Sparkling and sweet

All that sparkles is not champagne, and how about wine for dessert?

As the holidays approach, there is an inclination to pop the cork on a few lovely bubblies and end the evening with something sweet.

Let’s start with the sparkling. Most people do — but don’t get drawn into that trap. Sparkling wine is not just for welcoming appetizers and toasting the end of one year and the beginning of the next — if that’s all you use it for, you’re missing out on the versatility of this wine. Bubbly is a great mealtime wine as well as a celebratory tipple. At my house we open a bottle monthly, if not more often, but it’s not always something expensive. In fact, it’s rare that we pay more than $25 for a bottle, and even rarer that the bottle is actual champagne. While all champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is champagne, nor does all sparkling wine carry champagne  prices. The variety in bubblies these days is amazing and the quality from country to country is getting better. You no longer have to spend $50 to get quality and flavour in the same package.


Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne — France; Hinterland 2012 Rosé Method Traditional (available at — Ontario; Cono Sur Brut — Chile; Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay Brut — British Columbia; Trius Brut — Ontario.


Like sparkling wines, sweet wines also come in a wonderful range, from sauternes and icewine to sherry and port and many more in between. They can be fortified, contain natural sugar or have sugar added. Some are made from frozen grapes, while others are made entirely of fruit other than grapes. Some are aged; some remain forever young. Sweet wines are made for dessert time; in some cases, they can be the dessert all on their own — it really depends on where your sweet tooth lies. Known as sweeties, stickies or just plain delights for the senses, dessert wines can be the cherry on top of the cake — especially when there is no cake. Sometimes knowing how they are made can ruin the mystery of these precious nectars.


Tawse 2013 Oak Aged Chardonnay Icewine — Ontario; Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro — Spain; Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez Montilla Moriles — Spain; Big Head 2013 Select Late Harvest Riesling (available at — Ontario; Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Porto — Portugal.