In my opinion bubbly should not only be for celebrations… or perhaps just more should be celebrated in life?
If you travel to France or Italy you will notice that sparkling is treated in a regular-drinking fashion and is considered a great companion to meals or simply to sip on the patio while people watching. I blame the great expense of Champagne for the average North American’s hesitation to pop open a bottle without a good reason and our need to think of it as only celebratory.
It is not that the supreme bubbly itself should be avoided, it is just that not every moment you feel like having bubbles does your pocketbook agree with you spending Champagne prices. We make some very fine sparkling wines in Ontario from the easy-going charmat method of Prosecco to the complex traditional method of Champagne.
Many people cannot get their head around pouring sparkling wine at any other time than a special occasion but it is just so versatile, so yummy and makes one smile while drinking it (or at least that is my experience).
One of its great attributes is its ease to pair with food. Bubbles stimulate the palate and the fresh acidity cleanses. Sparklers have a nice creamy mouth-feel but are both light in body and alcohol (comparatively), so they match easily with a variety of foods without over-powering.
Sparkling wines often have a faint sweetness which pairs beautifully with salty foods. Cheese is a great match because sparkling can stand up to tangy goat cheeses, nuttier ones like Comté as well as make a great match for creamy cheeses like Brie. To add to their versatility, bubbles are great for brunch because they are one of the few wines that pair well with eggs and egg dishes like soufflés especially when the main ingredient is Emmental or Gruyere.
Why not dress your sparkler up? A splash of orange juice or cassis adds a festive flare! Don’t like to cook? – You will be glad to know that a classic pairing for sparkling is buttered popcorn or plain (but salty) chips.
There are some fabulous sparkling wines made right here in Niagara's Twenty Valley at prices that won’t break the bank.
A smattering of them include Henry of Pelham’s iconic Traditional Method Cuveé Catharine which has multiple offerings running the gamut from Brut to Rosé to Blanc de Blancs, Cave Spring Cellars has a seriously complex Blanc de Blancs, 13th Street’s very popular Cuveé Rosé is made from Pinot Noir with a touch of Gamay, Flat Rock Cellars' palate-pleasing Riddled is made from Chardonnay and a hint of Pinot Noir, Megalomaniac has the crowd-pleasing Bubblehead and Westcott the stylish Violette.
I am stopping to take a breath because there is a long list of tasty Traditional Method sparklers from the Twenty Valley wine region that give Champagnes a real value run for their money, that was just a smattering. Some wineries also do Traditional Method sparkling wines but with a twist as they don’t use the traditional grapes of Champagne (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier). Some of these exciting wines include a Riesling sparkling from Tawse, aptly-named Spark, and Angels Gate Sauvignon Blanc Archangel. A few wineries prefer to use the Charmat Method, also known as Metodo Italiano and Cuveé Close. Vieni has an interesting and varied line-up of this style of wine.
There are so many great sparkling wines to explore for Niagara's Twenty Valley wineries alone: from extra-dry to sweet - one for every palate. Now is the time to begin your adventure in bubbles, you won’t regret embarking on this voyage!
Contributed by: Jennifer Hart
Jennifer Hart left a career in the music industry in Toronto to move to Niagara’s Twenty Valley and follow her passion for wine. She is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Flat Rock Cellars and recently completed the Diploma program with the Wine Spirits Education Trust. A prolific blogger, we are hoping for many more posts from her on her Twenty Valley experiences.