Dry February is a campaign by CHIL Fundraising which benefits The Canadian Cancer Society. The idea is to completely abstain from alcohol for the month of February, while earning pledges. The website’s pitch promises you good health and a clearer-head, all while doing good. Reading that I thought to myself; I’m healthy, I’m clear-headed, and drinking alcohol is my profession.
I also got the impression they were suggesting a direct link between alcohol drinking – at any amount – and cancer. As someone who saw her grandfather, and a friend suffer and die from cancer, I would quit my career in a heartbeat if I believed that alcohol was the cause of cancer, and I too would sign up for Dry February.
When it comes to many things – especially food and drink – we seem to be a society of indulgers or abstainers, taking things to unhealthy extremes, either way! We’ve lost touch with a basic bit of wisdom: moderation in all things, including alcohol. Sure, when folks drink to excess it can wreak havoc on their body and their life. On the other hand, when consumed in moderation – a glass of wine with dinner, a single dram of scotch after a long day of work, a couple of beers on the dock – plenty of research and respectable studies demonstrate health benefits. It’s binge drinking that’s the bad guy here.
Encouraging people to go dry for a whole month contributes nothing to the healthy ideal of a lifetime of moderation; instead, it asks us to go to the other extreme. There is no good reason to demonize all alcohol-drinking, depriving us of the joy and health benefits moderate alcohol consumption can provide. By taking all alcohol off the table, we do not teach ourselves, or the next generation, to control our impulses and temptations. We just swipe it aside. Indulgences are all around us; if it’s not alcohol than it’s sugar, drugs, or sex. Temptation will always be there in one form or another, the goal is to find balance – to learn how to enjoy our lives while exercising restraint and practicing moderation.
As an answer to Dry February, I’d like to propose Fizzy February instead. Okay, it’s not an actual fundraiser, but there is much value in living well and healthfully with Champagne! Allow me to shed some light on the health benefits of wine, especially Champagne. Research conducted by Dr. Jeremy Spencer (you can read more here: www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/pr503596.aspx) concluded that one to three glasses of Champagne per week could help delay the memory loss associated with degenerative brain disorders such as dementia. It is believed high levels of phenolic compounds derived from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (two of champagne grapes along with Chardonnay), are responsible for the beneficial effect of Champagne on our memory and brain.
And there’s more good news! Previous research from the University of Reading found that Champagne has a beneficial effect on the walls of blood vessels, meaning it can potentially reduce heart disease and strokes, but again, only in moderation.
But just as with food, it’s not only about quantity; the quality of the ingredients matter to your health as well, and when it comes to Champagne, quality of ingredients and production methods are top notch. That said, there is a range of quality in flavour for a range of prices – some more justifiable than others.
Below are five spectacular Champagne bottles currently available at LCBO Vintages, to try for Fizzy February. They’re wonderfully complex, have great flavour, and are well worth the investment. February can be a brute, so pop a cork, share a bottle among friends and family, raise a glass to good health, and MAKE a donation to whatever cause is near and dear to you.
À votre santé!
1. Ruinart R de Ruinart Brut Champagne NV $86.95
In existence since 1729, this bubbly is named after Dom Ruinart, the Benedictine monk who passed his love of sparkling wines to the nephew who started Ruinart winery. With quite an addictive nose – you just want to keep on exploring the bready, toasty, Brazil nut and hazelnut aromas! – the palate matches the complexity on the nose, with its non-abrasive, lively, delicate and somewhat silky bubbles. That elegant, sparkly freshness is followed by granny Smith apple, and finishes with nutty, and brioche notes. It’s lovely, elegant and classic; good for its price point.
91 points | VINTAGES#: 189878
2. Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Champagne 2008 $92.95
From one of the largest and most prestigious Champagne houses, established in 1743 by Claude Moët, this elegant champagne will keep on developing. With lots of fresh notes rather than bready aromas on the nose and palate, it’s light in colour and medium- to light-bodied. Pleasant and appealing, enjoy the fresh and delicious lime, granny Smith apple, lemon, and nectarine notes, and the lingering lime and slight honey notes on the finish where the bready notes finally come along as an aftertaste.
91 points | VINTAGES#: 69773
3. Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne NV $109.95
From a family-run Champagne house nearly 200-years-old, this bubbly is a very attractive light-salmon colour with orange brightness. It boasts good mouthfeel, with plenty of ripe strawberry notes, as well as caramelized peach, caramel, honey, and maple on the palate. The nose is crisp and dry but the palate surprises with lively red fruit notes and finishes with apple flavours. It’s an elegant, tasty, seductive rosé that I could enjoy at any time of the day!
93 points | VINTAGES#: 724559
4. Moutard Grande Cuvée brut Champagne $39.95
With very smooth, creamy, and velvety bubbles, this dry, light- to medium-bodied sparkler is quite impressive, considering its affordability. It may be one of the least pricy Champagnes around, but it tastes like a $60 bottle. Offering bready, almond notes on the nose and delicately fruitiness on the palate, with yellow peach, apple, apricots, ginger, and a pleasant lime finish. And since Champagne’s typical yeastiness is toned down here, it’s an easy-drinking, crowd pleaser. Excellent for its price!
90 points | VINTAGES#: 400432
5. Louis Brochet HBH 1er cru Champagne 2002 $69.95
The Champagne was created to honour Henri Brochet-Hervieux (HBH), the son of Louis Brochet, who started the winery in 1943. This Gorgeous aromatic vintage Champagne is only produced in exceptional years, such as 2002. It’s very appealing and tasty, with the slight sweetness of apricots and peaches on the nose. Some sablé breton (a buttery cookie) notes and red apples mixed with lemon flavours. It features a very long, complex length, with notes of candied lime and apricot freshness; minerality on the finish and a delicate smoky aftertaste. The breadiness and yeasty notes are not that evident; it’s the peach fruitiness and lime freshness that dominate this exceptional Champagne!
93 points | VINTAGES#: 385815