John Szabo’s Fizz Buyer’s Guide 2023: Our Biggest Report Yet!

The largest ever tasting of in-market bubbly in Ontario

By John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato, Michael Godel & Megha Jandhyala

Welcome to the annual Fizz Guide! This is always one of the WineAlign Crü’s favourite tastings of the year. Response this season was overwhelming, with nearly 140 samples of all types and prices sent to HQ, making it our biggest fizz guide tasting to date. That also made it the toughest report to compile. Competition was intense in each category. “This was tough to whittle down,” David wrote when he sent his picks to me, echoing all of our thoughts. There was only one principal criterion: the wine had to be currently available. All channels were considered, including LCBO, Canadian wineries (loads of great local options) and Ontario importers. (Don’t forget to check your local bottle shops or favourite restaurants for take-out).

Recommendations are divided into general style categories: No/Low Alcohol & Aromatic Sparkling, Sparkling Red, Ancestral Method and & Pétillant Naturel (Pét-Nat), Charmat Method White and Rosé, and Traditional Method & Champagne White and Rosé. I’ve included my usual primers on each of these various methods to make wines sparkle, but you can jump ahead to the buyer’s guide for each category. Each pick includes where it’s available, a brief note, and some drinking context — click on each to see full reviews from the whole Crü. So, without further ado, take me to the fizz guide!


Jump to the Buyer’s Guide categories:
No/Low Alcohol & Aromatic Sparkling
Sparkling Red, Ancestral Method and & Pétillant Naturel (‘Pét-nat’)
Charmat Method White
Charmat Method Rosé
Traditional Method & Champagne White
Traditional Method & Champagne Rosé

The Small Print: A note on Pricing, Availability, and Delivery

Prices listed include all taxes (to the best of our knowledge). All wines were available when researched shortly before publishing on December 8, but availability, of course, can change. All wines available at the LCBO include the product number after the price. All Canadian wines are indicated as Winery Direct. Minimum shipping quantities, if any, are determined by each winery along with shipping costs, with many offering free shipping above a certain spending threshold.

All wines available through the consignment/private order program list the importing agent after the price, as well as whether the wine is sold in sixes or twelves. Delivery charges are at the discretion of each agent — contact them directly for details. Click on the wine to find agent contact details on WineAlign.

Quick Links to Wine Lists:
Fizz Available at the LCBO
Fizz Available through the Agent
Fizz Available from the Winery

No/Low Alcohol & Aromatic Sparkling

What is No/Low?

No/low (alcohol) is one of the fastest-growing categories of wine, as consumers, especially young consumers (Millennials, Gen Z) seek to reduce or eliminate alcohol from their diets (or choose to not start drinking in the first place). Many traditional types of sparkling wine have always been low in alcohol, such as moscato d’Asti with about 5.5 alcohol, though such wines logically come with unfermented sugars and therefore are invariably sweet.

But technically, there is no such thing a low- or no-alcohol wine. To be legally considered wine, fermented grape juice needs to have a minimum alcohol level of eight percent (seven percent in the U.S.), unless a specific exemption exists, such as the one noted above, or, say, Tokaji Esszencia, which may have as little as one or two percent alcohol.

According to the labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages on the Government of Canada website, “Low alcohol” is an acceptable claim for a product with less than 1.1 percent alcohol by volume (abv).

But, a list of “low-alcohol” wines at the LCBO shows products between six and seven percent abv.

“Dealcoholized” may be used to describe a product whose alcohol level has been reduced to a level less than 1.1 percent, while “non-alcoholic” or “alcohol-free” may be used to describe a product whose alcohol level has been reduced to less than 0.05 percent.

There are several ways to remove alcohol from a finished wine, such as reverse osmosis, vacuum distillation or a technique called spinning cone. All of these are violent, de-constituting then reconstituting wine, and the equipment is expensive. Seems silly to go to all the trouble of growing grapes, making wine, than ripping it apart, losing much of what makes wine pleasurable in the first place (not just alcohol, but flavour and texture, too). And the products tend to be even more expensive than the equivalents with alcohol, given the extra processing.

My advice for those looking to enjoy a sophisticated, non-alcoholic sparkling drink over the holidays: Buy some fancy tonic syrup, charge up your Soda Stream, and have at it.

