Sparkling Wine
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Celebrating Sparkling – it’s more than just a fancy party companion

December 10, 2020

One used to ‘pop a bottle of Champagne’ (or sparkling wine if made from anywhere other than Champagne, France) during those rare special occasions – New Years eve, weddings, perhaps a very fancy dinner party and of course milestone moments. Now, there doesn’t really need to be a particular occasion, per se, to open a bottle of sparkling. It’s quickly becoming a staple buy whenever alcohol purchases are made.

There’s so much of the stuff going around right now. In fact, one out of every ten bottles of wine sold globally is sparkling. Winemaking regions all over the world can barely keep up with the demand.

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In Canada, producers in Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec are making sparkling wines on an unprecedented scale. Our own love affair with the bubbles has shown a dramatic shift in sales over the past eight years. Case in point: in 2011, sales of sparkling wine totaled 262 million dollars. It has steadily climbed since then, reaching 441 million in 2018.

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines are winning the world over, no matter the occasion.

Aside from great choices for sparkling coming from France, Spain (Cava) and Italy (Prosecco, Asti), Canada can offer premium wines too! After all, our wine regions share a climate that is ideally suited for making these wines. Grapes are usually picked early because they’re high in acid and low in sugar (the longer they stay on the vine, the sweeter they get). With their required high acidity and low sugar levels these early-picked grapes produce a wine that would make your face pucker — but that’s what you want in a quality sparkling wine.

Some winemakers here in Canada follow the ‘methode classique’ or traditional method Champagne process of secondary fermentation in the bottle, which requires a process called riddling to remove the dead yeast cells. This is either done by hand or mechanically. It’s that secondary fermentation that provides additional richness and complexity over most other methods.

Others might employ the less costly ‘cuvée close’ or charmat method by which the secondary fermentation is carried out in large stainless-steel tanks and the wine is then drawn off into the bottle under pressure to preserve the mousse.

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Most sparkling wines tend to be made from some combination of the trio of Champagne grapes – pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. But this is not always the case. Riesling and sauvignon blanc can make for excellent sparkling, and gamay, merlot and cabernet franc grapes are also joining in the fun – especially for making delicious and refreshing sparkling rosé, which perhaps was once a novelty act but is now definitely here to stay.

The sparkling wine identity gets further reinforced by its parallel reputation as an aperitif. It may seem that only now the wider public are truly embracing its potential; many sommeliers will tell you that sparkling is one of the most flexible wines when it comes to pairing with food. Don’t believe it? Try a blanc de blancs with canapés, followed by a seafood entrée; vintage blanc de noirs with steak and caramelized onions; a rosé with a white-and-dark-chocolate mousse. Yum.

No matter the meal selection or the occasion you’re observing, to help wash it all down will be an endless selection of bubbly.

The selections below are some of the best from Canadian and international producers: