My favourite thing about the holidays is that it's open season on celebration.
It is perfectly appropriate, for example, to open a bottle of wine for a holiday lunch with colleagues or old friends. Question is, when you do, what kind of wine are you going with? Red or white?
I say neither. I say go all the way merry. I say, go for bubbles.
I know it is not the cultural norm in Nova Scotia to pop a bottle of bubbly with your burger. But trust me; there are many good reasons to make this your new holiday tradition.
First, sparkling wine's high acidity and extra fizzy texture cleanses and primes your palate, making it very food-friendly. Oysters are, of course, the classic pairing, and we've got beautiful bivalves from the Atlantic, but you don't need to restrict yourself to slurping down a half-dozen of the slippery creatures in order to properly enjoy your sparkling wine. Try a flute with fish and chips. Pop open some bubbly with your next ham sandwich, carrot soup, potato salad, falafel, sushi, mac and cheese, poutine or chicken pot pie. December lunches deserve pearls — of the CO2 variety.
No other style of local wine has received national and international recognition like Nova Scotian sparkling wine. Bubbly at lunch, then, not only makes your day more festive, but also celebrates the best from our vineyards and winemakers.
In particular, traditional method sparkling wine (which needs a shorter, simpler name, but I'll leave that to the cool kids) is where the party's at. Originally developed in Champagne, this style creates bubbles so fine they resemble mousse that spreads along the tongue with each sip. The wine undergoes a second round of fermentation in its own bottle, which means it is exposed to spent yeast cells —lees — which give it a rich, "toasty" or bready smell and taste. I find this adds another, almost umami, dimension to the wine's flavour.
These wines are relatively light in alcohol, a responsible option for those who face an afternoon of (relative) productivity.
As a bonus, many local traditional method sparklers are affordable. They're not cheap — allowing each bottle its own individual fermentation is a ton of work that must be accounted for — but our wineries have been producing some Champagne-style wines at such reasonable prices that they have become a no-brainer for me at the liquor store and at restaurants, whether I'm trying to impress the relatives from California or have fun with my girlfriends in New Glasgow.
Benjamin Bridge, which has carved out a niche for high-end bubbly, released NV in 2015 ($28). NV is winespeak for non-vintage, a practice common in Champagne of blending wines from several years in order to maintain a consistent profile from year to year. This wine is delicate, refreshing and bright — loads of apple aromas. It is made from a blend of grapes: l'Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
On the sweeter side, L'Acadie Vineyards' Mousseux ($28) is also non-vintage. Gold medal winner for best bubbly at the 2016 Atlantic Canada Wine Awards, this wine is crafted from 100 per cent l'Acadie Blanc, by the only organic wine producer in Atlantic Canada. Mousseux, with its higher dosage (added sugar) than most of L'Acadie's other wines, is popular for mimosas, and appeals to a wide range of palates.
Blomidon Estate Winery's 2013 Cremant ($25) is a popular restaurant bubbly, and won a gold medal at the 2015 Wine Align National Wine Awards. Made from Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay and l'Acadie Blanc, Cremant takes after the French term for high-quality bubbly made outside of the region of Champagne.
Lightfoot & Wolfville released its Bubbly White in 2015 ($25). Aromatic and off-dry, this light wine is made from a blend of grapes, including Ortega, Riesling and Geisenheim, grown using organic and biodynamic viticulture methods in the Annapolis Valley.
I remember traveling in Spain when I was 17, and how every lunch felt like a party. After a few days, I easily settled into the routine of taking three hours in the middle of the day to eat, drink and relax. Spain was also my introduction to drinking bubbly as a lunchtime libation, and I remember feeling very civilized popping a bottle of Cava with my traveling buddy over a simple lunch of jamon y queso.
Making lunch special over the holidays is the first step. The next is remembering to choose spontaneous celebration any time of the year — especially when we have the perfect wine for it at our fingertips.