Buyer’s Guide: No/Low Alcohol & Aromatic Sparkling

Roscato Rosso Dolce, I.G.T. Provincia Di Pavia (7% abv)
$14.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (LCBO #493254)

John Szabo – A dead ringer for Brachetto d’Acqui and, in that light, this is actually quite attractive value, very floral and fruity. It’s medium-sweet as advertised, though with bracing acids and appealing bitter-sweet fruit to balance. At seven percent alcohol, it would make for a delightful sip after dinner with a chocolate-based dessert or cheese, or on its own.

Mindful Sparkling, VQA Ontario (8% abv)
$19.95, Lakeview Wine Co. (LCBO #32190)

John Szabo – The “mindfulness” of this wine is about lower alcohol and nothing more (eight percent), as that is a preoccupation of many drinkers these days. This is clean and serviceable for anyone seeking an essentially dry tipple (equivalent to any brut sparkling) with which to toast this holiday season. Cork closure.

Massolino Moscato D’asti 2022, D.O.C.G. (5.5%)
$31.75, WINEHOUSE IMPORTS LLC (6×750 ml)

John Szabo – A moscato of above-average density and complexity, with textbook flavours, highly floral, rosewater inflected. Lovely stuff, at peak now — a sweet but light, low-alcohol closure to a meal.
David Lawrason – What a lovely, classy, creamy and delicate moscato! Such pure, lifted and exotic aromas of mandarin, lemon, lavender, passion fruit and ginger. Rings with great clarity and precision. It is very sweet yet so poised and refined with fine acidity. At five percent alcohol it is perfect for a holiday brunch. Chill well.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a sweet yet light and refreshing, gorgeously aromatic moscato, brimming with stone and citrus fruit and perfumed with the sweet, intoxicating scent of citrus blossoms and honeysuckle — a lovely wine to sip in dappled winter afternoon sunlight.

Molino Mistral Moscato D’asti 2022, D.O.C.G. (5.5%)
$35.00, Cru Wine Merchants (12×750 ml)

Sara d’Amato – As the price suggests, this is no frivolous moscato. Grapes are sourced from southeastern facing slopes in both Treiso and Costigliole d’Asti, contributing to the complexity and depth of flavour in this low-alcohol, sparkling style. Ginger, peach and apricot along with white flower mark the palate. Try it with a salty brunch on New Year’s Day.

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Méthode Ancestrale/Rurale/Gaillacoise/Artisanale/Pétillant Naturel/Pét-nat

The ancestral method, more popularly “pét-nat” these days, is the most ancient way of making (purposely) sparkling wines, traced back to monks in Limoux in the Languedoc, southern France, who recorded success with the technique in 1531 long before bubbles were common in champagne.

The method involves simply bottling wine while it’s still fermenting. The wine continues to ferment in the closed bottle, reaching dryness (or not fully), while trapping the CO2 produced. The wine is then sold as is, unfiltered, with the lees floating about, with no added sulfites (there are minor variations). So, expect a frothy, cloudy, usually dry wine with lower pressure than traditional method sparkling, and flavours on the more oxidative side of the spectrum, sometimes downright funky. These generally won’t have the complexity of a traditional method sparkling, nor the bright fruit of a Charmat method, but you could say, a charm all of their own. Pét-nats are very popular in natural-wine drinking circles.

Buyer’s Guide: Sparkling Red, Ancestral Method and & Pétillant Naturel (Pét-nat)

Ceci Otello Lambrusco, Charmat Method, I.G.T. Emilia Romagna, Italy

John Szabo – Clean, broad, deeply flavoured Lambrusco; I like the fully dry, crisp palate, the lingering finish. Drink with prosciutto di Parma for a classic regional pairing.

Alta Alella Aus Pet Nat Rosé 2022, Spain
$37.43, The Living Vine (12×750 ml)

John Szabo – Made from pure monastrell (mourvèdre), this is clean and relatively fruity in the genre, crunchy, light, dry and succulent, with good length on fresh, fruity, black cherry and blackberry fruit flavours. I must say I like the balance and the drinkability, the precision in a style category that often goes sideways into deviations, and the overall drinkability of it all. 10.5 percent alcohol; crown-cap closure.

