We’ve long been proponents of bubbly anytime of the year – food friendly, versatile and often found at great prices if you know where to look (ie not in Champagne), a good fizz can add a little sparkle to any soiree. Maybe that’s why we adopted the tag line, “We Take Your Events from Standard to Sparkling.”
Bubbles add an energy to your occasions, a swanky sense of style that’s hard to replicate – and with this being the season of bridal showers, graduations and Father’s Day it seems more than appropriate to break out the good stuff. Add a little sabering to the mix and now you’ve really got yourself a party. (Here’s Erin taking a swing at it in California last year).
Of course, the “good stuff” isn’t limited to sparkling wines – nor does it only mean big-budget bottles. We’ve included in this week’s Top 20 a pretty solid range of reds, whites and pinks that start as low as $14. Sip away, dear winos, and let us know your favourites!
Creekside Estate “Laura’s Red,” VQA Niagara Peninsula, ON 2012
A Bordeaux blend plus Syrah, this has a nose filled with rich, ripe aromas of black fruit, spice and coffee. Powerful on the palate with fine/firm tannin. Flavours match the aromas, adding a hint of mocha. At 4 years old, this is still so solid it could benefit from another 2 years of aging. 89 points.
Château des Charmes “Cuvée de Andrée” Rosé, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON 2015
A charming and pretty pink that shows tangy, bright red berries and a pleasing, bitter cranberry finish. Fresh, mouthwatering acid. Try this with turkey burgers, shrimp tacos and grilled sausage. 88 points.
Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen Pinot Noir Rosé Trocken, Baden 2015
Trocken is the German term for dry, and this delicate, pink, Pinot Noir, has a pretty nose of white cherries and raspberry and a bright, fresh palate with soft flavours of red berries, pink grapefruit and sweet citrus. 88 points.
Deutz Classic Brut Champagne, NV
$34.95 (375 ml) 2964
Deutz neighbours famed Bollinger in the village of Ay, and has earned high praise as a very fine Champagne house that produces elegant, refined wines. Aromas lean more to the earthy, mineral side with notes of chamomile and wildflower. The palate is creamy with flavours of marzipan, bitter lemon pith and biscuits. Great weight. Rich and sophisticated. 90 points.
Bailly-LaPierre Brut Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, NV
Crémant is the term for wines made in the Traditional Method of Champagne, but for sparklers made inside France but outside of the famed bubbly region. This one is made entirely of Chardonnay in a Blancs de Blancs style. Apple juice and pastry dough aromas with pleasing flavours of brioche, mineral, green apple and a subtle, minty note. Crémants are typically terrifically priced and this house produces outstanding value. 89 points.
De Chanceny “Excellence” Brut Vouvray, Loire, 2013
French sparklers made outside of Champagne don’t have to subscribe to the legislated grapes of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunière and Chardonnay the same way bubbly producers of Champagne must. This is 100% Chenin Blanc, and the nose reveals flint, mineral, yellow apple and faint pear aromas. Juicy and bright on the palate, with citrus and mineral flavours, fine bubbles and lovely vibrancy. 89 points.
Château de Chaintré Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy 2014
Pouilly-Fuisse is one of the more distinguished regions of Burgundy, known for producing rich and refined wines with considerable body and weight. Silky on the palate with flavours of buttered bread, light pineapple and a touch of honey. Tangy acid lightens the load. Try with Cobb Salad, roast black cod or chicken with mushroom sauce. 90 points.
Château Maurac, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux 2012
A Merlot-dominated blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, the supple palate is peppered by firm, grippy tannin. Flavours of dark fruit, Christmas cake and clove surround a creamed blackberry centre. This would benefit from further aging – cellar for 2 years and then try with roasted and braised red meats. 89 points.
Château Mas Neuf “Rhône Paradox,” Côtes du Rhône 2012
A red blend of mostly Syrah with Carignan, Mourvèdre and Grenache, this is juicy, generous and fruity with red and black cherry and soft spice notes. Fine tannin and bright acid make this a natural go-to for picnic lunches of roast beef sandwiches, ham and antipasto. 88 points.
