For a versatile pour, nothing beats sparkling; it beautifully pairs with almost any food. The secret is its great acidity and lack of tannins. Acidity refreshes your palate and makes the next bite of food more enjoyable. That’s one reason sparkling is so good with rich and oily foods like smoked salmon or potato chips. Good acidity makes a great food wine. High levels of tannin, on the other hand, can present problems. For instance, they will accentuate the heat in your spicy Thai dip. So, red wines with low tannins and good acid balance are easier to match with foods than reds with high tannins.
This month’s column focuses on some good value sparklers that you can drink all year round, as well as some other Argentinian, French, Spanish, and South African wines we have been tasting.
As customary, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by the British wine critic, Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Chateau des Charmes Brut NV ★★★★ $25.95 (Vintages) This Niagara sparkler is made from the time-honoured blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is medium bodied and has a brioche richness. Pour it as an aperitif to start your party and keep pouring it for your appetizers or even your mains.
2027 Cellars Blanc de Blanc Queenston Road Vineyard 2013 ★★★★½ $29.95 (Vintages) An excellent sparkling wine from Niagara. Blanc de Blanc is made exclusively with Chardonnay. It’s bone dry and crisp with lemons, fresh bread, and a little note of ginger. If you like shellfish, it would be an excellent accompaniment.
Cave Spring Blanc de Blanc Brut NV ★★★★½ $29.95 (Vintages) Expect fine bubbles, stony minerals, bready notes, green apple, and citrus in this elegant Niagara wine. Try it with charcuterie since the refreshing acidity will cut the oiliness. It would make a nice brunch wine as well.
13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut NV ★★★★½ $27.95 (Vintages) Medium bodied, it has hints of strawberries, charming minerality, good acidity, and fine mousse. The crisp fruit of this sparkler will pair well with spring rolls dipped in a Thai Chili sauce.
Rosehall Run Pixie Sparkling Rose NV ★★★ $19.95 (Vintages) If you like a medium sweet sparkling, try this one from Prince Edward County closed with a crown cap. It’s pale pink and light bodied with cherry cotton candy and strawberry flavours. Your fruit based desserts will thank you for it.
Kew Blanc de Noir Sparkling 2011 ★★★★ $29.95 (Winery, Online) A beautiful Niagara sparkling with a touch of copper colour. Made with 100% Pinot Noir (hence, Blanc de Noir), it shows Montmorency cherry and strawberry fruit. Try it with smoked salmon or Portobello mushrooms bites.
Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive Brut Champagne NV ★★★½ $49.95 (LCBO) Third largest seller globally, this is a good value for Champagne. It’s yeasty, lemony, with a taut green herbal edge and has a lovely mousse. Great match for sashimi.
Colome Torrontes 2017 ★★★½ $15.95 (Vintages) Pale lemon in colour, this dry, aromatic Argentinean white shows stone fruit first followed by lemon, grapefruit, and minerals. Its racy acidity and medium body would make it a great wine for parties since it will pair with many foods from appetizers to seafood to charcuterie.
Man Chenin Blanc 2017 ★★★½ $14.95 (Vintages) A white from South Africa, where they call it Steen, exuding stone fruits, spice, pear, and ginger with balancing acidity. This would also make a versatile party wine or pair it with a mild curry.
Catena High Mountain Vines Chardonnay 2016 ★★★½ $19.95 (Vintages) A medium bodied, cool climate wine from the high Andes Mountains in Argentina. Its green apple, vanilla, spice, and creaminess would pair well with Fettuccine Alfredo or roasted poultry.
Michel Gassier Nostre Païs 2015 ★★★½+ $22.95 (Vintages) A spicy Grenach based red blend from the south of France with medium tannins that are pretty much hidden by the ripe red/black cherry fruit, and black pepper notes. If you are serving cassoulet, or sausages of any kind, this would be a wonderful pairing.
Albret Reserva 2012 ★★★½+ $17.95 (Vintages) A Spanish Tempranillo red blend with a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon added. It has leafy blackberry and red cherry flavours. It would make a good pairing for beef, which would tame the fairly high tannins in this wine.
Tommasi Valpolicella Ripasso 2015 ★★★½ $23.95 (Vintages) This wine from the Italian Veneto Region is easy to drink due to its light tannins not to mention its very nice dark fruits and cedary herbal tinges. You can serve with appetizers for your red wine fans or with Penne Arrabiatta – it will stand up to the chili heat.
Abbotts & Delaunay Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ★★★½ $14.95 (Vintages) An interesting take on Cab Sauv that has low tannin levels framed with ripe raspberries, strawberries, red currants, and good acidity. It may not be quite typical Cab, but it is enjoyable and good value. Good pour for your red fans at your next dinner party.