Case Paolin Col Fondo Asolo Prosecco Superiore 2021, D.O.C.G. Sui Lieviti Brut Nature, Veneto, Italy
$37.38, Drink Better Wines + Spirits (12×750 ml)

John Szabo – Col fondo is the prosecco equivalent of pétillant naturel, bottled with lees, here fermented through to total dryness (brut nature), offering a broad range of aromatics in the oxidative spectrum. The palate is fullish and generously proportioned, dry as advertised, with a crisp but round creamy mouthfeel. Overall complexity is far above the mean, a revelation for anyone who thinks that prosecco is just fruity/frivolous bubbly.
Sara d’Amato – Raised on its lees without riddling, this col fondo style of Prosecco from Asolo is made in a brut nature fashion, so very dry but not austere. The leesy nature and slightly cloudiness adds pleasant textural dimension to the palate making it notably more characterful than your typical glera-based fizz. This organic find would make for a memorable host gift sure to spark conversation.

Trail Estate Pét Nat Red 2022
$38.00, Trail Estate Winery (Winery Direct)

Michael Godel – The red grapes bring funk, pop and savoury circumstance for what is arguably the most fun you will ever have with this style of fizz. Or not, that’s up to you — and for those who get it, well, this will float your wild-ferment, unfiltered and forget-about-the-sulphur boat. Drink 2023–25. 

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The Charmat/Cuve Close/Tank/Martinotti Method

The Charmat method, or any of its synonyms above, calls for a secondary fermentation of a base wine, through the additional of sugar and yeast, in a large stainless-steel tank with the lid closed to retain the bubbles. Carbon dioxide is a natural by-product of fermentation, and under pressure, the gas remains dissolved in the wine. Frenchman Eugène Charmat takes credit for devising the technique in 1907, though his method was simply an improvement on Italian Federico Martinotti’s innovation in sparkling wine production in 1895.

This method is used most often for fresh wines from aromatic varieties like moscato or glera (aka, Prosecco), as the large volume of wine relative to the small amount of lees left over after the second fermentation adds virtually no toasty/yeasty flavour and allows the character of the grape variety to shine. It’s also faster and cheaper than the traditional method, and the wines, too, are invariably less expensive.

Buyer’s Guide: Charmat Method White

Villa Sandi Blanc De Blancs Il Fresco Brut
$14.95, Profile Wine Group (LCBO #32537)

John Szabo – If basic, clean, well-priced bubbly is all you need, this will fit the bill. A crowd pleaser. Leftovers in the morning will make fine mimosas.

Val D’oca Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2021, D.O.C.G., Veneto, Italy
$18.95, Family Wine Merchants (LCBO #340570)

Sara d’Amato – A slightly more substantial expression of Prosecco designated as a “Superiore” because its grapes are sourced from around the very hilly town of Valdobbiadene. There is a light oiliness giving the wine viscosity in the face of bright acidity. A more than serviceable weeknight sipper or muddle with peach purée for an effortless but fanciful brunch cocktail. 

Hinterland Whitecap 2021, VQA Ontario, Charmat Method
$23.25, Hinterland Wine Company (LCBO #18361)

Sara d’Amato – Aperitif-ready, Hinterland’s Whitecap, named after the cresting waves of Lake Ontario, is a characterful and engaging Charmat-method fizz made from vidal and riesling. Bruléed lemon meringue, white grapefruit, and a hint of brine mark the palate of this lightly creamy, lower alcohol find of solid value. Pair with buttered popcorn.
John Szabo – Hinterland’s latest vidal-riesling sparkling is aimed squarely at the prosecco market, offering simple but appealing fruit and off-dry palate balanced by vibrant acids. A solid local alternative.

Westcott Violette Sparkling 2022, VQA Ontario
$25.95, Westcott Vineyards (Winery Direct)

John Szabo – A tank method sparkling wine with above-average flavour intensity and complexity, in a category dominated by often simple and straightforward wines. I like the mix of citrus and tart red berry fruit flavours, green herbs and wet stones riding on a crisp, dry palate with genuine length and depth. It would give many entry-level traditional sparklers a run for the money. 11 percent alcohol; cork closure.

