Sensational Sparkling Wine from Ontario

With New Year’s Eve just a few days away you may be thinking about the perfect sparkling wine to toast the beginning of 2011.  Why not try an Ontario sparkling wine? Ontario makes many great examples of sparkling wine in a range of styles.  In fact, sparkling wine may be emerging as one of Ontario’s major strengths.

Ontario’s cool climate sets the stage for the production of excellent sparkling wine.  Champagne, the world’s most famous sparkling wine region, also boasts a cool climate where only a few cool-climate loving grapes, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, can be a great success.  Ontario is also very successful with Chardonnay (see Seriously Cool Chardonnay -Seriously World-Class Wines!) and Pinot Noir.  The cooler temperatures help retain the grape’s natural acidity, essential for making a good sparker.  Ontario sparkling wine, when made in the traditional method using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, can be a great alternative to much more expensive Champagne, showcasing biscuit and yeasty flavours with bright acidity.

But, not all Ontario bubbly seeks to emulate Champagne.  Some Ontario winemakers also make tasty sparkling wines from Riesling, another cool-loving grape which, although popular in German sparkling wine, is not permitted in the wines of Champagne.  Ontario has also marketed something that no other country in the world can do like we do – adding a touch of icewine as the dosage.  The result is a delicious, slightly sweet sparkler with a whisper of icewine character (Peller Estates makes a nice one).  Inniskillin also makes a full-blown sparkling icewine – luscious and sweet.

Not all sparkling wine has to be made using the traditional method in order to be pleasurable.  Ontario has several very nice bubblies made using the Charmat, or tank method.  Instead of a second fermentation taking place and producing the bubbles right in the bottle as in the traditional method, the tank method has the second fermentation taking place in a sealed tank rather than in the bottle, producing sparkling wines with a more fun, fruity character.

A List of a Few Sensational Ontario Sparklers

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Cuvée Catharine Brut and Cuvée Catharine Rose Brut:  Both are delicious and are among my favourite Ontario sparkling wines made with the traditional method.  Both retail for $29.95 and can be purchased either directly at the winery or readily available at the LCBO.

13th Street Winery Cuvée 13 Brut, Premier Cuvée Brut, and Cuvée Rose Brut:  I have to say that any sparkling wine I have tried from 13th Street has been fantastic.  According to their website, it seems that only the rose is available right now, but keep an eye out for future releases of their other sparklers.  These wines range from about $22 to $28 a bottle and are made using the traditional method.

Konzelmann Estate Winery Sparkling Riesling Methode Cuvee Close 2008:  I recently tried this at the Sip and Savour tasting back in June and was very impressed by this refreshing yet juicy sparkling wine made with the Charmat method (also sometimes called the Cuve Close method).  Very reasonable priced at $16.

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Reserve Sparkling Cuve Close:  Another quaffable method cuve close and only $14.95 a bottle.  A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.  Great for sipping on a hot summer day too!

Flat Rock Cellars Sparkling Reserve 2006:  A blend of 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay, this is the first Ontario VQA sparkling wine to be closed with a crown cap.  Crown caps make perfect sense as a closure for sparkling wine as this is the closure used during the second fermentation and subsequent ageing on the lees, even in Champagne.  Flat Rock’s Ed Madronich actually had the VQA regulations changed to allow for this type of closure.  Made using the traditional method with the second fermentation in the bottle, this wine spent 22 months ageing on its lees.  This wine has a creamy mousse and flavours of pear and yellow apple, with a mild bready, yeasty character.  Definitely a crowd pleaser and sure to spark conversation about the closure.  Available at the winery and the LCBO for the great price of $24.95.

And, don’t forget Prince Edward County...

Prince Edward County, affectionately called ‘the County’ by locals, has perhaps the perfect climate and soils for making great sparkling wines.  The cool climate allows the grapes to retain their natural acidity and the limestone soils allow the vines roots to dig deep, absorbing essential minerals along the way – making crisp, minerally, flavourful sparkling wines.

Huff Estates Winery Cuvee Peter F. Huff 2006:  100% Chardonnay, also known as Blanc de Blancs.  A dry sparkler made with the traditional method.  Light, refreshing and creamy.  I tasted this wine at the Sip and Savour event in June and found it utterly delicious.  This wine has also received high praise from wine reviewers such as David Lawrason and Natalie Maclean.  $34.95.

Grange of Prince Edward Brut 2007: Equal portions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made with the traditional method.  Lots of county minerality with a good dose of flavourful fruit. $29.95.

Hinterland Wine Company Les Etoiles ($39.20) and Rose Sparkling Wine ($37.30):  Prince Edward County’s first winery dedicated solely to the production of fine sparkling wine.  See my post called Prince Edward County Sparkles with Hinterland Wine Company.

This is only a short list of some of the fine sparkling wines made here in Ontario.  I have no doubt that I have missed several.  Let me know if you have a favourite that I haven’t listed by leaving a comment below.

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