Was my wife’s birthday this past week, and she loves sparkling wine. So a chance to try two different wines from the two different sparkling wine traditions — the “cava-style” popularized in Spain and the more traditional Champagne-style from France. And both from B.C.!
The first was the Brut from Blue Mountain in the Okanagon, which we had at the Teahouse Restaurant (a great deal at $49 on the wine list!). This one is the classic Cava-style, crisp, dry, light and fruity, no oak at all. Very nice! The second was from my cellar — the 2006 Brut Natural from Venturi-Schulze on Vancouver Island. This one was much more “Champagne-like”, with toasty, yeasty aromas and flavours, bigger body, but also finishing dry and crisp.
Style is so important in sparkling wine. Everyone has heard of Champagne, of course, and probably tried some of the cheapter stuff (or else the Spanish or California versions). But whenever I get asked for a recommendation, I always check if they have actually tried real Champagne, particularly the vintage kind. That’s because the aromas and flavours — particularly the yeasty component, which comes from the secondary fermentation process that is part of the “method de champagne” — is quite different. In fact, a lot of people don’t like it at all, preferring the lighter, fruitier Cava style. The latter is also cheaper and a better bargain.
Personally, I love the Champagne style because of the complexity. I have said before that a very good, aged Champagne (and some can age for 10+ years in good vintages) is actually more like a red wine in character, given the full body and complex tastes and aromas. But it is also very expensive and there are no such things as “bargains”.
I like the Cava style too, but go for the cheaper versions usually (less than $15). That’s because it is harder to find the complexity in these wines, so why pay for them?
The other thing I want to point out is that both kinds of are made right here in B.C.! The Venturi-Schulze is a very nice example (although at $40+ it is a bit expensive for what you get). Far better (quality and value) is the Township 7 Seven Stars Vintage Brut, whichis around $32. The next vintage is due out shortly!
As for B.C cava-style wines, a number of other Okanagon wineries also make them, but they tend to be in the $30+ range and — frankly — are not as good values as the $15 Cavas from Spain. They are nice to try, but for my money too expensive to drink on a regular basis.