Back 10 Smitten Sparkling 2022, Methode Cuvée Close, VQA Ontario
$25.95, Back 10 Cellars (Winery Direct)

Megha Jandhyala – Here is a fresh, balanced, and fruit-driven Charmat-method sparkling wine from Ontario. I like its cheerful and upbeat flavour profile, subtle sweetness, and refreshing acidity. Pour this at large pot-luck holiday parties, given its reasonable price and versatility.

Ziraldo Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut Prosecco, D.O.C.G.

John Szabo – Clean and very fragrant and fruity/floral, Ziraldo’s latest prosecco from Valdobbiadene is crisp and quite dry, lively and frothy in an appealing and engaging ensemble. Depth and complexity are above the mean, as is length. A quality example.
Michael Godel – Things take a turn for the higher level with fruit from vines categorized by the DOCG area of Valdobbiadene and it shows in this Prosecco by Canadian Donald Ziraldo. Drink 2023–2026. 

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Buyer’s Guide: Charmat Method Rosé

Adamo Frizzante Rosé Charmat Method 2022, VQA Ontario
$21.95, Adamo Estate Winery (Winery Direct)

John Szabo – There’s a lot of wine on offer here in what is usually a simple and unserious category, from deep colour through to ripe, red berry fruit flavours, plum and cherry jam, grapey, spicy chutney-inflected in an intriguing style. It’s more a sparkling rosé for the table rather than aperitif hour; certainly charcuterie would be a great accompaniment.

Sorelle Bronca Rosé Prosecco 2022, D.O.C. Treviso, Veneto, Italy
$34.95, Cru Wine Merchants (12×750 ml)

John Szabo – Comfortably premium rosé prosecco (with 10 percent pinot nero), featuring red berry fruit, cherry purée and pomegranate, a wine of above average complexity in the category to be sure. Broad, dry and substantially flavoured, with fine, lingering finish.

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The Traditional/Champagne Method

The traditional method, also known as the méthod champenoise, requires the secondary fermentation to take place in bottle rather than a large tank. A slurry of yeast and sugar called the liqueur de tirage is added to each bottle of dry, still base wine before it’s closed up, usually with a crown cap, or more rarely cork. Fermentation restarts and finishes through to complete dryness (hopefully). The wine is then left for a long ageing period after fermentation on the lees (dead yeast cells).

Over time, a period known as “en tirage” or “sur lattes,” a process called yeast autolysis causes the spent yeast cells to break down, releasing those marvelous toasty, biscuity, brioche-like flavours for which traditional method sparkling wines are appreciated.

Vintage champagne, for example, spends a minimum of three years ageing “sur lie” by law — many wines are kept much longer. It’s a time- and space-consuming process, and the removal the dead yeast cells before the wine is sold, in a process called disgorgement (dégorgement), adds considerable cost.

Finally, after disgorging, bottles must be topped up. This is done with wine from the same vintage (to make vintage-dated wine) or reserve wines (older vintage wines to make non- or multi-vintage wines). Red wine is added to make rosé (wines are only rarely pink from the start). Sugar, called the “dosage,” can also be mixed in the top-up wine to balance the finished product. On the label, the words Brut Nature, Brut Zero or Zero Dosage all mean that no sugar was added. Extra Brut indicates a small amount of sugar, up to six grams per liter, while Brut can have up to twelve grams. Extra Dry is, confusingly, quite sweet.

Buyer’s Guide: Traditional Method & Champagne White

Parés Baltà Brut Cava, Penedès, Spain
$20.55, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (12×750 ml)
David Lawrason – Here’s one great value to fuel a large holiday gathering. From a family winery that does this organically, this is dry and ultra-fresh with firm almost juicy acidity. Aromas and flavours are quite complex with green olive, sunflower seed, dried herbs and shrubs. The focus and length are excellent.
John Szabo – Always a solid value, this will keep the party rolling all night. A well-balanced, broad and complete wine, with notable autolysis and depth of flavour, complex and engaging. Certified organic.

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Organic Sparkling Riesling 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench
$22.95, Tawse (LCBO #370361)  
David Lawrason – This is a compelling, energized riesling sparkler, an overlooked great value style. It shows lifted aromas of tropical pineapple, honey, light toast and petrol. It is off-dry yet so brisk with excellent flavour intensity and length. A great evening opener after a day outdoors.

