Celebrations call for bubbles. No drink raises spirits so quickly as champagne, put a glass of it in a guest’s hand as they arrive and they have instantly joined the party. Nothing else so well toasts a marriage or the birth of a child or a birthday.
Unfortunately good champagne is expensive to make and market. With many big brands cost is no guarantee of quality. The non-vintage Veuve Cliquot (NLC $76.45) was, for a time, a reliable choice but loses character every year. Once celestial Krug is today merely good, and I’ve had truly disappointing vintage Dom Perignon – and these are extravagantly pricy bottles.
The best value champagne in town is one of the lowest priced, the Bonnaire (NLC $56.85). High standard champagne emulators are being made in Canada (especially in Nova Scotia!) but among sparkling wine alternatives to champers, we think most frequently of Cava and Prosecco. There is a better selection of Prosecco than Cava at NLC so let’s start there.
LA MARCA (NLC $20.27) is, like most Prosecco, made entirely from the rather neutral Glera grape, and is fermented in stainless steel tanks. It has an inoffensive note of green apple but little else. People like it mostly because of its reasonable price. A good choice if you’ve foolishly invited too many to the wedding.
MASCHIO DEI CAVALIERI (NLC $25.27) is a step up in quality. It has a welcome creaminess, a very faint sweetness and a ripe melon character. It’s still light but with more weight than most prosecco. This one works nicely with dry cured hams, a first course of prosciutto for instance. Not great but good.
THE CANAVEL BRUT (NLC $27.86) has 10% chardonnay which gives the malic, the apples and pears flavour, more angles. It’s quite dry, making it refreshing but like the other proseccos discussed has a giveaway “soda” thing that betrays tank, rather than bottle fermentation. It’s decent but the price is creeping up to where you wonder about value.
Overall not a winning category of wines here in town.
In Venice these days you can taste some proseccos being made by the cool kids, “col fondo.” They begin fermentation in tanks but finish it in the bottle over lees. These are a little turbid, with a salinity befitting the lagoon setting and are of surprising complexity. They have a bit of chew to them. Delightful drinks and they remain very inexpensive. Not sure if col fondo prosecco can travel but they would certainly be a welcome addition to NLC’s shelves.