Thirst Impressions: You Can’t Go Wrong with the Fizz

Those looking for their wine fix in March are in luck. The LCBO has got some real winners hitting the shelves this month. The focus is Spain and bubbly. The Spanish wine was run-of-the-mill so the bubbly is where I am going to focus my picks. You just can’t to wrong with the fizz, and I’m not just talking Champagne. Champagne can get expensive to pop every weekend, so check out bubblies from all over the world. There are many good quality choices at bargain prices. You’ll soon forget you’re not drinking the classic. To get the Champagne feel you have to go for traditional method, champagne method or classic method wines, which do their secondary fermentation in the bottle. Otherwise, you’re looking at a tank or charmat method wine. Sure, it still sparkles in the glass, but you’ll get bigger bubbles that don’t stick around long. Only the in-bottle method will give you those fine delicate bubbles that tickle the tongue that we have all come to love.

I’ll start you off with a classic name in a new world place. Mumm Napa Sparkling Rose ($29.95 – #205641) This Champagne producer opened up shop in California and they make some beauties here. This rosé is a lovely piece of work with touches of raspberry from start to finish. Combine that with hints of grapefruit and lemon-lime and you have yourself a party starter or romantic evening in a bottle (****+). For those looking for something a little lower on the price scale, but still demand a quality fizz, you’ll want to give the Graham Beck Brut Sparkling a spin ($18.95 – #593483). Not many of us think of South Africa for bubbles, but this one from long-time producer Beck shows that it can be done right. It combines exotically-tinged fruit with almondine in the mouth that leads to a lemon-biscotti finish (*** 1/2+). For those of you who want France on the label for your table, the Crémants from other regions of France. Crémant means sparkling and is the term used for bubbly outside the Champagne region, but within France. Some of the best values are Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy). They use the same grapes at Champagne, but don’t have the cachet of Champagne, hence no high price, so something like the Lefevre Remondet Brut Rosé ($15.95 – #265306) offers up high quality affordably. This one has some pretty intense cranberry colouring. It’s delicious (****). Traditionalists will enjoy Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Brut Champagne ($49.95 – #68288). It actually proves itself to be a bargain at the price point because for some folks, nothing beats a classic. It is delicate and toasty with great acidity and green apple notes on the finish (****+).

As spring is just ahead, you’ll be starting to think about refreshing white wines. My choice from Ontario this release is a Flat Rock 2010 Twisted White ($9.95 / 375ml – #273292). This half bottle is perfect for one, but I think I would hold out for a full-sized bottle, which can be ordered from the winery. This is one of the best Twisted whites to date – and that’s saying a lot because they have had some beauties over the years. The Riesling dominates the smell, while Gewurztraminer reigns in the mouth, all the while the Chardonnay keeps anyone from ruling the roost in this well-balanced offering (****+).

Those looking for something different than the same old same old Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand might just fancy The Ned 2011 Pinot Gris ($14.95 – #267138). A touch of peach skin colouring makes this a shimmering beauty in the glass, white fruits on the nose, and peach, pear and hints of lemon on the palate. Stock up on this one for summer (****+).

Red drinkers will want to take a look at the Columbia Crest 2009 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 – #210047) from Washington State. This has a lovely texture with herbal notes and sweet spice wrapped in hints of chocolate. I am more and more impressed with this State’s wines. (****+) As of late, the LCBO’s offerings from Washington have been well sourced.

I don’t usually recommend South African reds because I find them funky on the nose and palate, and I’m not alone, but the Spice Route 2009 Shiraz ($24.95 – #263657) is worth your hard-earned dollars. Lots of fruit, lots of flavour without the tar, ripe and delicious with big 15 per cent alcohol – this is a real gem (****+).

Finally, I just got back from a trip to Portugal, so I feel inclined to  recommend a wine from that country. Medeiros 2009 ($16.95 – #268789), from Portugal’s hottest region, Alentejo, has lovely fruit, rich vanilla, and dark cherry – it’s drinking exceptionally well now, and should for the next 5+ year (****+).

That’s it for now, join me on the Ottawa Life blog for postings that’ll have you drinking the right stuff all season long.