Try these undervalued sparkling wines at the LCBO
Is the holiday season actually here already? Nope. But almost! And you know what that means, sugarplum. Time to stock up on bubbles. So, here’s a look at some of the best value bottles of bubbly at the LCBO — starting with a few local finds.
Ontario makes marvellous sparkling wine, often at quite reasonable prices. A case in point is the toasty 2016 Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Vintages 234161 $29.95, also available at winerack.com, greatestatesniagara.com and jacksontriggswinery.com). Each glassful of this Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier blend gleams the palest shade of gold and exudes generous aromas of marzipan and baked apple tart. The attack is brisk, bright and articulate but also quite rich and complex. It calls to mind Grandma’s baked apple crumble — baked apples, butter and brown sugar and baking spices — but dry. A harmonious and long expression of Niagara. Score: 93
Ontario’s NV 13th Street Winery Cuvée Rosé Brut, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Vintages Essential 147504 $29.95, also available at 13thstreetwinery.com) also offers outstanding value. This blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is a relatively deep coral hue and exudes aromas of strawberry cream tart. The entry is dry, crisp and cool with mouth-filling flavour. Fresh strawberry, butter pastry and vanilla custard immediately captivate. Then they slowly recede to let a touch of cool stoniness shine through and persist on the finish. Ripe, clean and well-balanced sipper. Score: 93
For those who prefer a slightly more restrained brut rosé, there’s the ever-popular NV Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut, VQA Niagara Peninsula (LCBO 217505 $32.95, also available at henryofpelham.com). This beautiful blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay shines a shimmering shade of pale rose gold and draws you in with shy yet enticing aromas reminiscent of roasted Granny Smith, black cherries, lemon zest and buttered toast. Those allusive aromas lead to a sunlit beam of vinosity. The flavours echo the aromas. And the effect is breezy but sophisticated. The flavours dissipate quickly so you’ll just have to keep sipping. Score: 91
For Champagne lovers looking for a bargain, snap up a bottle of the recently released NV Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, California (Vintages 294181 $44.95). This gorgeous sparkling wine hails from Louis Roederer’s Californian outpost and offers incredible value for money. The liquid is a pale straw colour and the scents suggest toasted almond, coconut and lemon cream. The attack is luminescent — a sweep of easy elegance that unspools with delicate flavours of lemon curd, lemon zest, hazelnut and buttery croissant. The finish is very long and luxurious. Score 93
A personal favourite French fizz of mine is the NV Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne (LCBO 48793 $22.95). Crémant comes from outside the famous Champagne region of France but, like Champagne, is made using the work-intensive traditional method — meaning bubbles are created via second fermentation in bottle. This wine blends Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay, and it overdelivers.
This crémant pours pale pink with peachy-gold inflections. The nose suggests red berries and biscuity notes before rushing in with more of the same — a delicate dance of cooked apple and raspberry, white flowers and cream, salt and stone. Everything about this wine is coy, allusive and understated. The balance is beautiful, and the effect is quietly magnetic. Score: 92
For those times when only Champagne will do but you don’t want to splash out more than $100 on a bottle, here’s a pro-tip. NV Cheurlin Brut Spéciale from France (Vintages 20241 $79.95) is now available but will soon sell out.
This bone-dry, grower Champagne is owned by Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. And, in the interests of full disclosure, the Toronto Star is the official media sponsor of the launch of the wine at the LCBO. But I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t think it delivers. You could certainly spend more for less.
NV Cheurlin Brut Spéciale starts with the fragrance of tarte tatin and crushed seashells. Then, it streams in with linear precision — crunchy red apple intensity soon shifts toward oyster shell, lemon zest and creamy nougat before tapering to a finish of lemon curd on fresh bread. Score: 90
To get the best out of a glass of bubbly, serve it in a white wine glass — about 1/3 full, rather than in a flute. The slightly more bulbous design of a white wine glass allows the aroma to fully express itself. What’s more, flutes tend to concentrate the CO2 creating a slight burning sensation.
And remember that sparkling wine is much more than a celebratory tipple. It’s a fine wine that can be served on its own, with snacks or alongside a full-fledged meal. Perfect snack pairings include mushroom tarts, smoked fish, oysters or duck liver paté. Or for a treat, serve a bottle with fish and chips or broiled lobster tails with drawn butter.
With the holiday season nearly upon us, it’s handy to remember just how versatile a bottle of bubbly can be. And of course, it stuffs a stocking in one fell swoop.