Taste & Terroir


The 10 Best Holiday Appetizers Featuring BC Dairy and BC Sparkling Wine

Ten Creamy Appies with Perfect BC Sparkling Pairings

It’s that time of year when it seems like there’s an event every other day, from big holiday galas to casual gatherings with friends to family feasts around the table. Chances are you’re going to be hosting someone at your place, or bringing a dish to someone else’s place or, at the very least, ordering something festive at a restaurant for all your friends or work colleagues.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t even have to be all that spendy. And it can still be impressive and generous and bursting with holiday spirit.

It starts, as all the best events do, with sparkling wine. British Columbia wineries produce some truly exciting bubbles in almost every region and at every price point. And why not? For one thing, it’s the perfect wine to make with the cool-climate, higher-acid grapes that grow in even marginal regions. For another, who doesn’t love bubbles?

Sparkling wine is among the most versatile of wines. It’s the perfect complement to rich, creamy, buttery foods and goes nicely even with flavours that can otherwise be challenging to pair, like salt, tartness, umami, and spice.

That’s because sparkling wines are typically high in acid and low in alcohol, with a neutral flavour profile and an effervescence that livens the palate and cuts right through butter, fat and cream.

Sparkling wines all start off as still wines made from red and/or white grapes. Then carbon dioxide, or CO2, is added to create that festive fizz. How it’s added makes the difference between your soft, easygoing, juicy Tuesday night bubble and the kind of elegant sipper you might choose for a more refined occasion.

For the most part, BC wineries produce two different styles of sparkling wines:

Charmat or tank method.

Still wine is placed in a pressurized tank, sugar and yeast are added, and the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in which CO2 is produced and preserved in the wine.

These wines tend to retain their fruity character, with soft bubbles that dissipate quickly. They also tend to be lower in alcohol and less expensive than the more labour-intensive traditional method bubbles. They make terrific apéritifs and go especially well with the umami/spice flavour profile of many Asian dishes. Vancouver Island’s signature Charme de L’île is a good example.

Three to try:

Unsworth Vineyards Charme de L’île, Vancouver Island, $29.90

This fruit-forward blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and other cool climate grape varieties is dry, vibrant and easygoing, with notes of green apple, lemon curd and grapefruit, lively bubbles and a pleasing finish. Pair with: oysters and other shellfish, creamy cheeses.

Evolve Cellars Effervescence, Okanagan Valley, $22.99

This multi-award-winning patio fizz is made from 70 per cent Chardonnay and 30 per cent Pinot Blanc. It is bright and lightly floral on the nose, with flavours of melon, peach and lemon, and cheerful bubbles. Pair with: popcorn, sushi or deep-fried appies.

Monte Creek Winery Living Land Sparkling Rosé 2022, Thompson Valley, $23.99

Made from cool-climate Marquette, this is all ripe strawberry and watermelon flavours, with a splash of citrus and peach. Crisp, juicy, food friendly and fizzy. Pair with: Middle Eastern dips, charcuterie boards.

Champagne or traditional method.

As the name suggests, this is how Champagne is made. Also called, simply, “brut,” the wine is first fermented like any other wine, but additional yeast and sugar are added before the bottle is sealed. This creates a second fermentation (in other words, bubbles) in the bottle.

At the same time, the yeast creates residue known as “lees.” To remove it, bottles are placed in racks with necks tilted down at an angle and regularly rotated, a process known as “riddling,” so the lees accumulate in the neck. The mass is eventually frozen and forced out by the pressure of the CO2. The bottle is then topped with more wine and sealed by cork.

These wines tend to have fine, lingering bubbles (known as the mousse), and crisp, complex, sophisticated flavours that combine bright citrus, tree fruit and toasty brioche notes. They are ideal for almost any occasion and pair well with a huge range of foods. Some BC bruts retail for premium prices.

Three to try:

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards Fitz Brut 2018, Okanagan Valley, $34.50

Made from a classic Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this elegant sparkler was then aged for 36 months on lees, giving it lovely notes of lemon peel, pear, stone fruit and brioche. Refined yet versatile. Pair with: salmon gravlax, caviar, potato chips, canapés.

