sparkling wine

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Sparkling Personality: the best bubblies under 50 bucks a bottle

There’s nothing like French bubbly for swank luxury, but for everyday enjoyment, these international labels deliver great fizz

Sparkling Personality

A midnight coupe on New Year’s Eve is champagne’s shining moment. But bubbles can bring levity and refreshment to more mundane occasions, like toasting the end of a bad day at the office. There’s no need to spend wildly. The quality of sparkling wine from regions around the world—Italy’s fast-rising prosecco, Spain’s staunch cava and ­Canada’s new generation of cool-climate sparklers—is dramatically improving. Here are my favourites, and they’re all under 50 bucks.

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Nine excellent bargains from the wine world’s most undervalued regions

Nine reasons to skip the champagne and buy Ontario sparkling wine this holiday seasonLike championing an indie band before it goes mainstream, discovering a little-known wine region before the market catches on can earn you instant cred. Anyone can show up at a dinner party with a big bordeaux or supertuscan (the oenophile equivalent of Coldplay and U2), but only an insider can pick out a great Macedonian xinomavro. Increasingly, the LCBO is bringing in bottles from nooks and crannies on the periphery of the wine world: Puglia in Italy, Calatayud in Spain, and Swartland in South Africa. The winemaking practices in some of these emerging regions are every bit as advanced as those of the big guns, so the quality is high. However, the prices remain low because the up-and-comers don’t yet have the clout of, say, Napa or Burgundy. Here, my picks from obscurity.

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Casing Prince Edward County: five fabulous, under-the-radar wines

Prince Edward County
Exultet Estates 2010 The Blessed Chardonnay
Exultet Estates 2010 The Blessed Chardonnay
$35 | Prince Edward County | 90 points
Gerry Spinosa and his family planted their first vines behind an old cheese factory in 2004. Their ethereal chardonnay has already won two gold medals at the Ontario Wine Awards. The texture is delicate and silky; spicy oak, nutmeg and resin need a year of aging to integrate with the ripe peach and honey flavours. 1106–1112 Royal Rd., Milford, 613-476-1052.

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Reinvention tour: Ontario vintners are showing off their chardonnays and changing minds about the infamous ’80s grape

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

The consumer revolt against chardonnay, known as the ABC (anything but chardonnay) movement, hasn’t stopped Ontario winemakers from producing excellent chardonnays. The province’s cool climate and limestone-rich soils provide similar conditions to those in Burgundy, France—the region that put chardonnay on the map with such wines as chablis, pouilly-fuissé and meursault. As the Ontario industry and its vines mature, home-grown chardonnays are becoming truly impressive, especially the more expensive varieties that are fermented and aged in French oak. To get the word out, Ontario vintners are sending their best bottlings (as selected in a blind tasting by Ontario wine critics) abroad to wine fairs. At the first event in London last year, pundits were pleasantly surprised to discover such high-quality chardonnays from a province known mostly for icewine. The enthusiastic response prompted Ontario wineries to repeat the performance this month for Manhattan’s wine critics. Niagara will also become an international chardonnay hub this July, when it hosts a multi-winery festival in honour of the cool-climate grape. To prime your palates, we’ve selected the region’s most seductive bottles.

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All that sparkles: nine outstanding bottles of bubbly without the elitism

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

French champagne is still the standard-bearer for the world’s sparkling wines. But New World winemakers are tinkering with its conventions and challenging its supremacy, making bubbly more fun and diverse—for celebrating everyday life, not just its highlights. Understanding sparkling wine means wrapping your head around confusing nomenclature: in champagne terms, the driest styles are called brut, but the sweeter ones are “extra-dry.” More extra-dry wine is being made whether labelled thus or not, reflecting the fact that most of humanity actually prefers sweetish wine. Of late, in the New World, we’re seeing grapes other than the champagne triumvirate of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier—such varietals as sauvignon blanc, riesling and even shiraz. The final kick in the shins to champagne is that quality has improved substantially throughout the sparkling-wine spectrum—from Italian prosecco to Spanish cava, from French cremants to the global legions of chardonnay-pinot champagne emulators. Whatever the style, these sparklers are all cheaper than champagne, sometimes astonishingly so considering their fine quality.

