Eating & Drinking

Top Ottawa sommeliers recommend best bubbles for New Year’s Eve

Whether you plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve in your pajamas or in your swankiest outfit, a bottle of bubbly is always a good match. Some of Ottawa’s sommeliers went through their wine lists to share what they plan on uncorking for midnight.

One thing was agreed upon by all: sparkling wine is versatile, and pairs well with all kinds of dishes. It should not be reserved for only the most special of occasions — but New Year’s Eve offers an excellent opportunity to showcase something wonderfully fizzy. From lively and effervescent to rich and toasty, there is something on the market for every palate.

Ring in the new year with bubbles — some of Ottawa's top sommeliers have great recommendations. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.
Ring in the new year with bubbles — some of Ottawa’s top sommeliers have great recommendations. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.

And, if you haven’t yet made plans, these restaurants all happen to be offering delicious options for Dec. 31.

Restaurant: The Pomeroy House
Wine: Dolomite Brut, Cave Spring, Niagara

Lindsay Gordon says 2015 has been “crazy, but in a good way” and predicts that natural wines, wild yeasts, and Corsican wines will be trending in 2016. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.
Lindsay Gordon says 2015 has been “crazy, but in a good way” and predicts that natural wines, wild yeasts, and Corsican wines will be trending in 2016. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.

With notes of crisp citrus, green apple, a slight minerality, and delicate bubbles, Lindsay Gordon, co-owner of the Pomeroy House, suggests this Niagara wine made in the traditional method (the same vinification techniques used for Champagne). The Pomeroy House will be serving featured dishes on New Year’s Eve along with their regular dinner menu, and Gordon suggests starting off the evening with a pairing of Cave Spring’s Dolomite Brut and oysters, or their albacore tuna crudo.

Having just opened their restaurant in the Glebe in August of this year, Gordon laughs that 2015 has been “crazy, but in a good way” and predicts natural wines, wild yeasts, and Corsican wines will be trending in 2016.

Restaurant: Gezellig
Wines : Franciacorta, “Brut,” Majolini, Italy & Blanc de Beckta, Cave Spring, Niagara

Evan Keaschuk says he'd be more than happy to pair an entire menu with sparkling wines. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.
Evan Keaschuk says he’d be more than happy to pair an entire menu with sparkling wines. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.

Gezellig began carrying the Beckta restaurants’ new house sparkling wine in October, and it has been hugely popular. Made by Cave Spring in Niagara, the Blanc de Beckta is made of 100 per cent Chardonnay, has notes of bright citrus, and is very food friendly. Sommelier Evan Keaschuk recommends it along with Majolini’s Franciacorta. In contrast to the Blanc de Beckta, the Franciacorta is a little toastier and richer. While Keaschuk emphasizes he would be more than happy to pair an entire menu with sparkling wines, he particularly enjoys pairing them with soups to play with the contrasting textures.
2016 will mark his second year as Gezellig’s sommelier, and Keaschuk predicts we’ll be seeing a surge in the popularity of wines that are slightly “toned back”; fresh wines that are lower in alcohol and more food friendly, along with more use of the Gamay grape in Ontario.

Restaurant: North and Navy
Wines: Franciacorta, “Brut,” Majolini, Italy & La Spinetta, Moscato d’Asti, Bricco Quaglia, 2014

North and Navy will be preparing a special six-course menu with a wine-pairing option for New Year’s Eve. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.
North and Navy will be preparing a special six-course menu with a wine-pairing option for New Year’s Eve. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.

While sparkling wines pair perfectly with North and Navy’s cichèti, the Italian take on small plates, all year round, co-owner Chris Schlesak says they are preparing a special six-course menu with a wine-pairing option for New Year’s Eve. You can count on some Italian wines being featured at the restaurant that bills itself as a Northern Italian Kitchen.
Manning the bar, Alex Scott also extols the virtues of Franciacorta and recommends Majolini’s Franciacorta. From the Italian region of Lombardi, Franciacorta is Italy’s take on Champagne; they both make use of the same grapes (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), and the same production method with the secondary fermentation occurring in bottle … but it is generally less expensive. Scott chooses another Italian bottle to highlight: La Spinetta’s Moscato d’Asti, a wine from a single vineyard in Piedmont. It is a slightly honeyed wine with a delicate floral and fruity nose. Low in alcohol and equally delicious as an aperitif or a digestif, Scott says he likes to pair this wine best with chocolate or brunch. He predicts that 2016 will continue to see an increase in the popularity of biodynamic and organic wines, along with the rise of native grape varietals.

Restaurant: Soif |Bar à vin
Wines: too many to choose from!

Véronique Rivest recommends serving sparkling wines in regular white wine glasses, allowing you to swirl the wine and enjoy the aroma and taste more fully. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.
Véronique Rivest recommends serving sparkling wines in regular white wine glasses, allowing you to swirl the wine and enjoy the aroma and taste more fully. Photo by Katie Shapiro, Ottawa Magazine.

Across the river at Gatineau’s Soif, star sommelière and owner Véronique Rivest hopes 2016 sees consumers gain more confidence in their taste. While she certainly doesn’t seek to be an “obscurist,” Rivest also doesn’t want customers to be intimidated if they are unfamiliar with the wines on her list and is sure that she and her team can find a wine to suit everyone’s taste.
Her love of bubbles is apparent. With 20 to 30 different bottles of sparkling wines in Soif’s cellar at any given time, Rivest praises the style for its versatility with food (a personal favourite of hers is the “shabby chic” pairing of sparkling wine with potato chips). When pressed to highlight one or two wines for this article, Rivest enthusiastically describes several: a Phil’len Bulle from a virtually unknown appellation in the Loire Valley with “loads of character”; La Perle Noire, another méthode traditionelle from Languedoc; or the Ayse Perles du Mont Blanc, a wine using a “super different” grape variety — all dry wines, and all representative of their terroir. Rivest is most impressed by wines that have a story to tell.
While she admits flute glasses evoke a familiar sense of celebration, Rivest recommends serving sparkling wines in regular white wine glasses; this will allow you to swirl the wine, and enjoy the aroma and taste more fully.
For New Year’s Eve, the team at Soif is preparing a four-course dinner with wine pairings and a big party afterward. Though Rivest isn’t yet sure which bottle(s) of bubbly she will be opening at midnight, party goers are bound to be in for a treat.

So wherever you go, whatever you sip on, may your New Year’s Eve be as sparkly as the wine. Raise a glass to 2016!

Note: These wines were all available at the above mentioned restaurants at the time of writing. Should you wish to find something similar for yourself, your local LCBO should be able to help. Click here for information on private ordering.