Home-Grown Sparkling Wines Pop Canada’s Cork
The Vancouver International Wine Festival rolled into town recently, and to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary, Canada took centre stage with wineries from across the country pouring their wines for a sold-out crowd. The big hit of the festival? Sparkling wines. Bubble is booming in Canada with the country’s three main wine growing regions of British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia increasingly turning to bubbles and experimenting with different varieties and production methods. According to the latest stats, currently in BC around 75 producers are making sparkling wines, in Ontario there are around 40 and in Nova Scotia out of 20 wine producers, half are making bubbles. That’s a lot of bubble to try! But, thanks to the current small scale of production, your only way to try these wine is to come to Canada and drink them!
You’ll find all kinds of production methods used in Canadian sparkling wines from Champagne-style Traditional method where the second fermentation is done in the bottle, to the Charmat method which uses a pressurised stainless steel tank, or even just carbonating the wine with CO2. There is plenty of experimentation with grape varieties too, from the classic blends of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Gamay, Riesling and local varieties such as L’Acadie in Nova Scotia.
I spoke to three winemakers from Canada’s growing regions to get their take on Canada’s booming bubbles…
Ann Sperling, Winemarker Sperling Vineyards, British Columbia
What do you think about Canada’s sparkling wines?
It’s an exciting time, consumers are keyed in and thinking about sparkling wine. I find that looking at the classic method, also applying some ‘grower philosophy’ behind it with individual sites is where we’re getting our most interesting sparkling wines.
Tell me about your Sperling Vision Series sparkling Rosé.
In 2008 we planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on our vineyard for the first time. I have a hillside that wraps around with aspects to the south and north-facing and everything in between. Putting in several clones of Pinot Noir has given me an opportunity to explore some diversity of the grape, but I haven’t limited myself in methodology: I’ve done some white sparkling, some rosé, some dry rosé and red wine. I’m learning about my site and exploring different styles and this Brut Rosé is the result of that exploration.
Allison Christ, winemaker, Colio Winery, Ontario.
What do you make of Canada’s current sparkling scene?
Canadian sparkling is fantastic; there’s a lot of potential for it, it’s an untapped part of Canadian wine, especially from Ontario. Because we’re cool climate you can make sparkling wine so easily here because you get that great acidity but you still get to ripen it properly. We make ours with Riesling so I’m really excited to see where aromatic sparkling goes— I think there’s a big market for it and we’re not doing enough so far.
How do you make your sparkling wine?
Our Lily is 100% Riesling done in the Charmat method, so secondary fermentation is done in the tank; it makes it fresh, crisp, floral and pretty. It’s a fun easy to drink wine and it’s great value. A fantastic representation of what Ontario can do.
Bruce Ewert, winemaker, L’Acadie Vineyards, Nova Scotia
What’s it like making sparkling wine in Nova Scotia?
We’re at the beginning stages of sparkling wine in Canada with lots of experimentation going on. In Nova Scotia, we don’t have to manipulate or adjust our bubbly, it all comes naturally. Our grapes have a slow ripening over a long period which creates a large opportunity for flavour development, so we get good acid retention and our soil is ancient sea bed.
Tell me about L’Acadie?
It’s our Prestige brut, five years of tirage in the bottle and the grapes are 100% L’Acadie, the signature grape for Nova Scotia, which has Chardonnay in its heritage and grows really well in our Maritime climate. We’re close to the famous Bay of Fundy, and we have sedimentary rock which was fractured by a glacier—we get little fossils of shells on the slate—it’s a living soil and we farming organically. That gives us a salinity and minerality in our base wine, which the French call ‘harmonie’—when you have those conditions and it’s not too fruity, more mineral based and you can layer years upon years of tirage with toastiness in harmony with those mineral flavours.
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