5 "Champagne Lover" Destinations for 2024
Whether you are heading to Italy, France, Spain, South Africa or Australia this year or planning a staycation in BC, this list is for you. Here are my top 5 destinations for bubbles for 2024.
Behind the Glass: Sparkling Wine
Things I've learned along the way about sparkling wine include the method of making bubble, the climate characteristics, grapes varieties in the blend and sweetness levels. Most regions offered the added benefit of natural beauty and stories about founders, history and sustainable practices.
Whether it's "traditional method", "methode champanoise", or "method Tasmanoise" (suits the cheeky Aussies in Tasmania) the way Champagne, Cava and Cremant is made follows a specific recipe. Grapes are made into wine and then this same wine is bottled, topped with yeast and grape juice for a second fermentation and laid to rest in a cellar. This second fermentation produces lovely fine pearls (bubbles) and aromas and flavours that are unique and identifiable from the process. Other variations to this method include Charmat or Tank, where the second fermentation takes place in a tank not a bottle), Prosecco or Asti Method involve chilling the must to retain aromas and flavours. No matter the method, sparkling effervescence is the hallmark of this process and if you are like me then, you'll sip, savour and appreciate the effort.
Appreciating bubbles in the glass is to observe a fine stream of pearls rising up in the glass. Fashion dictates flutes are out and white wine glasses are in. No matter, these ribbons are beautiful and remind that this sip is alive. After all, grape sugars convert to alcohol, which results in terms like Brut, Extra Brut, Extra Dry and Semi-Sec appearing on the labels to describe dry, off-dry to medium sweet, and sweet. Prosecco captivated the market because of it's fruity and floral aromas and off dry nature. If the blend is right, sweet or dry, it's delicious.
Bubbles are produced in almost every region of the wine world. It seems that cooler climates feature classic grape varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier although there are many variations that can be blend and turned into sparkling wine. Typically regions with less regulation have more latitude although global warming is having an impact. Recently Voltis grape was approved in Champagne. It offers greater resistance to downy and powdery mildew, two culprits that infect vineyards and produce off flavours in wine. I digress.
Other inflection points for sparkling wine regions, and maybe wine regions in general is the landscape and natural beauty that set many wine regions apart. The geography and terroir have a direct influence on the grapes and therefore the bottle contents. All this to say, there are many factors that go into making sparkling wine that you may not have considered before and now that you know, well, it might make your next bottle that much more thought provoking.
Good Wine Gal's Top 6 Sparkling Destinations for 2024
The top of my list is the Cava Capital of Spain, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, a small town in Penedes that you might drive by without realizing it's importance and offering. Next I salut Reims, Champagne. It's perhaps a captivating small city that bursts at the seams with layers of historic monuments, honoring its past with stories and meaning. Neither of these destinations require a vehicle to get there and if you like to explore on foot, all the better. The next three recommendations require a car so so hire one or hop on a local tour. Also, if you are inspired to shop to ship home to Canada, remember this is an expensive and lengthy undertaking. Do some research before you leave so that you understand the taxation, shipping costs and time line. As one of my friends discovered, it's easier to buy a couple of suitcases and fill them to the personal limit which is 60 litres (48 bottles), bring them with you on the plane, pay the extra bag charge and pay the assessment going through customs in Canada. It'll still be cheaper and you can celebrate when you get home.
The Cava Capital of Spain - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia
Come for the bubbles and stay for the Spanish vibe. After a couple of weeks here, your soul will be satisfied by the obsession that has made Sant Sadurni d'Anoia the capital of Cava in Spain. Without a doubt the most welcoming sparkling wine centric place on earth. Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is located 20 minutes north west of Barcelona in Penedes. The Anoia river is an important water source for this town of 17,000 residents with its 80 tasting rooms. The view of Monserrat as the sunsets is beautiful. Noteworthy producers to visit include Gramona and Recaredo who still reside in their original locations complete with 100 year old caves below. This is also the home of Frexinet and Cordoniu, both of which you can tour.
The entrance to the town features a copper sculpture of a champagne bottle overflowing which sits in the center of the roundabout. The "cava" art doesn't stop here. Once in the town, streets are lined with mushroom corks and bubble bottle shapes that guard pedestrians walkways from speeding vehicles on the narrow roadways. While it lives in the shadow of Barcelona, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia offers the most to sparkling wine lovers.
Some of the finest, oldest bubbles I have tasted were here at Gramona and Recaredo. If you get a chance to wander the hundred year old caves, you will discover Cava beyond the stereotype of cheap and cheerful. Bubble lovers will be impressed by the depth of the caves as well as the breadth of styles and vintages. Remember this is Spain so siesta is afternoon break and restaurants hit their stride around 9 pm. Any questions?
To learn more about Cava follow this link. To celebrate the Cava Capital click this link.
Historic Reims in Champagne, France
What's not to love about a trip to Champagne? Take a train from Charles de Gaule International Airport to Reims and skip an expensive night in Paris. Upon arrival at the "gare", immediately visible is the main pedestrian zone and the many street cafes. In a matter of minutes, you'll be sipping Champagne and ordering lunch with time left to watch the locals go by. Yes you are on vacation and it's fantastic.
Exploring Reims is to revisit history. The Porta Mars, the cathedral, staures and fountains with the French flag standing at attention in front on modern and old buildings alike. Not only did the Romans dig it up, but the monarchy brought wealth, style and culture. The fall the the Kings and the tumultuous world wars, saw fearless locals including women and the Résistance putting a stake in the local sand to defend their home and their wine. This has shaped the culture of Champagne forever. Noteworthy sites include the original Notre Dame where French kings were crowned. It's located in the center of Reims. kThe legend of Joan of Arc is marked by a statue of her on horseback even though she is not buried here. Additionally, famous Champagne houses are within the city limits and walking distance if you dare.
