December 31, 2015 – Ottawa, ON
Today on CTV Morning Live, CTV’s Sarah Freemark and Sommelier Matt Steeves showcased some super tasty sparkling wines and easy to make Champagne Cocktails to enjoy at your New Year’s Eve celebration. Matt’s top ‘Champagne’ picks and ‘Champagne’ Cocktails were shown on two segments, which are included in the two video links below.
There’s something magical about those 250 million bubbles in every bottle of sparkling wine that make it the best, without a doubt, style of wine for celebrating significant events, such as New Year’s Eve.
Champagne, the best known style of sparkling wine, has been a favourite for a very long time for toasting celebrations, whether it was the French nobility during the early 1700s or more recently with nobility all around the world, along with everyday hard working wine lovers in every corner of the earth, sparkling wine has held its place as the drink to have in your hand and share with those closest to you when you celebrate life’s great moments.
Those millions of tiny bubbles create a lot of pressure in the bottle so it’s important to know how to open a bottle of sparkling wine, safely, and without losing half the contents due to over flow. Here’s a handy guide on how to open a bottle, safely! Note the 6 twists of the wire cage, then hold your thumb on the top of the cork, hold the bottle on an angle and twist the bottle while holding the cork, it’s a lot easier than trying to twist the tiny cork. Make sure you point the bottle away from yourself and anyone/anything you don’t want to get hit by a flying cork should it take off unexpectedly (despite you holding the top of the cork).
Whatever you do, don’t use a cork screw to remove the cork…that’s a sure way to get a Champagne shower when you aren’t expecting it.
When opening that bottle of sparkling wine, if you’d like to spice things up a bit, a sabre (such as a machete or be extra daring and try a tea spoon) can be used to open a Champagne bottle with great ceremony. Checkout some #saberchallenge videos for ideas on how to saber your bubbly and here’s an easy step by step guide:
Step by Step Guide to Saber Champagne
- Chill Champagne to reduce pressure –put the bottles in the freezer for one hour or in a bucket of ice water for as long as you can
- Completely remove foil on theneck of the bottle
- Loosen and reposition wire cage carefully to first lip
- Choose Your saber – either a large kitchen knife or be adventerous and go for a small implement like a spoon or butter knife
- Hold Champagne at 45° angle
- Slide saber (confidently) in a smooth motion along the seam of bottle, and just like a nice basketball shot, make sure you follow-through to ensure full momentum.
Now that we’ve learned how to safely open (and saber!) sparkling wines let’s get back to our Champagne Cocktails…
Although sparkling wine on its own is terrific, and perfectly suited to celebrating the occasion, it’s fun and easy to make tasty sparkling wine cocktails so why not give it a try! With so many options, there’s no limit on what you can create with sparkling wine.
I’m not the first to suggest this either. Champagne Cocktails have been around since the mid-1800s and have been captured on screen in movies such as The Godfather and Casablanca!
Sparkling Wine Cocktails can be designed to enjoy before, during, or after a meal, and typically they are terrific on their own.
With most Sparkling Wine Cocktails the ingredients are simple and can be easily set-up on your counter or bar. For some, a bit of preparation is required, but the majority can be easily whipped-up in no time, and impress your guests with your clever creations.
Here are a few of my favourites for this time of the year: Classic Champagne Cocktail; Sparkling Winterlude Delight; Kir Royale; Black Velvet; and the French 75.
1. Classic Champagne Cocktail
- 1-3 drops bitters (careful not to add too much bitters).
- 1 sugar cube
- 5 ounces chilled Champagne
- (to up the octane, add 1 ounce of Cognac)
- Drop bitters onto sugar cube; let soak in. Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac (if desired), and top with Champagne.
2. Sparkling Winterlude Delight – A must for any Canadian NYE party.
- 1 ounce of chilled Canadian Ice Wine (or Select Late Harvest wine (less expensive, almost as sweet))
- 4 ounces of chilled Canadian Sparkling Wine
- optional: (add a splash of Vokda or Grand Marnier)
- Garnish (candied lemon or orange slice)
- Pour one ounce of chilled Ontario Ice Wine (or Select Late Harvest Wine) into Champagne flute.
- Top-up with 4 ounces of chilled Ontario Sparkling Wine.
- Garnish with candied lemon or orange slice.
3. Kir Royale – A legendary French aperitif.
Kir originated in Burgundy, France. It is named after the priest Canon Félix Kir, who was a hero in the French Resistance during the Second World War.
- 1 ounce creme de cassis
- 4 ounces Champagne or other Sparkling White Wine
- 1 strip tangerine or orange zest, for garnish
- Just before serving, pour one ounce of creme de cassis into each glass. Fill with Champagne, and garnish with zest.
4. Black Velvet
- 1 part stout (Guinness)
- 1 part champagne or dry sparking wine
- Fill a chilled champagne flute or tall Collins glass halfway with the stout. Wait for some of the foam to subside.
