CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND Carolyn Evans Hammond is a long-standing wine critic. She hosts The Wine Find Talks on YouTube and The Wine Find travel TV show on ROKU on the Access Luxury channel. Each week, she contributes a wine column to the Toronto Star (syndicated) and regularly conducts private tastings in person and virtually. As a seasoned wine educator, judge and media personality with 20+ years of journalism experience, Carolyn makes it her mission to find you your next great glass.

It is a special wine that can be outstanding with food and is the ultimate choice for toasts…

N othing elevates a moment like a glass of sparkling wine. As we swan into soiree season, the only question is which bottle to buy for that impromptu drop-in, pre-dinner drink or full-fledged cocktail party. To help you decide, here are six options ranging from fabulously fancy to casually elegant. Champagne Champagne is regarded as the finest sparkling wine in the world for good reason. It can be complex, ageworthy and achingly sublime. Champagne is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grown to exacting specifications on historic plots of land in the Champagne region of France. Here, those grapes thrive. The fruit is first made into a still wine, called vin clair, before being re-fermented in bottle. The second fermentation produces tiny bubbles and more complexity. During this process, the bottles are riddled, or moved slowly and turned, until they are upside down and the spent yeast rests in the bottle necks. The wine is then disgorged when the spent yeast is ejected swiftly before the bottles are topped up with reserve wine, corked, caged and wrapped in a foil capsule. Champagne houses then age the wine in bottle before release to market.

This meticulous method, along with the terroir of the Champagne region, creates a wine revered worldwide. It is a special wine that can be outstanding with food and is the ultimate choice for toasts, especially at weddings and anniversary parties. Champagne‑Style Blend Though Champagne is irreplicable, places do try. All over the world, wines are made using the same grape varieties and methods as Champagne. These look-alikes, or Champagne-style blends, can be excellent, with many of the best expressions coming from properties owned by French Champagne houses such as Mumm but situated outside of France, including in California‘s Napa Valley. Blends offer exciting value for Champagne-worthy occasions at a fraction of the price of their Champagne counterparts. They look the part too: classic bottles with the foil- wrapped tops and beautiful labels. Cava Cava is the traditional sparkling wine of Spain, made from the country’s native grape varieties: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. These varieties are less

fruit forward than Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, so the wine has an earthier, more savoury taste profile. Cava is almost always very dry, with unmistakable restraint. Cava is made effervescent in the same way as Champagne—using the traditional method. The fruit is made into a still wine first; then it undergoes a second fermentation in bottle before being riddled, disgorged, topped up and corked. This laborious method creates delicacy and finesse in the glass, making it a perfect match for almost any food. Yet most Cava sells for around $20 or less, and even top-quality Cava like the Brut Reserva Heredad from Segura Viudas is a relative bargain at around $40. Crémant Crémant is sparkling wine made in France using the traditional method but made outside the Champagne region. You can find Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Loire and others, with each region dictating the grape varieties permitted in its wine. Crémant du Jura, for example, is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard. Crémant de Bourgogne is based on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and sometimes Gamay. Crémant de Loire is based on Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.



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