Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Report from ... Annual Bubbly Tasting of the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada - October 8, 2010

Is there a better way to spend a Friday morning than drinking wines with friends?  Only one way I can think of ... drinking sparkling wine with friends.  This particular Friday morning in October I find myself at the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada annual sparkling wine tasting, sipping on some of the bubblies that will be, or currently are, on the shelves in Ontario.  There are some that say "the worst sparkling wine I tasted is better than the best still wine I've tasted" - I'm not one of those, some of these bubblies tasted like chilled bath water, but there were some excellent ones too - not all from France and not all will break the bank.  Being that my favourite number is eight, I'll recommend my top eight selections for the upcoming holiday season.  Please keep in mind, this was just the top eight of the 44 wines tasted, which is just a sampling of the many fizzy wines available on the market (to get your wine into this tasting an agent or producer had to send it in).

We'll kick this list off with my four 4-star selections (very good):
Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore Brut Valdobbiadene ($17.95) from Italy, a real toasty nose leads to sweet flavours of white fruit on the palate - an easy drinking bubbly that should appeal to many.

Next up is the Astoria Prosecco Extra Dry ($11.25), this one is all fruit: apple and pear aromas that follow onto the palate - carried through the mouth with nice bubbles across the tongue.

Another Prosecco makes this list, namely the Villa Sandi Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry ($14.05), you'll find this one is very fruit driven, but with really good acidity on the finish - very refreshing, or as I like to think of it: tingly and tasty.

Our first French bubble makes the list: Chateau de Montgueret Saumur Brut ($18.95) made with Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc - only one of these grapes is a classic Champagne grape (the Chardonnay) ... this one is light and refreshing, especially on the finish, before that you'll find apple and peach notes with a light sprinkling of lemonade.

Next up, the 3 that received my 4.5-star ranking (excellent):
I really dug into the Mumm Napa Brut Rosé ($29.95), this is a classic blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that leaves a little colour behind in the wine ... Pretty in Pink if you will.  That pinkyness gives more red berry aromas and flavours: nice strawberry and raspberry smells, good fizzy mousse on top and those raspberry notes really pop on the finish - pretty in the glass, pretty on the palate.

Here's where we start getting into the Champagnes:  Piper Heidsieck Brut ($49.95), a lovely almond biscotti nose, a palate full of baked apple biscuits - good enough to have as dessert ... almost; but starting with this one will put any gathering on the right footing.

Champagne number two is the Louis Roederer Non-Vintage Brut ($67.95) - this one's a little more serious with a lemon, mineral stoniness, crisp acidity, a bite of green apple and some almond biscotti on the lingering finish.

My favourite bubbly this year was a wine that has never seen the shores of Lake Ontario, and yet is one of the oldest sparkling houses in Champagne (est. 1757): Henri Abele Brut Traditionnel ($54.99); a taste that almost seems oxidized but has lovely yeasty toasty notes, buttered biscuits and a lovely bit of sweetness across the tongue.

So I hope I've given you some ideas of what to celebrate with this holiday season - in a wide range of price points and styles - heck, why not experiment with a few to find your flavour.

Interested in Ontario bubbly, check out both holiday issues of Niagara  Grapevine and County Grapevine Magazines for my holiday input on homegrown fizz.  You'll be amazed at how we stack up to the international competition.

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