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, A.C., France
$24.95, The Case For Wine (VINTAGES #991562)

John Szabo – Another sharp value bottling from Bailly Lapierre in northern Burgundy, a long-time sparkling specialist in this cool outpost, not far from the southern strip of Champagne on similar limestone-based soils. Acids and sugars line up beautifully to frame a dry and crisp palate, dominated by citrus, lemon-lime and fresh green herb flavours.

Graham Beck Ultra Brut Cap Classique Chardonnay 2016, Zero Dosage, Traditional Method, W.O. Robertson, South Africa
$29.95, Vinexx (LCBO #435453)

Michael Godel – One of South Africa’s finest deals in Cap Classique sparkling wine. Dry and commanding, so much flavour, almost impossibly rendered. Drink 2023–27.
John Szabo – A lovely toasty, markedly autolytic (toasty-yeasty-biscuity) traditional method sparkling wine from specialist Graham Beck from the limestones of Robertson, delivering the complexity, poise and balance expected of this sparkling specialist. Top notch value.
Sara d’Amato – A leading producer of Cap Classique, the South African designation for traditional method sparkling wine, Graham Beck’s Ultra Brut has no dosage and is only made in exceptional vintages such as 20216. An assemblage of chardonnay and pinot noir aged five and a half years on its lees before being disgorged in January of 2022 — and yet showing only a modicum of bottle age. A toast-worthy, top value. 

Antech Brut Nature, A.C. Blanquette De Limoux, Languedoc, France
$31.83, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (6×750 ml)

John Szabo – Blanquette is said to be the original sparkling wine, with a history pre-dating champagne, in the 16th century. The venerable house of Antech, now in its sixth generation, is a leading producer, and this wine is a classic example from the 2020 vintage, though not labelled as such. It delivers fine toasty aromatics alongside white-fleshed orchard fruit, and appealing tonic bitters. The palate is rounded but with sharp acids. Antech allows all its wines to go through malolactic, but the high elevation vineyards of Limoux — up to 400 metres — enjoy very cool nights even in warm summers, so grapes retain plenty of acids and freshness. I love the dry, crisp, refreshing finish.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling Disgorged 2019, Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley, BC
$29.25, Blue Mountain Winery (Winery Direct)

Sara d’Amato – I’m a big fan of champagne houses and traditional method producers that list disgorgement dates on back labels such as this from Blue Mountain. This information is useful for vintage-dated sparkling wines, to tell us the amount of time the wine has spent on its lees; and for non-vintage wines, to help differentiate cuvées. This complex, lively and aromatic sparkler is dated 2019 and was disgorged in 05/22. Who needs champagne when you can find this level of complexity from an Okanagan sparkler? Teetering between opulent and refreshing, this widely appealing find is sure to turn heads at this price.

Niagara College Teaching Winery Balance Riesling Brut Traditional Method 2018, VQA Niagara Peninsula
$32.95, Niagara College Teaching Winery (Winery Direct)

Sara d’Amato – Cards on the table, I am an alumnus of Niagara College’s Teaching Winery program, but I’ve chosen this sparkling because I want to highlight an underrated style of Niagara sparkling wine made entirely of riesling. The region has a proven track record of producing high-quality age-worthy riesling in many styles and this Traditional Method Brut is no exception. A leesy expression, punchy but with just the right dosage to preserve a mouth-watering, dynamic tension.

Cave Spring Estate Blanc De Blancs, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario
$32.95, CAVE SPRING CELLARS (LCBO #213983)

Sara d’Amato – Almost entirely chardonnay with just a hint of riesling, this Blanc de Blancs is easily one of Niagara’s top sparkling values. Concise, vivacious, and dry with a minimal dosage, the wine was disgorged in January of 2023 after 30 months sur lie. Best served with a simple, non-distracting pairing like oysters on the half shell.

Rosehall Run Ceremony Estate Grown And Bottled Blanc De Blancs 2017, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario
$39.00, Rosehall Run (Winery Direct)

John Szabo – A premium chardonnay-based Blanc de Blancs showing beautifully. It’s round, creamy yet still lively and firm, with plenty of toasty/yeasty character, almonds and dried flowers, but also holding on to brisk citrus fruit, lemon and especially lime flavours. Tight acids and low dosage render this dry and crisp on the long finish.