- Very slowly add the champagne (use a cocktail spoon on the inside of the glass, if you like) until the glass is full. Serve. Alternatively, add the Champagne first, then the stout on top.
5. French 75
- 1 part gin
- 5 parts champagne
- ½ parts sugar syrup
- 1 part lemon juice
- fill up the shaker with ice cubes
- pour lemon juice, sugar syrup, and gin into the shaker
- shake well
- strain into the champagne glass
- fill up the glass with champagne
- garnish with candied lemon twist
6. Menning Minosa
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons orange flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
- Prosecco, chilled
- Fresh mint leaf
- In a Champagne flute, mix together orange juice, lemon juice, and liqueur. Fill with Prosecco. Garnish with mint leaf and serve immediately.
7. Champagne Julep
A bubbly twist on the official drink of the Kentucky Derby (since 1938).
- 2 sprigs fresh mint
- 1 sugar cube
- 1 dash bourbon
- 5 oz (142 g) chilled champagne
Place mint and sugar cube in chilled mixing glass; add bourbon. Using muddler or handle of wooden spoon, crush sugar and rub mint until fragrant and torn. Add Champagne; gently strain into champagne glass.
Here’s a great visual aid for just some of the tasty Sparkling Wine Cocktails you can make with bubbles…
Here are the sparkling wines we showcased on CTV Morning Live, any of which would be great for your NYE party!
As I’ve mentioned before, sparkling wines are incredibly food friendly making it a real no-brainer when it comes to choosing complementary pairings. They’re great with all sorts of foods from canapés, soups, seafood, fish, poultry, and snacks like popcorn or potato chips. Most New Year’s Eve parties have plenty of rich and savoury finger foods making sparkling wines an ideal (complementary) pairing to enjoy throughout the evening.
Produced in many styles, from sweet to bone dry, affordable to unaffordable, each style has its place and complements a wide array of dishes making it an easy wine to pair with food if you choose to do more than simply make that special toast with it.
And the best thing is buying a high quality sparkling wine doesn’t have to break the bank. That’s right, although fine Champagne is wonderful, you don’t have to buy a $40-$400 Champagne to get a quality sparkling wine. Spanish Cava, made the same way as Champagne (yet with different grapes), are often $10-$20 and often taste twice that good. Canada is excelling in each of its major wine producing regions with the production of high quality traditional method (i.e. same as Champagne) sparkling wine. British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia are all producing fantastic traditional method sparkling wines that have garnered international acclaim (Blue Mountain Winery in BC, Benjamin Bridge in Nova Scotia, and too many to mention in Ontario (but here are a few of my favourites from what I’ve tasted recently: Jackson-Triggs, 13th Street, Creekside Estate, Featherstone Winery, Huff Estate, Hinterland, and the list grows every year!)). Canada isn’t the only region outside of Champagne making terrific sparkling wines though as virtually all wine producing regions in the world are making traditional method sparkling wines meaning you don’t have to look to hard to find a great sparkling wine at a reasonable price no matter where you call home.
The wines I’ve chosen offer great value and would be terrific for your New Year’s Eve party celebrations.
1. Villa Maria 2015 Private Bin Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc – now available at LCBO – $17.95
Villa Maria’s 3rd vintage of Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc is sure to be a crowd favourite at any gathering. Slightly sparkling, which adds complexity and texture to the lively palate, the creamy and refreshing mousse complements rich hors d’oeuvres beautifully and would be a welcome treat to a Thanksgiving meal. Loaded with tropical fruits, lime, passion fruit, and snow peas, this is a fun and fruity wine that you’ve got to give a try. Released Fall 2015 (for the first time in Ontario!). Tasted September 2015. 88+ points. Matt Steeves –http://www.quercusvino.ca
2. Jackson-Triggs Méthode Cuve Close Sparkling VQA – Ontario – $14.95
Jackson-Triggs’ 2014 Cuvee Close sparkling wine offers good value for the price. A crowd-friendly style of sparkling wine, it’s balanced, crisp and refreshing with a healthy dosage (19g/L) that makes it great on its own, and complements rich hors d’oeuvres making it a fine choice to buy by the case for large gatherings. Tasted December 2015. 87 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
3. Benjamin Bridge NV – Nova Scotia – $27 (winery direct and in many stores across Canada)
Benjamin Bridge is increasingly becoming a top recommendation for Canadian Sommeliers when customers are looking to enjoy a premium sparkling wine with a delicious meal. Produced essentially the same way as Champagne, with all the labour intensive rituals, craftsmanship, and care, it’s no wonder why wine lovers around the world are getting excited about the high quality products that Benjamin Bridge is producing each and every year.
