At this time of year, festivities are relentless: work parties, Christmas Eve at the inlaws, Boxing Day brunches and the mother of all annual holiday parties: New Year’s Eve. I don’t know what the numbers are on this so I’ll just make them up, but according to me, sales of cheap sparkling wine increase by 10,000 per cent between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1 every calendar year.
While I don’t subscribe to the idea that bubbles have to be reserved for a special occasion, I recognize that I am in the small minority on that point. Most people drink sparkling wine to demarcate a moment of significance, be it a birthday, anniversary or to bring closure to the year while ushering in the next.
When it comes to the wine we’re buying for those occasions, I think most of us are blowing it. I could go on about the merits of making bubbles, especially champagne, an everyday kind of wine. I could talk about how many sparkling wines work so well with food, and that rosés and red sparkling wines have as much structure and complexity as any of their still counterparts. But I won’t.
Instead, I’m going to just offer a small bit of advice about how to buy and drink your bubbles this holiday season, so that the time of year when you allow yourself the indulgence, you’re rewarded handsomely for doing so.
This is your guide to some of the best bottles of bubbles the SAQ has to offer:
Champagne to impress your in-laws:
Jacques Lassaigne, Les Vignes de Montgeux, Blancs de Blancs
Champagne, 750ml, $71.75
You’re great, your partner knows it, you know, I know it. Your in-laws, however, need to be reminded constantly. If you’re spending any precious holiday time with your partner’s parents, or you just simply want to show off what good taste you have, a bottle of Les Vignes de Montgeux from Jacques Lassaigne is a great option. Lassaigne is an example of a true winemaker in Champagne, meaning that his vision is always of making a great wine first before making great sparkling wine. His wines are a true expression of the great terroir of Champagne and are unfiltered, unfined and contain no added sulphur. This is the definition of purity in Champagne.
Champagne for the Planet:
Pascal Doquet, Horizon, Blancs de Blancs
Champagne, 750ml, $57.50
Pascal Doquet is amazing. Certified organic since 2007. Doquet’s mentality when it comes to winemaking is all about respecting the grapes and the soil in which the vines grow. His methods promote sustainability and actually contribute to promoting biodiversity in the land. The best thing, though, is that his incredible wines taste amazing, too, bringing out notes of hazelnut and ripe fruit, alongside bright acidity with a long elegant finish. It’s great wine you can feel good about buying, and it’s less than 60 bucks.
Bubbles for the life of the party:
Catherine et Pierre Breton, Épaulé Jeté
Sparkling Wine, 750ml, $31
Champagne’s not your thing? I get it. I don’t agree, but I get it. This sparkling Chenin from Catherine and Pierre Breton, however, we can both agree on. Certified Biodynamic (read: organic plus) since 1994, the Bretons’ wines rank among the top of their field. This French natural wine is bright, vivacious and energetic — just like you, you wild-child. Pop a bottle of this before dinner, during dinner and then pop a few more to keep the party going all the way into the new year.
Beer for Beer Nerds and Wine Nerds:
Brasserie Cantillon, Kriek Lambic
Beer Spontanée, 750ml, $21.80
Who says your bottle of bubbles has to be wine?
Every sour beer on the market is but an homage to the great Lambic beers brewed in Brussels by Brasserie Cantillon. These spontaneously fermented beers are the stuff of legend and many cuvées are as coveted as many great wines. The Kriek (the Dutch word for cherry) is one of the most classic Cantillon products, where 200g per litre of cherries are blended with 20-month-old lambic and left to macerate for two to three months, after which the beer is blended with year-old lambic and allowed to referment in the bottle, giving this beer its distinctive bubbles combined with the tangy funk and pronounced sour cherry flavour that connoisseurs have come to know and love.
Budget Bubbles That Are Actually Good:
Loxarel, Vintage, Brut Nature
Sparkling Wine, 750ml, $19.70
Winemaker Josep Mitjans decided to disassociate from the Cava D.O.C. because he felt the specifications of the appellation were far too lenient. Instead, he and a small group of other Catalan wineries go together to form the “Classic Penedes” appellation which requires organic farming as well as a 15-month maturation period (the same as in Champagne). This is the way Cava should really taste and is a wonderful expression of the wildly underappreciated Xarel-Lo grape. At less than 20 bucks a pop, you can bring this as a gift, buy a case and serve it at a party, use it for mimosas, or just drink it straight out of the bottle like I did last year. It’s an incredible bargain for a truly delicious wine.
Real Special Occasions Call for Vintage Champagne:
Agrapart, Minéral Grand Cru, Extra Brut, 2013
Champagne, 750ml, $153.25
This is not budget-friendly wine. But it’s the best. There is always something good and cheap to drink, but sometimes the moment calls for something extraordinary; sometimes good is not good enough. Founded in 1894, Champagne house Agrapart et Fils, located in the village of Avize in the heart of the Côte-des-Blancs, has been committed to one thing: growing the finest grapes in Champagne. The house is steadfastly committed to the organic farming of their 12 hectares of mostly Grand-Cru land and produces no more than 5,400 cases per year, (Dom Perignon produces over 400,000). 2013 is a year where, while most other regions in France suffered, the Côte-des-Blancs thrived. Agrapart’s Minéral is a blend of two Grand-Cru parcels and is precise, savoury and saline. A truly special special-occasion wine.