Sunday, February 14, 2016

Expand Your Heart, Enjoy Love and it's Time to Raise Your Glass!

A Few of my Favourite Things…

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When Expanding Beauty invited me to write a wine-themed article for Valentine’s Day, visions of dancing bubbles swam before my eyes and clearly the theme had to be sparkling wine.  Granted, I will take any excuse to talk about bubbly, ESPECIALLY the pink kind, but there is a legitimate link to Valentine’s Day as a supposed day of celebration.  However, the yearly arrival of the big V-day (yes, rhymes with D-day and that’s exactly how many feel about it!) can often feel less than celebratory, so this year I want to challenge everyone to make it a personal celebration, no matter what their relationship status.  And the bubbles would love to help you with that.  But more on that later…

If you are in a relationship, this can be a day to truly appreciate the one you’re with.  However, too often we insist that our significant other perform the herculean task of proving beyond a shadow of a doubt how much they love us.  This could mean rushing us through an over-priced restaurant dinner to finish before our seating time is up (sorry to my restaurant peeps but we all know it’s true!), spending inordinate amounts of time and money choosing a gift we maybe won’t hate, or daringly going rogue and attempting a more creative expression of love which may elicit the dreaded ‘I wanted the over-priced dinner’ face.  No wonder it is known as one of the peak breakup days of the year.

If you are not in a relationship, you can look forward to navigating the merciless media barrage of  ‘this is perfect love’ images and sound bites that begin soon after New Year’s Day.  Even happily single gals (who have deftly escaped the guilt at being single mostly aimed at the ladies) can succumb to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, suddenly faced with a world in which you only exist if you are part of a duo.

So this year, I encourage all of you, singles and couples, to give these destructive trends a swift kick in the pants and make Valentine’s Day about appreciating what you have!  And what better way to celebrate what you have than – you guessed it – bubbles!!!  Although you are most definitely worth it, I have not included Champagne in this list, but some fun and less known options to try.  In this spirit, here are my top five Valentine’s Day picks for sparkling wine (a.k.a. also my every day favourites):

  1. The Rosé – De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Rosé, Loire, France

Crémant is a lightly sparkling style of wine made in several regions of France.  Although it can be made from a greater variety of grapes than Champagne, Crémant is still made in the Méthode Traditionelle (the meticulous process used to make Champagne) and is therefore an excellent quality alternative at a significantly lighter price tag.  This rosé version from the Loire Valley in the northeast is made from Cabernet Franc grapes and tastes like fresh raspberries.  Enjoy it on its own, with grilled salmon or rare lamb.  I also love it with dark chocolate.  Either way, the gorgeous colour and gentle bubbles always bring me pure pleasure!

  1. The Cava – Parés Baltà Cava, Penedès, Spain

Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain, is also made by the Méthode Traditionelle, although cavas tend to be more fruit-driven and have less pronounced yeasty flavours than Champagne.  Parés Baltà is a small producer in the Penedès region, home of the best cavas in Spain, and produces a full range of white, red and sparkling wines, all through organic and biodynamic practices.  I’m in already at this point but it gets better – this is a proudly family-run business for three generations and today the two winemakers are women.  And their wines are excellent.  Try this lovely pear and apple-driven cava with Ibérico ham, goat’s cheese or any other pre-dinner snacks.  Also a nice match for fried fish.

  1. The Wild Card – Blomidon BMD, Nova Scotia, Canada MD

In the interests of full disclosure, Nova Scotia is my homeland, so I couldn’t possibly exclude it from this list.  Its spot is well earned however, since the rapidly expanding wine industry has produced some unarguably world-class sparkling wines in the past few years.  The BMD from Blomidon Estate Winery in the Annapolis Valley is a nod to the red sparkling wines of Italy, but made from a rotating blend of red varietals typically grown in Nova Scotia, such as Marechal Foch.  I enthusiastically flogged this as the perfect turkey dinner wine to everyone I know between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year!  But its dark berry flavours and subtle earthiness can also take you effortlessly through a charcuterie board or a pepperoni pizza.

  1. The Best Kept Secret – Barone Pizzini Animante Franciacorta Brut, Lombardy, Italy

I consider Franciacorta to be one of the best-kept secrets in the world of sparkling wines.  Like most of the wines on this list, it is made in the Méthode Traditionelle, but Franciacorta also has to be predominantly made from two of the traditional Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  And to warm your heart as much as the bubbles will warm your cheeks, Barone Pizzini is at the forefront of sustainable production, from organic certification to the construction of their bioarchitecture winery.  With its robust flavours of spiced apple and bread, enjoy this Italian stunner with grilled pork or treat it like a side of chutney for Indian takeout!

  1. The Classic – Château des Charmes, Brut Méthode Traditionelle, Ontario, Canada

Château des Charmes is one of the oldest and most picturesque wineries in the Niagara region.  Winemaker Amélie Boury has been bringing her own touch to the Bosc family business for almost 5 years now, and if the wines are any indication, the relationship works!  This elegant sparkler is also Méthode Traditionelle and made from traditional Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The fruit is more citrus-driven than in the Franciacorta, but the wine still maintains the yeasty aroma characteristic of most Champagnes.  This classic bubbly is the perfect compliment to so many foods, whether your Valentine’s Day this year means lobster dinner, wine and cheese (my pick would be the divine La Sauvagine from Québec) or movies and popcorn!

Tiffany has spent the past fifteen years honing her skills in Toronto restaurants. As General Manager and Wine Director for CRUSH Wine Bar + Kitchen, a mainstay of the Toronto wine world since 2002, she had the good fortune to manage a 600-label cellar and one of the most extensive by the glass programs in the city. Tiffany is a strong believer in Canada’s proven potential to produce world class wines from coast to coast, and enjoys exploring our local wineries whenever she has the chance! Tiffany loves wines that are representative of their regions, and believes that the best wines tell a story of the place and people that made them.

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