As the holiday season looms it’s a good time to seek out some good-value sparkling wines. The Vintages team has delivered this weekend with a couple that meet the test, one from France and the other from South Africa. Neither is Champagne but both are made using the traditional method so they deliver the complexity and character of the more expensive bottle at an attractive price.
The remaining wines in this weekend’s selection have an all-Iberia character. Stock up!
France, Loire – AOC Vouvray Domaine de Vaugondy Méthode Traditionelle Brut NV
This wine is made with the Chenin Blanc grape and it is full of precise citrus fruit with honey and pear notes on the nose and palate. The acid is crisp and the mousse aggressive (this is good…) and persistent. The mid palate has a flinty mineral character and the residual sugar (12 g/L) is sufficient to soften slightly the edginess of the acid. The finish is clean and long. This is an excellent first-course wine but it will also be a good match for your turkey.
Dry, sparkling wine – $17.95 per bottle
South Africa, Western Cape – WO Western Cape Graham Beck Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut Sparkling NV
I used this wine in a sparkling wine class I taught earlier this fall and several experienced palates mistook it for a Champagne (!). This wine is similar to the Vouvray in many ways – citrus fruit, oodles of bright acid, persistent mousse, firm flinty minerals – but it has spent more time on the lees so it has a distinctive brioche character on the nose and palate. This along with less residual sugar and some more complex flavours elements – green apple, spice and a slight earthiness – all lend this wine for more serious food matching across the full holiday palate: roasts of red meat, tourtière, turkey, holiday desserts and cheeses, etc.
Extra dry, sparkling wine – $18.95 per bottle
Spain, Galicia – DO Rîas Baixis Quinto de Couselo Barbuntín Albarino 2014
This wine comes from the damp maritime zone of Galicia and is a perfect match for seafood – both fleshy and shell, alike. It is made with the Alabriño grape and is ripe with a slight fleshy mouth feel and lots of citrus, apricot, honey and spice. It has elevated acidity and a saline minerality. The finish is long and ripe. This would be a perfect match for a traditional old world fish dinner on Christmas Eve.
Extra dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle
Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Barón de Ley Reserva 2010
This is an exceptional value, well-made older Rioja which still shows youthful character with emerging development to lend complexity in the glass. It has black cherry fruit, dusty tannins, spice, juicy acid and just enough smoky oak to add complexity. The body weight is medium and the overall structure and balance is pleasing. This wine is perfect now but will develop further with a few more years in the bottle.
Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle
Portugal, Dão – DOC Dão Quinto do Mondego 2010
From the northern reaches of Portugal comes this fine red made with a blend of indigenous Portuguese grapes dominated by the always reliable Touriga Nacional. It is rich with ripe red and black cherry-berry fruit, spice and slight wet earth notes. The tannins lend a firm feel on the palate and the acid is bright and crisp. There is a bit of oak lending complexity but not enough of the wood to diminish the assertive, tangy fruit. For its price this is a finely structured wine that has the potential to develop further over the next 3 – 5 years.
Dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2016.