Food and drink: Damn the recession 

Time to put some sparkle back into your life

After a year of less than sparkling economic news it is time to fight back. Like most New World sippers, we tend to drink sparkling wine when celebrating a significant milestone - anniversaries, birthdays and weddings get most of the attention. But why not be more proactive in your sparkling wine consumption?

You don't really need an "occasion" to enjoy sparkling wine, but if you do, how does "I've had enough of this recession" sound?

With the Olympics just around the corner along with a bit of light at the end of the economic tunnel, I thought a short primer on bubble might get us all in the mood to celebrate. The truth is sparkling wine is an extremely versatile food wine that appears to have an innate ability to lift the spirit of anyone who sips it - something we could all use in a challenging economy.

Okay, it's not as if we think you should drink to forget, but a glass or two of sparkling wine per week should not be out of the realm of possibilities. Spanish and French consumers are both excellent role models when it comes to embracing bubble, no matter what the occasion. Could they know something we don't?

Getting to know sparkling wine doesn't have to be a lot of work. What you should focus on is where the wine is made and which technique is used to get the bubbles in the bottle. Champagne, the region, is the only place champagne, the wine, can be made.

All other bubbly versions should only be referred to as sparkling wine. Commit to memory: all champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is champagne.

In North America our fizz options include France, Italy, Spain, California and British Columbia with a smaller selection from Chile, Argentina, Australia and Germany. Now, where does one begin?

Spanish sparkling wine, easily identified worldwide as cava , would be my choice. For the unaware, cava is made in the same method as champagne (the second fermentation is inside the bottle thus creating the tiny bubbles). Although European Union rules prohibit Spain from using the French term méthode champenoise on its labels, look for the Spanish equivalent, método tradicional .

In Spain most cava is invariably a blend of macabeo, parellada and xarello grapes. There is attractive nutty character to these dry sparklers as well as a whiff of fresh fruit. Tapas were made for cava and the Spanish tend to explore the classic pairing daily from about 5 p.m. until early morning.

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