[PRESENTED BY WINERIES OF NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE]
While sparkling wine is increasingly becoming a drink of choice year-round, no longer reserved for celebrations or special occasions, there is no doubt that the Holiday season is an especially popular time of year to break out the bubbly. There is something undeniably festive about this fizzy beverage that just seems to elevate any joyous occasion. So it’s no surprise that the largest proportion of annual sparkling sales takes place during the last couple months of the year. As we approach the peak of the holiday entertaining season there are more reasons to pop the cork on a great bottle of sparkling!
The upward market trajectory of this fizzy drink is not surprising given its many great attributes. One of its most appealing features is its incredible versatility. Sparkling wines, in fact, pair with just about everything so they are a great choice to pair with all your Holiday foods. They are so food friendly due to their minerality, high level of acidity which cuts through rich dishes and cleanses the palate, and bubbles which are refreshing and enhance any dining experience.
So how does a winemaker add a bit of sparkle to a wine?
The ‘fizz’ or carbon dioxide in the wine is the result of a natural secondary fermentation, either in a bottle, as with the Traditional method, or in a large tank known as the Charmat method.
The Traditional method is a meticulous and multi-stage process. The base wine is typically a blend from different varieties and vintages to produce a cuvée. The reason for blending the still wine is to maintain a consistency in quality and style year over year. The base wine is then bottled with a dose of sugar and yeast to induce a second alcoholic fermentation which produces more alcohol along with carbon dioxide which cannot escape the bottle resulting in those beautiful tiny bubbles. Once fermentation is complete the bottles are typically laid sideways to age on their lees (yeast) for several months adding complexity and depth of flavour to the wine. After aging, the bottles go through riddling– the process of turning the bottles at certain intervals to let the sediment move to the neck of the bottle for removal. The next step is disgorging, when the lees that have settled in the neck of the bottle are expelled. Finally the bottle is corked to seal in the pressure and those precious bubbles until you are ready to enjoy it!
Another very popular method of producing sparkling wine is the tank method or charmat method. The process starts the same way as bottle-fermented wines but once the primary fermentation is complete, the base wine is transferred to a pressurized tank, where sugar and yeast is added to stimulate the second fermentation and the tank is sealed. Upon completion of the second fermentation the wine is filtered and bottled under pressure and voilà, sparkling wine ready to enjoy!
Many of our member wineries produce exceptional sparkling wines using these methods. Below we have listed some to consider for your Holiday celebrations or for any time of year you feel like adding a little sparkle to your day:
Between the Lines – Outset Sparkling Wine, $4.65
An innovative premium sparkler in a convenient 250 mL format. Made from Vidal grapes and produced in the charmat method; in the glass it’s pale gold, with a fine textured mousse. Expect aromas and flavours of apple, peach, and citrus fruit leading to a refreshing and lively finish. Serve with your favourite appetizers.
Château des Charmes - Brut Sparkling, Mèthode Traditionnelle, $25.95
A classic blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in the traditional method. Bottle-aged on the lees for a minimum of two to three years and disgorged just before it leaves our hands, the practice of “RD” or recently disgorged; a sign of quality and attention to detail on the part of the producer. On the nose it should remind you of lemon, lime and toasted bread. The creamy texture is punctuated by the fine, persistent bubbles.
Coyote's Run - 2014 Sparkling Pinot Noir, $34.95
This traditional method extra dry sparkling wine was bottle-aged on lees for over 3 years. Hand-picked in the cooler 2014 vintage these Pinot Noir grapes, from the Red Paw and Black Paw vineyards, blend to create an extra dry and food friendly wine. A beautiful creamy mousse brings aromatic notes of red berry and baked bread. Brioche, and red berries follow through on the palate.
Inniskillin - Sparkling Vidal Icewine, $79.95
The bubbles of the Sparkling Vidal Icewine offer a fresh, drier sensation to allow great versatility with food. The Sparkling Icewine retains good texture and strength of aroma and flavours. A delicious reception wine that pairs perfectly with a variety of appetizers from foie gras to fresh oysters! Wonderful with spicy dishes, rich cheeses, fresh fruit desserts and crème brulee.
Jackson-Triggs - Sparkling Merlot, $29.95
This wine is hand crafted in the time-honoured Méthode Classique and was “en tirage” for 2 years. This unique wine is rich and dark, yet fruit-forward, displaying ripe, red fruit complemented by notes of chocolate and espresso. A full and persistent mousse is supported by supple tannin and a concentrated finish that lingers with hints of cocoa. A lovely alternative to red table wine – it is the perfect sipper, and pairs beautifully with grilled meats, barbecued or smoked salmon, prosciutto and melon, dark chocolate, and a variety of ripe and sharp cheeses.
Niagara College Teaching Winery - 2013 Balance Brut, $25.15
This traditional method sparkling wine spent almost 3 years ageing in bottle, and is made from hand-picked and bunch-sorted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the suitably cool 2013 vintage – suitable because sparkling wine likes low ripeness levels with high acids. The wine shows classic green apple and apricot fruit, white flower, baked bread and steely minerality, with a creamy mousse and fresh acid backbone.
Peller Estates - Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée, $34.95
A traditional ‘méthode’ sparkling wine made with hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed, (70%) Chardonnay and (30%) Pinot Noir grapes. After 12 to 14 months on lees the wine is disgorged, a dosage of Vidal Icewine is added. Enhanced by the burst of flavour from Vidal Icewine, a sparkling wine of unique style and finesse is created. The bouquet of apricot, yeast and ripe apple, with hints of honey, are followed by tropical fruits on the palate and a refreshing pink grapefruit finish.
Pondview - Lot 74 Sparkling Brut, $24.95
This little dandy is made entirely of the Vidal grape, done charmat method, and shows a nice light sparkle, with ripe pineapple, lime, grapefruit, and lemon zest. Soft and creamy, light and dreamy.
Trius Winery - Trius Brut Rosé, $32.95
A traditional ‘méthode’ sparkling wine made with hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed Pinot Noir (70%), Chardonnay (23%), Pinot Meunier (4%) grapes, as the ‘white’ base wine, and the addition of ‘red’ Gamay Noir (3%), all aged in stainless steel just before tirage. Aged ‘sur lie’ for 21 months in bottle before disgorging and dosage. A delicate Salmon pink colour with wild strawberry, blood orange and yeast notes gently rising from the glass. Refreshing flavours of white currants and white cranberry flavours dance on the elegant framework with cherry, white currant, wild strawberry and yeast notes lingering on the finish.
These are only a selection of the amazing sparkling wines produced by the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Visit the websites of all our member wineries to learn about their complete wine portfolios and discover even more amazing sparkling wines. Be sure to stock up for the Holidays!
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