Atlantic Canada’s top sparkling wines for summer sipping.
Popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly doesn’t have to be saved for special occasions anymore. Whether it’s to celebrate an accomplishment or to mark the start of patio season, a glass of refreshing bubbly makes any day feel special. For many people, sparkling wine is the perfect companion for summer salads and grilled meats. It’s also great as an aperitif or for simply sipping on the patio.
There are an increasing number of locally made sparkling wines available in Atlantic Canada. These range from inexpensive wines to fancier, premium bottles. Often made from fruit other than grapes, cheaper wines usually achieve carbonation by injecting CO2 gas into the finished wine. Higher quality sparklers get bubbles by secondary fermentation either in a tank, called the Charmat method, or in the bottle, called the traditional method or methode classique.
Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley has become a hub for sparkling wine production in Atlantic Canada. The terroir in this region is perfect for sparkling wine, producing quality grapes with great acidity and relatively low sugar levels.
In Gaspereau, the two largest sparkling producers are Benjamin Bridge and L’Acadie Vineyards. A third winery in the region, Gaspereau Vineyards, has also released traditional sparklers from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling.
An organic producer, L’Acadie Vineyards was first on the scene, releasing their 2006 L’Acadie Brut in 2008. Winemaker Bruce Ewert makes most of his top-quality fizz from L’Acadie, a white grape that produces wine similar to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Ewart’s 2007 Prestige Cuvée won gold and was the top scoring sparkling wine at the 2010 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards, getting the industry talking about Atlantic Canadian wine.
The style of traditional method sparkling wine from Nova Scotia is often austere—high in acidity and needing time in the bottle (or a good food pairing) to reveal its true quality. Benjamin Bridge’s cuvées are a good example of that. Aiming to produce a wine rivalling Champagne, the winery hired Champagne consultant Raphel Brisbois. Benjamin Bridge’s 2004 vintage wowed national and international wine communities, becoming sought after by serious sparkling wine enthusiasts. They’ve also created buzz with their fun fizz called Nova 7, an Asti-like creation from local aromatic varieties that always sells out quickly.
Sparkling wine could soon become one of our region’s signature wines.
It’s not just the Gaspereau Valley where conditions are good for sparklers. In Newport Landing on the Avon Peninsula, Avondale Sky winemaker Ben Swetnam recently launched a traditional method wine program with grapes from 2011. Slated for release in 2013, the program includes wine produced from estate fruit, including a blend of 91 per cent Pinot Noir and nine per cent Chardonnay, and another wine that’s 100 per cent Geisenheim 318 (similar to Riesling). “The gypsum subsoils here are remarkably similar to the chalk of Champagne,” Swetnam says. “The Pinot came in at 17 brix [sugar level] and 12 grams/litre of acid—perfect sparkling numbers.” The high acid gives refreshment to the final product, while low sugar allows the base wine to be low in alcohol. Secondary fermentation bumps up the alcohol, contributing the biscuity, yeasty flavours from the yeast. The low ripeness means the wine is not too fruity in aroma or taste, which allows the yeasty flavours of secondary fermentation to shine through.
Over at Blomidon Estate Winery in Canning, winemaker Simon Rafuse recently released several sparkling wines, including a fun Seyval Blanc-based Crémant and a Cuvée L’Acadie. He also has a Blanc de Blanc from Chardonnay in the cellar awaiting release.
Since 2010, Domaine de Grand Pré has been creating traditional method wines from Seyval Blanc and L’Acadie grapes sourced from their vineyards. Their Champlain is a good value fruity, dry wine with floral and apple notes.
In Malagash, Nova Scotia, Jost winery is also working on traditional method sparklers to complement their CO2-injected Prost wines. The sparkling wine phenomena extends into New Brunswick, where several producers have made fruit-based sparklers for years.
Belliveau Orchards in Memramcook has won awards for its sparkling apple and raspberry wines. Gagetown Cidery makes sparkling apple and other fruit wines. Motts Landing, in Lower Cambridge Narrows, always sells out of its Cranpagne, a blend of grape and cranberry fruit. In Alma, near Fundy Park, Waterside Winery makes blueberry and rhubarb sparklers. And Winegarden Estate in Baie Verte has some fizz, including their Casecco line featuring local berries.
Although relatively new to Atlantic Canada, sparkling wine could soon become one of our region’s signature wines. With our soil and cool climate creating the perfect conditions for bubbly, winemakers are already producing a range of quality fizz. While it is impossible to predict the local market for bubbly, there is the potential for a sparkling future.
Benjamin Bridge 2004 Brut Reserve LD, Gaspereau, N.S.
Features a Champagne-like nose, with toasted bread notes and citrus. Quite rich, with some honey aromas, but still quite austere in the acid department. Drink with fresh, simply prepared seafood, including oysters, or with soft cheeses like Camembert.
L’Acadie Vineyards Prestige Brut 2008, Gaspereau, N.S.
Aged three years on the lees, the floral, citrus aromas join rich yeasty, bready aromas and flavours. It is medium-full bodied, quite rich in style, but with good acidity for balance. Pair with richer dishes like creamy seafood or soft cheeses.
Blomidon Estates Crémant 2010, Canning, N.S.
A fresh nose showing minerality, green apple and citrus. Quite fizzy, off-dry, but with good acidity to balance, giving a clean finish. Great for smoked salmon or trout and salads.
Motts Landing Cranpagne, Lower Cambridge Narrows, N.B.
A blend of cranberries from Sunberry Cranberry in Maugerville and Louise Swenson grapes from the winery. Light salmon in colour, with a fresh cranberry nose and a dry palate. Winemaker Sonia Carpenter is working on a traditional method version for the future. Enjoy as an aperitif or with smoked or grilled salmon. Belliveau Pré d’en Haut (sparkling apple), Memramcook, N.B. Lightly carbonated with a pure but delicate aroma of fresh apple. On the palate it is fresh, clean, dry, elegant, and moderate in alcohol (10%). Good choice for an aperitif or with pork roast or sausages.