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Weekend Wine: Dom Perignon and Doritos?

Well, maybe not.
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Vin Greco, Wine All The Time

I would wager that when most people think of champagne and other sparkling wines, they do it in terms of celebration, a beverage to be used in making toasts on special occasions.  But have you ever thought of Champagne and Mac ‘n Cheese?

That’s one of the pairings suggested at the winefolly.com site, and though they call it “outrageous”, it can make one pause and question why we don’t drink more sparkling wine.

It shouldn’t be a matter of cost.  Sure, Champagne can be expensive, with us rarely finding a bottle priced much under $40, but that is for wines specifically from France’s Champagne district.

There are many other sparklers from around the world that are as affordable as any other wine, and the quality in general is very good.  You can find many examples of wines made in the traditional method involving a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and Ontario has a number of good ones.

Henry of Pelham Cuveé Catharine Brut, Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve, and Angels’ Gate Archangel Chardonnay are all very well made and sell in the $25 to $30 range.

At a slightly lower price point we have “crémants” from different regions of France, such as Alsace and Burgundy.  Joseph Cattin Brut-Rosé Crémant d’Alsace on the last Vintages release rings in at $18.95 and carries a 90 from the Wine Enthusiast.

From Spain and South America we often find inexpensive examples for $15 and less.  Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, $14.95 is a perennial “best buy” in many wine magazines.

The point is, if you are willing to pay between $15 and $25 for a bottle of white wine, you can easily find a sound sparkling wine for the same price, and they would go just as well with your dinner as a still wine.  Sometimes even better.

The downside with sparkling wine is, that once that cork has been popped, we tend to think it needs to be consumed at one sitting.  Who wants to pay for all the pretty bubbles if the wine is going to go flat before you finish it?

I confess that that has been a drawback for me; though, from what I read, the wine may hold its fizz for a day or two if you seal it and keep it in the refrigerator.  You need a special hinged cap, though, as just putting a cork in it won’t work – the carbon dioxide bubbles are going to want to escape, and they could blow a cork out if you aren’t careful.  Storing it cold, though, should help, as carbon dioxide is more soluble in a cold liquid than a warm one.

So, what do you serve?  In the Wine Folly article which appeared back in February 2012, they recommended that with Mac & Cheese, use a Brut –that is, a dry sparkling wine.  They suggested, too, that you use a cheese like smoked gouda and top the dish with toasted bread crumbs – keep the seasonings mild, in this case, and use cream and butter.

Another unexpected pairing was with a barbecued chicken sandwich.  The sauce shouldn’t be too spicy, and the recommended wine was a Spanish Cava – try that Segura Viudas.

With a pear, parmesan and candied pecan salad, the recommendation was Prosecco.  Prosecco originates in Northern Italy, and unlike sparklers made in the traditional method with that secondary fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco is made in the charmat method, with the carbon dioxide introduced to the wine in a pressurized tank prior to bottling. 

Proseccos tend to be lighter in style and easy drinking.  A couple of good examples are the Villa Sandi and the Astoria both under $15.  Wine Folly suggests a sip of wine, and then a bite of salad.  Using greens such as arugula adds some pep to the experience.

Finally, sparkling wines can really work well with Asian fare. The Wine Folly recommendation here was to use a sweeter sparkling wine with fresh wrapped Spring rolls (not deep fried) with a spicy sweet chili sauce – and it can be as hot as you like. Martini and Rossi Asti is $13.95, and is definitely on the sweet side.

So, there’s the challenge: explore the world of sparkling wine, and have it over for dinner, whether it be fish or fowl, simple or sophisticated.  It will certainly bring some pop to your meal.

Now, as for those Doritos… how about the “Spicy Sweet Chili” with a grapey sparkling Italian red, Chiarli Castelvetro Lambrusco $9.95?  It has to be at least as good as Woodbridge Chardonnay and potato chips!

Limited Time Offers

Beginning next week, the following wines will be reduced for about a month.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva will be $9.95, a savings of $2.  It is significant value, with good chardonnay character, lightly oaked and creamy.

Blu Giovello Prosecco will be just $12.85, a $1 savings. While it is dry, there is enough sweetness to enhance the impression of pear and citrus fruit, and the bubbles are decently persistent.

Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, $11.95, a $2 reduction. This Chilean red has long been a solid value.  Let it breathe for a little while to smooth things out, and then expect plum and cherry flavours along with some herbal notes.

Frescobaldi Castello di Nipozzano Reserva, a Chianti from the Rufina region which is east of Florence and north of the Classico zone, gives us a savings of $3 at $18.95. It consistently earns high marks for its ripe fruit, silky tannins and balance.  When you consider that it regularly sells in the $26 range in other jurisdictions, it is an exceptional value.

While it is only “on sale” through the weekend, Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, now $14.95, will still be a bargain when it moves back up to $16.95, as it was deemed one of the top 3 scorers in New Zealand wines reviewed  recently. The other top two, both chardonnays, were in the $50 U.S. price range. 

June 25 Vintages Release

White Wine

Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2013, counterpart to the bargain above, is $15.95. Natalie McLean describes it as “balanced and luscious with loads of hedonistic happiness”, providing it with a score of 90.  Sault readers will have to order it in by Tuesday, as none has been allotted for this community.

Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay 2014, $18.95 from Monterey in California is a double gold winner in the “Toast of the Coast” Wine competition. Winereviewonline.com describes it as “rich and creamy at once” and gave it a 92.  It, too, is not slated for the Sault.

Featherstone Four Feathers 2015, $14.95, from Niagara is an off-dry blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, hence the “four feathers”.  Orchard fruit, citrus and spice will make this refreshing and enjoyable.

Red Wine

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2013, $15.95, from the Midi, is consistently well-made, and continually impresses for its deep, dark fruit and great length.  A definite must-buy.

Domaine de L’Alba L’Ermite 2013, $17, is another Midi gem, but this time we have a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. erobertparker.com highlights “awesome purity” “black-cherry fruits” and “sublte minerality,” calling it “a finesse driven beauty” -91.

Rodney Strong Merlot, $22.95 from Sonomabears a heady96 from the Ultimate Wine Challenge, which speaks of ripe plums and berries, baking spices and fresh herbs labelling it “extraordinary.”

Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $17.  We are so accustomed to a certain “in your face” approach with many California offerings, that we can be taken off guard by this Tom Gore Cabernet. It has lovely mulberry and cassis notes on the nose, and a silky entry that quietly presents good, dark berry fruit accompanied by a gentle tannic burr.  This well-made and well-mannered wine is medium-bodied, subtle and satisfying, with very decent persistence.