Township 7 Seven Stars Polaris 2019, Fraser Valley/Okanagan Valley, $39.97

This blanc de blanc made from 100 per cent Chardonnay is a fuller-bodied bubble, with notes of citrus, stone fruit and toast, a luxuriously creamy mousse and a crisp, lingering finish. Pair with: salmon in any form, spot prawns, rich creamy cheeses, mushroom tartlets, any holiday canapé.

Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery Tête de Cuvée 2020, Kootenays, $39

This rosé blend of 50 per cent Chardonnay and 50 per cent Pinot Noir is off-dry in style, bursting with strawberries and other red fruits, along with hints of biscuit, a crisp acidity and fresh, lively mousse. Pair with: brunch, charcuterie, smoky BBQ flavours, curry spices.

There are also a couple of other sparkling wine styles you may come across.

Ancestrale orPét-Nat (short for “pétillant-naturel”) sparkling wines are especially popular among natural wine aficionados. They do not go through a second fermentation, but are bottled before the first one is complete, a process that creates fresh, light, and juicy flavours with soft, lazy bubbles. Look for it from natural-wine producers like Sperling Vineyards.

Meanwhile, other producers, like 8th Generation Vineyard, are producing soft, fresh “frizzante,” in which the CO2 from the first fermentation is captured and reintroduced to the wine.

10 BC Dairy Appetizer Pairings for Your BC Sparkling Wine

In any case, there are dozens of delightfully fizzy wines being produced right across this province in a myriad of styles. They are the perfect party wine, a thoughtful host gift and a food-friendly choice to pair with every holiday canapé or hors d’oeuvre imaginable, starting with these 10 easy but refined bites crafted from fresh BC dairy.

1. Homemade ricotta (see recipe), drizzled with good olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and served with crusty bread or crudités. Making ricotta is both ridiculously easy (as long as you have a digital thermometer and some cheesecloth) and super satisfying, and it’s a terrific ingredient in any number of dishes: stuffed in pastas like lasagna or cannelloni, swirled in sauces, dolloped onto shakshuka, baked in a Bundt cake or tucked into omelettes or frittatas.

2. Blini/tiny pancakes (see recipe) or crostini (see recipe) piped with crème fraîche (see recipe) and lox, caviar and dill arranged on top. Crème fraîche is like a more luscious type of sour cream, another super-easy recipe (as long as you have some patience), and can be used in countless dishes, both sweet and savoury.

3. Crostini slathered with sweet butter and topped with thinly sliced radishes, sea salt and a few fresh thyme leaves. Crostini (also known as bruschetta or toast rounds) are another simple make-ahead ingredient that will make your entertaining easy and impressive.

4. Endive spears or butter lettuce cups filled with crumbled blue or goat cheese, toasted walnuts and a drizzle of honey.

5. Crostini topped with horseradish cream (prepared horseradish mixed with crème fraiche or sour cream), thinly sliced roast beef and arugula.

6. Little biscuits filled with country-style ham, butter and bread-and-butter pickles. Or add a slice of cheddar or Swiss-style cheese and replace the pickles with chutney.

7. Puff pastry squares topped with crème fraîche, goat cheese and asparagus spears or caramelized onions, baked and garnished with chopped herbs. You could also turn these into tartlets by baking them in muffin cups instead. Note: You don’t have to make your own puff pastry and honestly, who has time? Look for frozen puff pastry made with butter, which gives it a richer flavour and higher loft.

8. Crostini topped with ricotta, sautéed mushrooms, and crispy fried shallots. Or use frozen tart shells and top the mushroom filling with grated Swiss-style cheese.

9. Cherry tomatoes filled with ricotta and sprinkled with chopped herbs such as chives or parsley. You can also use cucumber slices, hollowed out slightly with a melon baller.

10. Crostini topped with BC cheese and garnished with a dollop of quince jelly or fig jam.

By Joanne Sasvari

Joanne Sasvari is a Vancouver-based independent writer who covers food, drink and travel for a variety of publications and websites, including the Vancouver Sun and Destination BC. Certified by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), she is currently the editor of The Alchemist, Vitis and Westcoast Homes & Design magazines, and is the author of the Wickaninnish and Vancouver Eats cookbooks.