rosé, NV
Availability: LCBO 217505
Henry of Pelham has taken this wine to a new level, both in packaging and quality. The new label colour scheme really pops, and for my taste, this is the best rendition of this bubbly to date. This blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay spent 30 months on the lees, creating a bouquet of biscuits, yeast, raspberry, cherry and green apple. The finish is long and crisp. Sashimi was made for this wine! 90 Points.
Bisol Crede Brut Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore, NV
Availability: LCBO Vintages 297242
Most Prosseco is a commercial offering best suited for blending with white peach purée, so as to produce the famous Bellini cocktail. Not so here. Bisol is one of the top producers of Prosecco and all the evidence you need is right in the glass. Medium bodied, the pear, apple, citrus and nuts carry long on the creamy finish. This is a superb value sparkler to celebrate the new year with! 89 Points.
Michael Di Caro ( @mikedicaro )
If a glass of sparkling wine makes any day a little brighter that goes doubly so for the holidays. For this year's guide I've picked a widely-available and classically-made great value sparkler from Niagara. Also to celebrate our growing country-wide wine culture I've also selected some B.C. bubbly from one of the province's top producers.
Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Méthode Classique Brut, 2008
Availability: LCBO Vintages 234161
For a few years now Jackson-Triggs has been making one of the best locally-made traditional method sparklers you can get for the money. This 2008 hits all the right notes you want from a Pinot Noir-and-Chardonnay-based bubbly that's long-aged on its lees. There's crisp McIntosh apple, bright lemon, toasty rich brioche, wisps of berries and a lively mineral finish. The great balance between rich-bakery flavours, crisp citrus-forward fruit and its spirited, yet creamy mousse, make this sparkler a near-universal partner for whatever you might be serving. Combine that with the price and it's a great argument for keeping a bottle or two on hand for your celebrations this season or to give your unexpected guests a little bit of that warm holiday hospitality.
Blue Mountain Brut, NV
Availability: LCBO Vintages 206326
This B.C. producer from the Okanagan Valley has been making sparkling lovers in its home province happy for years. But complicated inter-provincial trade regulations mean its wines aren't easily accessible across the rest of the country. Luckily, the LCBO's Vintages has picked-up some of its non-vintage (meaning grapes come from more than one year) brut (dry) sparkler for Ontarians to enjoy just in time for the holidays. It's bursting with lime and lemon zest, golden apple, floral peach and rich-yeasty bread notes. The lively mousse would make it great partner for a creamy and melony West coast oysters like a Beach Angel or Kusshi to celebrate the new year.
Suresh Doss' Picks
Recently, Wine Country Ontario held a Sparkling wine tasting at the Trump Hotel's Stock restaurant, to showcase some of the new sparkling wines coming out of the Prince Edward County and Niagara wine making regions. More and more producers are jumping on the bubbly bandwagon in Ontario, current annual production is around 50,000 cases a year (varies year to year) with 26 wineries in Ontario produce some style of sparkling wine (with the traditional and Cuvee Close Charmat formats being the most common).
There's definitely momentum in the industry as consumers are appreciating sparkling wines — and buying local bubbly instead of Champagne — and more restaurants are starting to carry sparkling wines.
During the tasting, 19 different Ontario sparklers were poured. 9 of which were masterfully paired with a series of plates from chefs Todd Clarmo and David Chow. Here are some of my highlights (more on that later).
Chateau des Charmes Rose Sparkling Wine 2009
Availability: LCBO 78055
From one of the premier bubbly producers in Niagara-on-the-lake comes this blended sparkler with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, made in the traditional method. Strawberry and shortbread aromas fill your nose, with a wine that is crisp on the palate with an enjoyable mousse. It's a sparkler thats well suited to kick off the dinner party, and will pair very well with whatever appetizers you have in mind. It's also got a gorgeous salmon colour.
Flatrock Cellars Riddled 2008
Availability: LCBO 187377
Another sparkler made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A refreshing crisp wine much like its 2007 predecessor, floating between notes of green apple, toast, and lemon and citrus flavours. Another great food friendly option, particulary with Asian or Indian food. The has a slight touch of sweetness and plenty of acidity to go with curries.