13th Street Premier Cuvée Sparkling 2017, Traditional Method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$39.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (LCBO #142679)

Megha Jandhyala – Spark interest and lively conversation at holiday parties by serving this complex and balanced, vintage-dated bottle of Ontario sparkling wine. It is dry, refreshing, and concentrated, with compelling flavours of toasted brioche, preserved lemons and dried orchard fruit — and, at less than $40, it represents great value!

Hidden Bench Natur Zero Dosage 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench
$47.20, Hidden Bench Estate Winery (Winery Direct)

David Lawrason – This is a snapping good sparkler at a great stage of evolution that will elevate any holiday occasion. A gold medallist at the National Wine Awards, it is not as austere as some Brut Zero wines. In fact, I really like the tension and balance here. The nose is a fine assemblage of apple-pear, honey, nut and toast. Excellent length.

Hidden Bench Blanc De Blanc Zéro Dosage 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario
$48.20, Hidden Bench Estate Winery (Winery Direct)

John Szabo – From the No. 1 winery at the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada, this outperforms many champagnes at double or more the cost — very exciting! Disgorged in May of 2023, this pure chardonnay was aged in oak before going on tirage where it spent about another seven years on lees. The palate is magnificently proportioned, creamy and sharp-tart, bone dry but not at all shrill. Indeed, quite fullish, ripe and well-proportioned. Worthy of a New Year’s toast. See David’s recommendation above; order three of each to compare?

Blue Mountain Reserve Brut R D 2014, VQA Okanagan Valley, B.C.
$49.95, Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars (Winery Direct)

John Szabo – Blue Mountain’s latest, late release of the RD — given at least seven years on the lees — comfortably out-performs much of the category. It’s a marvellously toasty and complex, complete and engaging wine, still very lively and effervescent, well-balanced, dry and crisp. Everything fits nicely into place. Lovely stuff
Michael Godel – Lovely, quietly generous and so settled. A most complex game of citrus and orchard fruit, expertly seasoned with fine sea salt, white pepper and lemongrass powder. Such a gift, nine years after vintage, at a ridiculously reasonable price. Drink 2023–27. 
Megha Jandhyala – This is an impressively complex, concentrated and integrated traditional method sparkling wine, with compelling notes of toasted nuts and brioche, preserved lemon, baked apple and pear, and a litany of other delicious flavours. Take this to a holiday party in place of an expensive vintage champagne and — if you are feeling adventurous — ask your guests to taste it blind.

Two Sisters Blanc De Franc Traditional Method Sparkling 2019, VQA Niagara River, Ontario
$64.00, Two Sisters Vineyards (Winery Direct)

Sara d’Amato – With a clever name like Blanc de Franc, it’s hard to resist this Niagara River-grown sparkler. Further evidence of the significant diversity of Canadian sparkling wine offerings, this traditional-method wine based on cabernet franc features dried wildflower, fennel and green apple along with a gentle nuttiness from lees and a hint of welcome bitterness. Substantial and mouth-filling yet cut with an important vein of acidity, here is a celebration-worthy sipper to show off to your skeptic friends.

Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Brut Champagne, A.C., France
$69.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (LCBO #25068)

Michael Godel – Travels to great lengths for subtleties and shadows to which constants are assembled for long playtime indeed. The most professional and enriching of house style Champagnes, considered MOR by some cognoscenti and yet the reason so many lovers stick to this brand. Drink 2023-2028.
John Szabo – I have to say, this is one of the finer bottlings of LP Brut I’ve tasted, a step or two above the champagne mean at the price. Delivers fine complexity in a very toasty, yeasty ensemble, classically styled in a bold and assertive expression, impressively proportioned.

