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It's a poppin' good time.
I want to start by being absolutely clear: it is not bubbles season. And the reason it is not bubbles season is that every season, every month (heck, in my house, every week) is “bubbles season.” This is because bubbles—be they Cava, Prosecco or Champagne—are the effervescent gift that gives joy to wine-drinkers all year long. They can be fantastically affordable, they’re almost always versatile and at their zenith they offer a transcendency usually reserved for delivery rooms and wedding chapels.
You’re forgiven if you’ve not accepted this overarching truth yet, but we’re hoping that once you read this democratically constructed list you’ll see the light. And on the plus side, the BCL—or at least their suppliers—do ascribe to “bubbles season,” so many of these bottles are on sale until the end of December. Cheers to them!
Challenge Cava at your peril. There may be no segment of the entire wine industry that delivers more quality per dollar spent than the Spaniards who make bubbles. And there is no better standard-bearer than the behemoth that is Segura Viudas, owned by the even bigger behemoth the Freixenet Group. They probably make more bottles of fizz each year than the Okanagan makes wine. And yet, the quality is amazing. They’re one of the few producers who charge less for their rosé (our amis at Cristal could take a page from their book—they charge double for their rosé). If there’s any Achille’s heel, it’s that some might find the wines a titch sweet—which is managed better in the rosé than the bru—but we’re splitting grapes here.
This is a steal from a much smaller producer than SV, and in their brut nature—meaning they add no dosage or added sweetness—you’re getting a bone dry coupe (just kidding, don’t ever drink out of a coupe) that also name-checks one of the great trends in the cool wine kids arsenal. I know I dump on the BCL a bit, but this wine should be $30 – so it’s a smoking deal at $16.50.
I spend a fair bit of time in the ol’ US of A (it’s complicated, but involves a totally unfounded charge of multi-level marketing magic corkscrews) and when I’m there, I really lean into the Cali sparkling made (or at least owned) by the French. To be honest, I generally go for Domaine Chandon, because it’s a bit more austere—and Moet is a vastly superior owner than Mumm—but at 28 smackers I’m not going to complain. It’s quite round and appeals to those who like a tad of residual sweetness, but there’s some nice balancing crisp green apple notes, as well.
Everyone gives 500-pound Gorillas a bad rap, but what about one who uses their might to do something like deliver this wonderful BC ambassador in a tulip glass for $28. It’s a Champagne-inspired blend (no sneaking 23% Pinot Blanc into this mix of mostly Chardonnay with a small amount of Pinot Noir) made in the charmat method (same as how you make Prosecco). The result is mostly easygoing, with ripe flavours and a bit (ok a lot) more depth than a bottle of La Marca.
A few months before the devastating passing of Vancouver pasta genius Greg Dilabio, I snuck into his place Oca Pastificio for a 5 p.m. Friday dinner with my wife and daughter. And what a meal—hands down my best of the year, and to accompany it was a perfectly matched bottle of Ferrari, a staple of the wine list at Oca. I know what you’re thinking. No, it’s not named after the car (founded in 1902, it’s 37 years older than Sr. Enzo’s little car company) and no, it’s not Prosecco, although it is made nearby but using the traditional method of having the second fermentation in the bottle. It’s always such a classy pour.
When I finally get enough funds in my kickstarter account to build the Mt Rushmore for BC sparkling wine on McIntrye Bluff, the first face that goes on there (after mine of course, as the founder) is Ian Mavety who, in my experience, has never once made in bad bottle of BC bubbles in the 30-odd years Blue Mountain has been in the game. It’s son Matt who’s making the wine now, and every bottle of their sparkling is both a winner and underpriced. Legitimately: Every. Single. One. But I have to choose, so this bottle of 100% Chardonnay aged 10 years is the biggest winner and the best deal. Fine mousse, brioche-y biscuit-y texture–just elegance.
Champagne is generally broken up into thee broad groups. One the one side the behemoths (Moet, Roederer, Mumm), on the other the very cool grower champagnes (lesser-known names but they frequently rule) and in the middle are scores of medium-to-small-sized houses often making exquisite bubbles for a good deal (a relative term in Champagne). This is a selection from Pierre Paillard’s Grand Cru vineyards around Bouzy that offers a nice balance of power and precision with a wonderful mouthfeel.
I love Taitinger, I may as well say that at the outset. It’s one of the smaller behemoths and it always seems to be marching to the beat of its own drum. This bottle is a gem hiding in plain sight—it doesn’t say that it’s a single vineyard wine, but it is, from estate lands just outside Epernay. It’s close to 50/50 Pinot and Chardonnay and it sees a touch of oak aging to give it some gravitas—all things that normally push a Champagne into $140-plus territory. But this beauts sneak in at the high double digits.
Well, a fella can’t spend all his time rooting for the underdog, can he? The truth is, in some ways Dom is something of an underdog in the somm community, where the big brand love flocks more to Dom’s oak-aged stablemate, Krug. Oddly, Krug has disappeared from the BCL shelves as we speak (we have like 9 Lamborghini Dealerships, but no Krug?), but this vintage of Dom is here and it’s transcendent. Dom’s flavour profile always is a bit lighter, a bit more ethereal than the powerhouse of Krug—and to be honest, I like it better. 2013 is tension, a persistent acidity wrapped in beautifully composed orange blossom and biscuit tones all expressed through the finest, impossibly tiny bubbles. Holy heck it’s something.
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