While you may have planned ahead and stocked up on bubbles for the holidays, if you’re like me, it’s possible you’ve already run out. The more sparkling wine I have on hand, the more restocking emergencies I seem to have. (Call it getting into the spirit of the season.) When that unexpected guest drops by, I congratulate myself upon opening the fridge and finding just the right bottle of sparkling, perfectly chilled and ready to pop.
The world of sparkling wines is vast, and not all are created equal. There are different ways of getting those precious bubbles in the bottle. The epitome of celebration is Champagne, which achieves its sparkle thanks to a second fermentation in the very bottle from which you’ll eventually be pouring. Referred to as the “traditional method,” this meticulous process allows for the development of complex flavours and the finest of bubbles. It’s been adopted for high-quality sparklers around the globe, many of which provide an affordable alternative to bona fide Champagne.
I’m sticking to “tradition” this year, but balancing my budget by drinking beyond Champagne. Here are five traditional-method sparklers under $50 that will keep the bubbles flowing for the next week.
Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée, Brut, Cava DO • Spain • $21.29 (BC Liquor Stores)
If racy acidity isn’t your thing, this softer style of sparkler should be up your alley. A specialty cuvée from cava giant Freixenet, it’s fairly rich without being heavy, and offers scents of toast, pear and honey. Slightly nutty on the palate with hints of mocha and, of course, lively bubble, there is an admirable refinement to it.
Aguila Crémant de Limoux Brut AOC • France • $23.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
The southern French region of Limoux, which sits in the cool foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, has a long-established reputation for unique sparkling wine. Here, Chenin Blanc and local Mauzac grape add intrigue to Chardonnay, giving pretty floral and peach notes backed up by lemon and red apple. Light and fresh, with persistent mousse.
2013 Quinta da Murta Brut Nature Bucelas DOC • Portugal • $26.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
This is an exciting new find for me. From Portugal’s tiny Bucelas region (just above Lisbon), it’s crafted from the zesty Arinto grape, and will appeal to those who likes their bubble bracing. A briny sea-air quality meets subtle earthiness and appealing citrusy nuances. Unrelentingly dry and tangy. I can’t wait to crack a bottle with oysters.
2013 Fitzpatrick Family Vineyard Fitz Brut • British Columbia • $32.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
If you want to toast the holidays with some local fizz, check out this new project from the Fitzpatrick family, formerly of CedarCreek. All the grapes come from their Greata Ranch vineyard in Peachland. A Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend that’s aged more than two years on the lees, the Fitz is biscuity, creamy, and a fine testament to BC bubble.
J-M Sélèque Solessence Brut Champagne AOC • France • $49.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Sometimes only Champagne will do, and here’s one heck of a good deal. It’s about as inexpensive a bottle of Champagne as you’ll find locally. It’s also friendly and approachable, with plenty of character – just right for happy, light-hearted celebrations. Flavours evoke baked apple tart (complete with toasty pie crust) and a touch of caramel, but it’s still fresh and energetic.
Prices exclusive of taxes.