Verrier Et Fils Brut Fleuron Champagne, A.C., France
$73.59, The Wine Agents (6×750 ml)

John Szabo – Here’s an attractive, complex and very toasty champagne, mostly chardonnay with 10 percent pinot noir, given extended ageing in bottle and blended from three vintages. The palate is dry and crisp, beautifully balanced, bright and tight in the best way, with excellent length. A wine of superior quality.
Sara d’Amato – With caramel and fresh lemon, this lightly raisined, charismatic champagne offers a great deal of textural intrigue. Its base wine is made from a blend of 90 percent chardonnay and 10 percent pinot noir from three vintages, with the final product aged four years on the lees. There is both nerviness and density to this wine, a lick of butterscotch and a well-balanced dosage. Showcases the elegance of a Blanc de Blancs with a powerful, complex and lengthy finish. More of an end of night champagne to accompany cheeses such as aged gouda, raclette or gruyère.

Stratus Blanc De Blancs 2015, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario
$75.00, Stratus Vineyards (Winery Direct)

Sara d’Amato – Taught, nervy and zesty, if it wasn’t for the low alcohol and sparkle, you might think you were drinking a Fino sherry! There’s a real natural feel to this salty, sour fizz with flavours of almond, fennel, and brine. Calls for nibbles such as marinated anchovies, sardines, or briny green olives.

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Traditional Method & Champagne Rosé

Taltarni Brut Taché 2015, Victoria/Tasmania, Australia
$26.95, PV W&S (LCBO #967398)

Sara d’Amato – Like many of you I’m on the lookout for bargains in the Traditional Method fizz category for the holiday season and I was pleasantly surprised when this perfumed and toasty wine ended up on my tasting roster last week. Taltarni is an early trailblazer in Victoria’s Pyrenees wine region established in 1969. The chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes come from three states: Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Taché refers to the stained rosé colour achieved through short skin contact. With its cherry blossom nose, creamy mousse, and flavours of slivered almonds and clafouti, this widely appealing find is worth stocking up on for late night celebrations.

13th Street Cuvee Rosé Brut, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$28.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (VINTAGES #147504)

John Szabo – This latest brut rosé from 13th Street is a bit of a wild ride, flavourful to be sure, with a compelling range of wild berry flavours, autumn leaves, umami-mushroom broth, and more in a complex ensemble. The palate is dry, certainly crisp, and it lingers impressively. It grows and grows with air, so be sure to serve in a proper, large-bowled wine glass rather than champagne flute. There’s much to admire here. Bonus: It’s $3 off the regular price ($31.95) until December 31.

Raventós I Blanc De Nit Rosè 2020, Conca Del Riu Anoia, Catalonia, Spain
$40.88, Cru Wine Merchants (12×750 ml)

John Szabo – A rosé very much on the mature, toasty/yeasty side of the traditional method spectrum, not a fruity and frivolous example to be sure, indeed quite a serious dry and complex wine. A sharp value in the category, as usual from this top-notch producer.

Peri Talento Rosé 2018, Traditional Method, Lombardy, Italy
$56.70, Apparition Wines & Spirits (6×750 ml) 

David Lawrason – Here is something fresh, fun and delicious for the holidays. And the quality is top notch. This traditional method sparkler from Lombardy shows a generous, pretty almost floral nose with strawberry, peach, tarragon herbality and light brioche. It is quite delicate, just off-dry with terrific acidity.

Two Sisters Lush Sparkling Rosé 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$58.00, Two Sisters Vineyards (Winery Direct)

Michael Godel – Continues to penetrate the palate and the mind, not to mention piercing the heart. Lush, or as it sounds so much more fantastic in Italian, “lussureggiante.” Drink 2023–27. 
Megha Jandhyala – This is a beautifully balanced sparkling rosé, well worth the price. Made with chardonnay and pinot noir, with some cabernet franc included in the dosage, it is vibrant and refreshing, with delicate sweetness and salinity adding nuance and depth to the palate. Pour this with appetizers or include it at the dinner table if you are serving a wide range of vegetarian food or seafood.

Trail Estate Pinot Noir Sparkling (P.N.17) 2017, Traditional Method, Prince Edward County, Ontario  
$59.03, Trail Estate Winery (Winery Direct)

David Lawrason – This is a very fine, detailed traditional method pinot noir rose. It has a lovely forthright, detailed nose of pinot strawberry/cherry, light toast, hay and minerality. It is zero dosage but shows pinpoint balance. Very firm without being austere, with great minerality throughout. Excellent focus and length.

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John Szabo, MS


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