Heat-Busting Bargain Bubbly

Heat-Busting Bargain Bubbly

Wine of the WeekJacob’s Creek NV Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut ($13.95, 88 points, 562991)South Eastern Australia A chardonnay pinot noir blend in the Champagne tradition, this was among my favourites when tasted blind in the under $25 International Value Wine Awards in Calgary last month. Not nearly as tropical, soft and sweet as you might expect from Australia. Very Champagne-like bouquet is lightly toasty and biscuity, with apple-pear, lemon fruit and chalk dust minerality. It’s mid-weight, firm and dry with a bead of tart refreshing acidity that lights up the wine.

During Monday’s melt, with Humidex readings at 40 degrees, I was more than delighted to settle into a tasting of cold sparkling wines from various parts of the world. This month, I’m in the process of daily tastings of LCBO general list and Vintages Essentials wines in preparation of the Toronto Life Eating and Drinking (on newsstands Nov. 1) and the Food and Wine CityGuide (shipped to subscribers with the December issue). When tasting, I group wine varietals and regions to get maximum comparative effect, and on Monday the weather dictated that I re-arrange the order of things to sort through the bubblies. Good choice!

The group I tasted ranged from $10 for a nifty, quite serious Hungarian sparkler (see below) to $90 for a seriously sensuous rosé Champagne (Laurent Perrier Brut Rose, $89, 91 points). It was heartening to see the quality being achieved in the class of sparkling wines under $20. The Wine of the Week above was perhaps the best value by a hair, but others from Australia, Spain, France and Italy were very good as well. There is no need to break the bank for Champagne, especially when you’re after some basic, bubbly refreshment on a humid summer eve.

Here are six to consider:

Chateau de Montguerre Cremant de Loire Brut ($19.15, 88 points, 621896)Loire Valley, FranceA welcome addition based on the chenin blanc grape. Fine-boned, crisp but not austere, with subtle pear-quince fruit and mineral notes. Light bodied, very fresh, good length.

Segura Viudas Non-Vintage Brut Reserve ($14.15, 87 points, 158493)Penedes, Spain A slim, barely off-dry Spanish cava with generous aromas of green olive, salted almond, dried fruit and with toasty/yeasty character. Mid-weight, firm, quenching and dry, with taut acidity and mouthwatering bitterness on the finish.

Wolf Blass NV Yellow Label Sparkling Brut ($17.15, 86 points, 649996)AustraliaSoft, mild, clean nose of apple, tea biscuit, lemon. Medium weight, gentle yet lively some crisp grapefruit acidity. Nicely focused.

Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut ($11.15, 86 points, 619288)HungaryBest bargain-price bubbly at the LCBO. A bit funky but complex with dried pear, toast, white cheddar and bitter almond. Fairly full-bodied, loose and frothy, with firm lemony acidity and a mineral finish. Good length.

Yellowglen Pink Sparkling Wine ($13.15, 85 points, 15867)Pretty pastel pink. Soft, mild aroma with a vague scent of raspberry and rosewater. Light bodied, with some zesty acidity and lively, tight effervescence.

Bottega Il Poeti del Vino Prosecco ($13.95, 85 points, 897702)Veneto, ItalyLight bodied, barely off-dry sparkler with simple chalky, oatmeal, lemon and apple flavours. Quite frothy, a touch sweet but well balanced. Good length.