THINKING of buying some bubbles in the next few days? You're not alone.
By far the majority of Champagne quaffed during the year is consumed during the holidays, and the same goes for sparkling wine.
Here in the swank surroundings of Hired Belly's corporate HQ, while I relish the taste of Champagne as much as anyone, I'm also impressed by the remarkable range and quality delivered by sparkling wines. While there is no substitute for "Big C" Champagne, do your homework and you can find good tastes and value at every price level.
? Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut
A lovely balance of toast and fruit in this wine that's made in Sonoma by a winery connected to the Freixenet empire. And they know a thing or two about sparkling wine. Mainly pinot noir with about eight per cent Chardonnay, on the nose you get pear and nutty notes followed by a creamy, mousse-y structured palate with some nice toast and yeasty notes with a hint of spice. It all makes for a great food wine too. BCLS $29.99, 90 points.
? Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé
This just off-dry rosé is made from pinot noir with a splash of gamay and it's delicious. Pretty pink in the glass, with a flash of cherries and a persistent (very festive) mousse. Think Oyama's creamy porcini paté. BCLS $25.95, 90 pts.
? Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Nature
The holiday workhorse, a true Cava deal, with some bread-y notes on top followed by citrus and floral notes on a medium-dry palate with good bubbles and surprising structure.
Over-delivers at $12-$14, 87 pts., BCLS and Private Wine Stores.
? Pascual Toso Brut
A perennially good, reasonably priced sparkler from Argentina; 100 per cent Chardonnay, it has a touch of apple, some creaminess and a soft finish. A perfect party wine. Private wine stores, $16, 89 pts.
? Rocky Creek Katherine's Sparkle
Here's a fun wine from the Cowichan that's worth a nod. Quite unique, made from gewurz and bacchus, it sports floral fruity notes on top before a more fruit-driven palate with plenty of bubbles up front and a touch of acidity. They say "popcorn or chips" and I say, "Why not?"($30, 89 pts.) Comes with a Zork closure too, which means you can keep it fresh for a couple of days if you don't want to finish the bottle. Private stores, such as Edgemont.
? Yellow Tail Bubbles Rosé
Guess who else has decided that Zork tops make sense? This little winery in New South Wales makes wine consumed by some two million people around the world daily. This is "drink-don't-think rosé," a frothy crowd pleaser that's perfect as a festive reception wine, with persistent bubbles and a creamy, light palate (87 pts., $13.99).
? Blue Mountain Sparkling Brut "Gold Label"
From one of the pioneers who identified the potential for B.C. sparkling very early on, this refreshingly clean, traditional pinot-Chardonnay sparkler sports a stream of fine bubbles with a toasty nose and mouth-filling mousse with firm apple-citrus notes through the mid-palate. Still one of the "gold" standards for British Columbia (91 pts., $24-$26) ? Cipes Brut
Summerhill's sparkler celebrates 20 years this year, a reminder that the winery started out very much as a sparkling house. Eric von Krosigk's Riesling and Chardonnay blend (with a dash of pinot blanc) produces appealing apple and pear notes on top followed by firm, food-friendly acidity and a broad, creamy mouthfeel (BCLS $24.95, 91 pts.).
Tim Pawsey covers food and wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: rebelmouse.com/hiredbelly, on Twitter @hiredbelly or email email@example.com.