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Holiday Gift Guide: 13 edible present ideas

We prefer to pass the holiday season by eating our way through it and forcing loved ones to do the same. So we’ve come up with 13 inventive edible gifts (and not a mini-muffin basket in sight).

See our foodie gift guide now >>

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Tiny bubbles: top picks from Prince Edward County’s first sparkling wines

Prince Edward County’s first sparklers are incredible: you’d swear you were drinking champagne

(Image: Jack Dylan)

The first three sparkling wines to come out of Prince Edward County are taut, tender and dance across the palate: they taste more like champagne than any non-French bubbly I’ve ever tasted. The secret is in the dirt. The sunny farming region south of Belleville has almost as high a concentration of limestone in its soil as France’s Champagne district. Limestone is fissured and spongy, which allows vine roots to penetrate deep into the bedrock, and the wine it yields is full of refreshing minerality. The similarities in terroir and climate were so striking that two expat Torontonians, Jonas Newman, a former maître d’ at Scara­mouche, and his partner, Vicki Samaras, have opened Hinterland winery, the County’s first dedicated exclusively to bubbly. It’s one of 14 launches in the past year, bringing the total number of wineries to 31. The region once considered laughably marginal is full of undercapitalized but pioneering vintners. Many are eking out fewer than 1,000 cases from small acreages, making their wines scarce (most are unavailable at the LCBO) and expensive. But low yields create better quality wines. Here are some examples of PEC’s finest to seek out on your next, or first, trip.

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Toronto New Year’s Eve celebrations: a 10-part field guide

<strong>Venue:</strong> Nathan Phillips Square<br />  <strong>Dining options:</strong> $3 hot dogs ($5 with fries)<br />  <strong>Libations:</strong> Tim Hortons and Starbucks to offset the hypothermia—that is, if it’s even possible to get inside the coffee joints, which have to serve hundreds of people throughout the night<br />  <strong>Atmosphere: </strong>Collective feigned enthusiasm to mask the bitterness of not having worn enough layers, kids asking how much longer till midnight<br />  <strong>Entertainment: </strong>Scripted bantering by newscasters, an unidentifiable VJ, Shawn Desman/Danny Fernandes/Massari (it’s Karl Wolf this year), Jarvis Church, Anjulie, Kardinal Offishall, cast of <em>Rock of Ages, </em>the Mission District<br />  <strong>Likely to happen at midnight: </strong>A good but modest fireworks display so as not to set the city on fire, followed by a massive evacuation at 12:01 in order to beat the traffic<br />  <strong>Who will be there: </strong>Out-of-towners, fathers with shoulders strained from carrying their kids all night<br />  <strong>Who should go: </strong>Junior high students venturing downtown for the first time without parents, boyfriends who want to be that guy who proposes on live TV, families composed of people who really get along with each other<br />  <strong>Avoid if: </strong>You have a TV that carries CityTV<br />  <em>100 Queen St. W., <a target=" blank" href=

Choosing one New Year’s Eve event over hundreds of others can be daunting, especially when all the descriptions meld together with promises of a glass of champagne (read: cheap sparkling wine) and various misspellings of “hors d’oeuvre.” To help in the decision-making process, here’s a roundup of 10 very different events taking place on December 31st.

(Looking for the best NYE prix fixe menus? Click here »)

Also: Check out our picks for the best NYE prix fixe menus »

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Canada’s national cocktail, keeping champagne bubbly, office fridge fiends

The bloody caesar: True patriot love

The bloody caesar: True patriot love

Mott’s Clamato is launching an on-line campaign to make the bloody caesar Canada’s “official” drink. Mary’s northern knock-off was invented by a Calgary hotel bartender 40 years ago, making it easier for Canucks to get plastered before noon on Sundays. [CP]

• French researchers have proven that flutes keep champagne bubbles bubbling longer than coupes, the shallow, wide-rimmed goblets. [Globe and Mail]

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