Domaine Le Fourmone “Le Poète” Vacqueyras, Rhone 2013
Vacqueyras is a wine region in the southern Rhone that makes earthy, spicy red blends usually that have the ability to age and improve for the short term. Here we have a rich, supple red with fine-firm tannin and and dark fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and cherry with a lovely black pepper finish. 89 points.
Olivier & Lafont Gigondas, Rhone 2013
Smooth and ripe with dark cherry, graphite and white pepper notes. Juicy and generous with well integrated tannin and fresh acid, this is a great choice for backyard cookouts. 88 points.
St. Paul Pinot Grigio, Südtirol 2014
Pinot Grigio gets a bad rap amongst wine nerds in the know, but it’s unfortunate to lump all PG’s into the same lifeless, insipid category. Hailing from Italy’s cooler north, this has a creamy texture that lively on the palate with notes of stone fruit, melon, lemon and mineral. An easy drinking sipper that also offers some interest. 90 points.
Villa Cafaggio “Basilica Solatìo” Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany 2010
Villa Cafaggio is situated in the heart of Chianti Classico in the picture-perfect area of Panzano. 100% Sangiovese sourced from 25-year-old vines, this has a ripe nose of red cherry and saline. The palate is dense and concentrated with fresh berry fruit and mocha notes. Ripe tannins lend a plush, inviting texture. 89 points.
Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany 2013
Rosso is a more affordable pathway to the Brunello world, and while you can’t expect the same depth and complexity of big bro Brunello, Rosso still has lots to offer. Bright and jubilant with cherry, raspberry jam and floral aromas, the palate is mid-weight with ripe berry fruit, mixed spice and a sour cherry finish. Juicy and fresh with fat tannin and balanced acid pair with rabbit ragu, grilled portobello mushrooms or simple charcuterie. 90 points.
Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano “Poggio Stella” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany 2011
Aromas of dark fruit and spice with a smooth and supple palate showing well-integrated tannin and flavours that echo the nose. A great wine to try with sautéed wild mushrooms over polenta, pasta with marinara sauce or roast leg of lamb. 88 points.
Bersano Manticore Barbaresco, Piedmont 2012
Barbaresco is considered the baby brother to powerful Barolo, perhaps unfairly as the region makes quality, elegant, long-lived Nebbiolos (the red grape of Barolo and Barbaresco). This is a perfect example with a nose of red cherry, smoke and floral notes and a palate that still has tight firm tannin with flavours of toasted spice, red fruit and black licorice. Let it sit for a while to unwind – at least another year, if not two, before attempting to open. 90 points.
Graham Beck Brut Rosé, Western Cape, 2010
Done in the Method Cap Classique style (ie South Africa’s term for wines that are made in the same style as Champagne), this rosé is predominately Pinot Noir with 20% Chardonnay. Fresh aromas of red fruits, floral and apricot notes. Flavourful and generous on the palate with fruit notes of peach and raspberry followed by a chalky, bitter cranberry finish. Try this with grilled peaches and halloumi cheese or fresh figs stuffed with Gorgonzola. 89 points.
Cathedral Cellar “Triptych,” Western Cape 2013
With 50% Cab Sauv and 25% Shiraz – the remaining made up of the rest of the red Bordeaux varietals this red blend is brimming with dark fruit and spice notes that’s perfect for easy summer time entertaining – at a price that will keep your wallet entertained, too. 88 points.
Totus Tuus Reserva Brut Cava, Pendes, NV
This is a Chardonnay-dominated field blend of 5 different grapes that balances fresh earthy notes with a mix of tree fruits. Look for citrus, anise, peach and tangerine and mixing on the refreshing, bright palate. 89 points.
Vinos de Arganza “Lagar de Robla” Premium, Castilla y Leon 2012
Terrific value here in this juicy red. Raspberry, black pepper, earth and purple flowers mix on the nose and palate. Firm tannins and a bright core of acid. Try with barbecued ribs or grilled steak. 88 points.