Canadian Bubble Takes the Stage at the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2017

Drink More Canadian Sparkling Wine!

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2017 celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation by bringing together the largest number of Canadian wineries ever at an international festival. It was the perfect reason – if you needed one – to celebrate and taste from coast-to-coast.

Canada has 671 (and growing) wineries spread across Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and BC. There’s a huge range of wines being made, but sparkling wines are definitely a common theme and something that we can do really well. We can thank our cooler climates for grapes that are naturally high in acidity and low in alcohol. That’s not what you want when you’re making every wine, but it’s a definite blessing when bubbles are on your mind.

Nova Scotia has the coolest of our cool climates and the sparkling wines all show a hallmark crispness and mouth-watering freshness. Many of the wines include the somewhat unusual L’Acadie blanc, a grape with floral and honey notes, that has found its home in Nova Scotia. Benjamin Bridge winery is one of the few well represented on our market and their wines are refined and linear. Look for their Non-Vintage Brut Methode Classique, which is 100% Chardonnay. The BCLDB brought in a few extra wineries for wine festival, so keep an eye open for Blomidon Estate, L’Acadie Vineyards and Domaine de Grand Pré.

Generally, the wines from Ontario are made from the traditional grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and are just a little riper than the NS counterparts. Trius Brut is available at BCLDB stores and is medium bodied with citrus, apple and spicy notes.   Jackson Triggs, Entourage Grand Reserve Brut is a more muscular wine with deep toasty, brioche, nutty notes with hints of vanilla. When you’re travelling hunt out some sparkling wines from the super-cool Prince Edward County. Huff Estates and Hinterland are making some fabulous sparkling wines.

And finally BC. With over 40 wineries making sparkling wines, there are plenty of bubbles to go round. The elder statesmen Sumac Ridge, Summerhill and Blue Mountain continue to make traditional method sparklings of reliably high quality. Haywire is another BC winery with a deep sparkling program. They have both traditional methods and an uber-cool Pét-Nat (or ancient method), where the wine is bottled before fermentation is finished. Definitely worth hunting down. They are joined by wineries like Bella and Fitzpatrick, not featured at the festival, that are only make sparkling wines. That single-focus is cranking up the quality.

If you want to stay really local, there’s a growing selection of Island-made sparklers on offer. Blue Grouse, not at the festival, makes a traditional method wine from estate-grown Pinot Gris, Ortega and other varieties. “Charme de l’Ile” is a term used by four Island producers for their prosecco-style sparkling wines. The wines from both Unsworth and Averill Creek are available at the BCLDB and private liquor stores. Youthful, fun and fruity these wines are perfect for the patio – or sitting inside waiting for the snow to melt.

Making bubbles is an art. It’s not something that you can just decide to do once you have the grapes in the winery. It takes patience and some very specialized equipment. As Craig McDonald, winemaker at Trius in Ontario, noted, “Sparkling wines require careful planning from the beginning.” McDonald also spoke about the Fizz Club at Brock University, which brings together sparkling winemakers to share experiences and understand the latest research. With that kind of focus the future of Canadian bubbles looks decidedly sparkly.

With cool climate grapes and passionate, dedicated winemakers, sparkling wines could truly put Canada on the map. There’s some debate about whether having a signature wine for Canada – something that we are known for – is a big plus or just too restrictive. Either way, we should drink more Canadian sparkling wine before the secret is out.

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