In 2015 Benjamin Bridge produced their first non vintage “NV” classic method sparkling wine. It’s a blend of L’Acadie, Vidal, Seyval, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, all from their estate vineyard. BB’s acclaimed winemaker, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, reached deep into their library of vintage wines to craft their inaugural NV wine, which includes wine dating back to their first harvest, 2002. The nose shows crisp orchard fruit, brioche, with a touch of sea-breeze, for which this maritime winery is well known. The palate is crisp and tart with great texture from the never ending supply of fine bubbles. Lip smacking tart citrus and gum drop flavours make way to the long and palate cleansing finish. Ideally suited for enjoying with rich dishes, this NV is sure to be loved for it offers great quality at a terrific price. Benjamin Bridge continues to demonstrate that they’re a world-leader in premium sparkling wine production.
4. Ferrari Perlé Rosé 2007 – Italy
Award winning Ferrari produced their first vintage of Perlé Rosé in 1993 and it’s been a huge success every vintage thereafter. The 2007 was aged on its lees for over 5 years contributing to its complexity, body, and intriguing flavour profile. A beautiful rose gold colour with brilliant copper hue, the nose shows wild field berries, rose petal, candied orange, vanilla, and crisp orchard fruit. The creamy mousse leaves the palate refreshed with persisting sweet pear and flinty minerality leading the way on the long finish. A remarkable metodo classico wine that would complement complex charcuterie platters, brunch meals, roasted game birds, and charcoal grilled fish. Alternatively, enjoy while celebrating the special moments in your life that command a luxurious sparkling wine. Tasted October 2015. 92+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
In September 2015 Ferrari won the title of “Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year” at the international competition –“The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships”, finishing first in the final round over two well respected and storied Champagne producers: Charles Heidsieck and Luis Roederer. Clearly indicative of the world-class traditional method sparkling wine they’re producing, and speaking volumes to the efforts they’re taking to carryout all aspects of their business with excellence – in pursuit of making the finest sparkling wine in the world. Ferrari was also recently recognized as “European Winery of the Year” by the Wine Enthusiast. Ferrari’s award will be showcased in the Wine Enthusiast’s special “Best of Year” issue, and they will be honoured at a gala black-tie dinner in New York City on Jan. 25, 2016.
5. Wolf Blass’ Gold Label Vintage Bubbly – Australia – $24.05 at LCBO
Wolf Blass’ Gold Label vintage sparkling wine is reminiscent of premium Champagne, yet sourced from the other side of the world – Adelaide Hills, Australia to be exact. This tasty bubbly is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot from iconic Australian producer Wolf Blass. Ideal when paired with rich and fatty dishes, this premium vintage Australian bubbly would also be great when toasting special moments in your life. 90 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
6. Oyster Bay Rose – New Zealand – $21.95
Brilliant light copper colour with citrus, biscuit, and field berry notes. Micro bubbles make this refreshing blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir a great complement to any holiday hors d’oeuvres, main courses, or celebratory toasts. 89 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca
7. Oyster Bay Extra Brut (100% Chardonnay) – $21.95
The philosophy of Oyster Bay is to produce fine, distinctly regional wines that are elegant and assertive with glorious fruit flavours. Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée is made to capture and showcase New Zealand’s unique coolclimate varietal intensity by embracing the best of modern New World winemaking technology. It all starts in the vineyard where premium Chardonnay clones with small, intensely flavoured grapes are grown on ancient alluvial river terraces that produce concentrated, pure varietal flavour along with a natural zesty acidity, which is ideal for creating premium sparkling wine. Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Brut is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes which give the wine elegance, finesse and minerality. The lively bubbles in the wine are a result of natural secondary fermentation, which brings to life the delightful and refreshing character.
8. Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava – Spain – $12.95 (the #1 imported sparkling wine in the world…)
Cordon Negro Brut is a crisp, clean and well-balanced ‘Cava’ sparkling wine. The fresh palate of apple, ripe pear and bright citrus flavors combine with a long finish with a touch of ginger. This versatile cava goes well with just about everything. Freixenet’s most popular cava, Cordon Negro Brut, is often referred to as the “Black Bottle Bubbly.” As the #1 imported sparkling wine in the world, crisp and creamy Cordon Negro Brut’s delicate bubbles make this the ideal wine for any occasion.
The grape varieties used in the creation of the base wine for this cava are Macabeu (35%), Xarel-lo (25%) and Parellada (40%). Macabeu grapes produce the deliciously light, fruity aromas and medium-high acidity that high quality sparkling wines strive to achieve. The must of the Macabeo grape, not one to readily oxidize, assists in the aging process. The Xarel-lo grape yields robust acidity, contributing power and depth. The star of all cava blends, the Parellada grape demonstrates an elegant combination of fruit and finesse. The dosage of 9 grams per liter keeps the balance blissful.
also available in Magnum format for $25.45…bigger is better!
9. Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne – France – $39.90 (half bottle)
A popular Champagne from one of the most storied Champagne houses ever, Veuve Clicquot. This would be an exceptional bottle to share with someone very special to you, perhaps as you ring in the New Year with a special toast. Also available in larger formats, including the standard 750ml and occasionally in 1.5l magnum format.