Well, another Christmas has come and gone. I always get a little sad once it’s over – we have to wait a whole other year to absent ourselves from regular life and soak up the slower pace that comes with Christmas Day. I know there are often other opportunities to take a break or go on vacation, but it’s not the same as feeling the world slow down in unison like on December 25th. Even if you don’t celebrate the day, the slowness and the pause is a nice offshoot of our Christian-established society.
So, now that it’s over, what do we do?
We celebrate the coming year, of course!
I know I’m not alone in feeling like 2016 was a tough, difficult year. On the macro level we were faced with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, Orlando, Syria, and the loss of a hurtful number of artistic icons. On the micro level I personally felt incredibly challenged by career-related and mental health issues and while I’m taking action to (hopefully!) make some positive changes, I find myself feeling a bit raw as 2016 draws to a close. So I’ve decided I’ll be celebrating the new year with open arms and using the evening of the 31st to give 2016 a swift kick in the butt. Good riddance to this awful year! It’s served its purpose I guess, and I’m ready for better things.
I have to be honest with you, I love me some bubbles.
A few years ago I went through an extensive bubbly phase. Bubbly for any occasion, big or small (and sometimes made up), bubbly with any food imaginable (I still stand by that one), bubbly at any time of day/night/year.
I defy you to pop open a bottle with some popcorn or potato chips and not tell me I just blew your mind. Bubbles really are the best!
But – and pay attention, because this is important – not all bubbly is Champagne.
Say it with me now – not all bubbly is Champagne!
There are many kinds of sparkling wine out there, but only a very small section of it is Champagne. Champagne is sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. Made from mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, it also involves some very particular methods of production. In fact, the Champagne wine-making community is pretty feisty about it – they even created a professional association to formally set the rules of making Champagne. Serious business!
I know what you’re thinking. If the wine makers in Champagne are that intense about what they do nothing else must be able to compare, right? Wrong. There is a lot of sparkling wine out there that doesn’t come from Champagne, and let me tell you – it’s delicious!
Cava is sparkling wine that comes from Spain. I love Cava because I find it more dry and less sweet than other sparklings. Cavas also have the added advantage of being much less expensive than Champagnes.
Sparkling wine from Italy. I find Prosecco sweeter than other sparklings, and (though I have no scientific evidence to back this up) I find the bubbles to be a little bigger, which isn’t my preference. Of course, I will take most any bubbly over any other drink, so take that as you will. Like Cavas, Proseccos tend to be on the more affordable end of the scale.
Crémants are sparkling wines that come from anywhere else in France other than Champagne. Among others, there is Crémant d’Alsace (from the Alsace, duh), Crémant de Loire (from the Loire region just southwest of Paris), and, my favourite, Crémant de Bourgogne (from the Burgundy). I love Crémants because their bubbles are so small, the lovely dry wine just fizzes on your tongue and then drifts away. As soon as I finish I a sip I want more! I heartily suggest keeping an eye out for these wines at your local LCBO. While generally more expensive than Cava or Prosecco, a good Crémant still won’t set you back as far as a bottle of Champagne would.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the solid sparkling wines our own country’s winemakers create. Canadian sparklings can be delicious and I recommend giving them a try, especially the ones from the Niagara region. My only caveat here is that Canadian sparklings, while delicious, are fairly high priced – they usually fall between Crémants and Champagnes on the price scale.