Millions of bottles champagne, lie just below the city, in tunnels that connect the seven champagne houses that have left their mark. They include: Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin, Ruinart, Taittinger, Pommery, Martel, Lanson and Charles Heidsieck. With over 57 kilometers, of UNESCO heritage limestone caves the stories of these passages are linked to the survival of a nation. Many of these passages are now closed due to flooding and erosion but the experience of walking in the footsteps of history is real.
Visit Champagne Taittinger and you'll experience the delight, moisture, darkness, echo and feeling of timelessness, walking through the caves and descending down three flights of stairs that mark the journey of 1800 years. To see the original Roman excavation of limestone, used to build the city, in 347 AD, is nothing short of eerie wonder. Tasting champagne at Taittinger will be the climax of the occassion and bring new meaning to your enjoyment and understanding of Champagne. Whether it's Brut Reserve to Vintage Comte de Champagne, you'll enjoy fine elegant bubbles and signature racy acidity with aromas and flavours of citrus, apple pear, mineral and brioche, the taste of Champagne in the Champagne house in Champagne, which is completely unforgettable.
I've written about some of my Champagne recommendations. Despite being second on my list, Champagne is a destination I plan to revisit.
Eastcoast Effervescence of Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada may be known for Icewine, but it is also gaining a reputation for top quality bubbles. Benjamin Bridge is a perfect example of the rising profile of Canadian sparkling wine. Located in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, this winery started out as a passion project in 1999. You'll find the estate along a winding road that leads to a tasting room, it is surround by vineyards. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other varieties grow in this cold continental climate, producing world class bubbles. I crossed the Bay of Fundy to get here.
The Bay of Fundy has the largest tides in the world shift every 24 hours. This tidal influence brings ocean breezes which moderate the temperatures during the very cold winter and short hot summers. I left St John, New Brunswick on an early sailing with perfect weather conditions making for a breathe taking experience. The ferry lands at the port town Digby, Nova Scotia which is about 1.5 hours from Wolfville and Benjamin Bridge. A stop in Annapolis Royal for "scallops" still left plenty of time to get to Annapolis Valley.
The Benjamin Bridge tasting room is tiny but you'll also find outdoor seating which gives respite and opportunity to absorb the peaceful, natural surroundings. Read more in my blogpost here. Benjamin Bridge markets Nova 7 which I call "Canadian Asti", along with Brut and vintages bubbles. If you make the journey to Nova Scotia other sparkling wine producers of note include: Blomidon, Lightheart & Wolfville and L'acadie Vineyards.
Bubble Mania in Breathtaking Tasmania, Australia
From Nova Scotia let's head to Australia. Populated around the same time, Australia is a story of colonialism and in recent times the emergence of a nation that stands on it's own is reflected in the innovation and styles of wine that continue inspire the world. If you love bubbles then you will want to venture to Tasmania. Here you'll discover the finest in the land with a stunningly gorgeous backdrop of raging ocean, country pastures and organic living.
Visiting Tasmania is a journey back in time to old world Australia. The historical buildings, botanical gardens and colonial imprint is everywhere. It's a short flight from Sydney to Lanceston, which dates back to the early settlers during the reign of Queen Victoria. The trip to take requires a car and the journey from Lanceston to Hobart takes about five days of four hour drives that can be filled with hikes, wine tastings and good meals. Hobart to the south east is the capital city and the second outpost colonized by the British.
The quality of wine in Tasmania reflects the natural beauty of this island region as well as the pioneers who planted vines. Fresh sea air, large natural forests, enormous cool ocean beaches that stretch for miles are the key ingredients in this farming community. Stops should include Joseph Chromy, Jansz, and Arras, to mention a few. The cellar doors (tasting rooms) are open to the public and hours are posted on their websites.
Here is a photo journal from my blogger account Local Munch
Beautiful BC Bubbles from Okanagan Falls, BC
Compared to Champagne, the Okanagan Valley is a juvenile at 50 years young. Despite it's youth, the Okanagan Valley has produced outstanding bubbles made in the traditional method since the mid-1990s. Summerhill Pyramid Winey put the valley on the map winning international awards and gaining a global reputation. Blue Mountain Vineyards and Winery answered the call as demand grew. with it's stunning landscape and beautiful, high quality sparkling wines.
To get to Blue Mountain Vineyards and winery, you'll fly into Penticton and rent a car. The highway south will take you to Okanagan Falls which if you blink, you may miss it. Follow the signs for another short 15 minutes and you'll arrive at the tasting room. It's fantastic to sit outside overlooking this view and tasting a great variety of sparkling and still wines. The experience is really an unforgettable one as it activates all the senses. Check out my story about BC Bubbles here.
After more than a decade of wine travel, the top sparkling wine destinations are places to appreciate bubbles far and wide, even right here at home. Exploring historic towns, local markets and restaurants, soaking up local ambiance and culture becomes part of you, and leaves a lasting education. Visiting the tasting room, the vineyards, the cellars and the people who grow grapes and make wine, fosters connection to community. Travel is one way to learn and appreciate culture and most of all "good wine".
Thank you for being a bubble lover. As I write this post I'm already thinking of regions I have not yet visited in search of bubbles like South Africa. Despite the list that keeps growing, I would happily return to Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, Reims, Wolfville, Pipers Brook and Okanagan Falls to sip and to savour the beauty of bubbles and the gorgeous landscape surrounding each of these destinations.
I'm Good Wine Gal.
I blog about "good wine" and how to find it!
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