It's time once again for HoHoWine, our wine shoppping guide designed to help you find that special bottle of wine. We've asked a number of local wine writers and sommeliers to share their picks from this year.
In Part I of this year's HoHoWine, our oenophiles shared their local and international wine picks. For Part II we asked our wine lovers to tell us about their favourite sparkling wines. Here's what they had to say.
Allison has been professionally passionate about wine and food for eight years. In that short time, Allison has traveled across Canada to work at some of the finest establishments focussed on premium wine, food and service. On her blog, Allison on Wine, she shares her thoughts and discoveries throughout her continued wine education.
NV Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Réserve Rich, Champagne, France
$37.95 | Vintages 00739904, 375ml
This 375ml bottle of Champagne is the perfect stocking stuffer! The Réserve Cuvée from Pol Roger is appropriately named “Rich”. The warm gold colour of the wine is highlighted with copper hues. The bouquet has prominent aromas of hazelnuts, coco and rustic crusty bread, followed by notes of strawberries and cream. The mouth feel is full and luscious but balanced with a backbone of acidity. Linger over a glass while watching snowflakes fall this winter.
NV 13th Street Cuvée Rosé, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
$24.95 | Vintages 00147504, 750ml
Elegant packaging from Niagara’s 13th Street Winery wraps up this festive sparkler. The clear bottle shows off the delicate salmon colour. The nose has distinct savoury aromas of a great Niagara rosé, a balance of sour red fruits such as cranberry and pomegranate mixed with herbal notes of pine and rosemary. The palate is crisp and dry with a vivacious mouse. This wine couldn’t be more suited for holiday festivities and the many hors d’oeuvres served throughout the season.
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut NV
$30 | Vintages 616411
Ontario just gets better and better with sparkling wines, but Henry of Pelham has always had a reputation for great sparklers. The two non-vintage wines in the portfolio, a Brut and a Rose Brut, are both made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They see aging for an average of 30 months, meaning it takes up to three years from harvest to finished wine. The nose is all about toast and brioche with fresh baked apples and citrus. I love the apple flavours, searing acidity, toast and roasted almond flavours. This sparkler has a lively and textured bead of bubbles. For an added holiday twist, take three ounces of this Brut and add in an ounce of Cabernet Franc Icewine, pouring slowly over a spoon, or substitute for Riesling Icewine. A perfect holiday elixir that marries the fresh and vibrant flavours of sparkling with the sweet and fruit-laden taste of the icewine.
Hungaria Grande Cuvee Brut NV
$12 | LCBO 217539
Yes, a $12 bubbly is my second choice for the annual Ho Ho Ho list. Why? Because it’s delicious AND cheap. We need inexpensive sparklers on hand for the holidays and I would happily free pour this Hungarian bubbly, made with Chardonnay, Rhenish Riesling, Kiralyleanyka and Pinot Noir, for anyone who enters my house over the holidays. It’s fruity with citrus-orange notes, toast and a vigorous bead of bubbles that are sustained in the glass. This is a nice, friendly sparkler with a flinty-floral note on the finish. Not every sparkling wine needs to bust your wallet. Ho Ho Ho.
13th Street Cuvee 13 Brut Rose
$24.95 | Vintages 147504
The name might sound like a cool part of Manhattan where you’ll find that great bar you got tipped off on, but in fact it’s a country road in Niagara. They make a range of wines, but 13th Street shines when it comes to sparkling – they continue to put out some of Niagara's better bubbly. Nice lighter pink colour on this rose. Fairly lively nose with notes of red berry fruit followed by good mousse on the palate, which has good acidity and a fresh finish. A local party starter that’ll put smiles on your guests’ faces.
Godme Pere et Fils Brut Reserve Champagne
$51.95 | Vintages 243881
Cash in on the "grower champagne" phenomenon with this rich and darker number. Most champagne uses multi-year grape harvests from dozens of vineyards, blended at one of the Grandes Maisons. Grower champagne is the product of a single vineyard, sometimes from a single vintage. The risk is that with a bad year or two, the grower is stuck with less than great grapes. Anyway, this one’s fine: yeasty, nutty and spicy notes, including some nutmeg on the nose. Smooth and fairly rich on the palate, which has citrus. Gentle mousse and a creamy quality and great crisp acidity. Good complexity and fresh finish.
Mike Di Caro is a resident Spotlight Toronto writer and loves wine. He’s currently working towards a Wine Marketing and Managment certificate at Niagara College and a WSET Advanced certificate. In his spare time you can probably find Michael in front of the tasting bar of an Ontario winery trying to sweet talk the staff into pouring a taste from the back vintage library or the latest, unreleased bottled.
Cave Spring 2004 CSV Blanc de Blancs
$39.95 | Available through the winery
If you subscribe to the Champagne philosophy of making sparkling then the best wines have a distinct yeasty and bready character that is only achievable by leaving the wine to age gracefully on its lees (dead yeast cells). Now, 36 months of time on the lees is considered the standard for quality sparkling, but this one went a little further, 63 months, as it just kept tasting better and better each time staff tried a bottle. Just like walking into a French bakery, this wine bursts with the enticing aroma of fresh-out-of-the-oven brioche. The rich yeasty bread aroma melds with perfumed lemon zest, green apple and anjou pear to create an enticing mix that beckons you to take a sip. On the palate the fruit mingles with toasted hazelnut and a touch of caramel, before finishing on a beautiful mineral note. With high acidity and a creamy mousse this wine will pair well with just about anything and is definitely a great bottle worthy of celebrating the year with family and friends.
Creekside 2000 X Blanc de Blancs
$49.95 | Availability: through the Winery
I can't think of a more appropriately named wine. Not only does the X stand for that mysterious experimental spirit, which has been a hallmark of Creekside, it also hints at this bottle's age (think roman numerals). Taking a page from the if a lot is good then more is even better philosophy, this sparkler spent an astonishing ten years on its lees. That number shatters the minimum 36 month standard for vintage Champagne and all but exceeds even the most ambitious of producers. In short, this bottle firmly puts Creekside into the they must be crazy category. Whether all that time spent on the lees was worth the incredible effort depends on your love of aged white wine and yeasty autolytic notes. If you're unsure about where your tastes fit regarding those things, or if you've never had aged bubbly, this is the one to seek out. And if you love them, you probably stopped reading at 10 years on the lees and were already in your car Niagara-bound or on the phone ordering some. The nose on this wine is like being given the opportunity to the run-wild after hours in your favourite bakery. There's an explosion of yeasty sourdough, shortbread, cultured butter, citrus, apple, caramel and touch of nutty funk, like Oka cheese. One the palate a mix of pear, apple and lemon are backed-up with aged white notes of roasted filberts, toffee and a rich yeasty biscuit that really lingers on the finish. The mousse is soft and fine, not aggressive, and high acid keeps it feeling rather lively. At $50 it's not a cheap bottle, but I'll take the unique personality of this aged vintage sparkler over the more expensive French orange label bubbly every time. Beside where else are you going to find a vintage sparkling wine aged ten years on its lees for that price?