Canadian Sparkling Wine?!
That’s right! There’s more to Canada than maple syrup, polar bears and a hunky Prime Minister! The country is home to a diverse array of climates, with certain areas (like southern Ontario) on the same ideal grape growing latitude as southern France. Fortunately for us Toronto based #SparklingWinos, that means we’re able to produce world class wines in our own backyard!
While still a very small viticultural region on the global scale, Ontario has been focussed on high quality winemaking for over 30 years. Our passionate winemakers (and the folks at the Vintners Quality Alliance) have helped Ontario to firmly establish our roots in the wine world by planting the appropriate vitis vinifera for our climate, and respecting our landscape to curate and harvest top quality fruit. According to Wine Country Ontario, Ontario’s star players include Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – all of which thrive in a cooler climate and coincidently produce wonderful sparkling wines! 😉🍾
Ontario is divided into three appellations – The Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. Niagara itself is divided into 10 sub-appellations, each with their own unique character. (For more information, check out this super helpful link at Wine Country Ontario).
It’s all in the attitude, I mean, latitude baby!
Ontario’s wine growing regions lie between 41° – 44° north. If you’re not a map or numbers person (let’s get real, no one is after a glass or two of bubbly) that’s about the equivalent to southern and central France. With Champagne not that far off… sitting at 49° north. Interesting, eh?
This cool climate has a broad diurnal range (the difference between the high and low temperature in a day) and lots of sunshine during the growing season. The shift in daily temperature attributes a much more complex flavour profile to the grapes, in comparison to what you’d see in a warmer growing region. The added complexity (combined with the naturally high acidity) results in crisp and complex wines that make the perfect base for bubbly!
I’m a limestone cowboy
Most of Ontario was a sea bed in the olden days of dinosaurs, and the fossils that these creatures left behind contribute to the limestone-based shale and clay loam soils of the region. Like in the Champagne, the soil imparts minerality onto the wines, and in turn contributes to its complexity. Incroyable terroir, non?!
You did a grape job raisin me!
According to Wine Country Ontario, the most common vitis vinifera used for sparkling winemaking in Ontario include: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Riesling and Vidal. Sidebar: the three main grapes in the classic Champagne blend are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Convenient, n’est pas?
While Vidal and Riesling are not known in the Champagne, they are very important in the production of Sparkling Icewines (this is Canada after all)!
Each of these grape varietals are well suited for Ontario’s climate, and with each passing season we are seeing more and more wine (with more bubbly than ever) in the local market.
It’s not the size, it’s how you use it
We must be spoiled! According to Wine Country Ontario, the Traditional method is the clear winner here. Since 2014, 325,000 litres (or 65%) of sparkling wine was produced in the Traditional method (following the same process as in the Champagne). The Cuvée Close method (or the Charmat/Prosecco method) was used to produce 175,000 litres (or 35%) of sparkling wine.
While the overall production may be quite small, the quality (based on terroir, grape varietals, and winemaking practices) has resulted in some impeccable world class sparkling wine being produced in Ontario!
TL;DR, just give me the fizz facts!
Ontario’s three appellations – Niagara, Lake Eerie North Shore and Prince Edward County – share a similar latitude, climate, terroir and penchant for certain vitis vinifera as in the Champagne. Those characteristics are certainly helpful in evoking the great notes of Champagne: crispness, refreshing citrus and apple aromas, warm brioche notes, minerality and almond.
As Ontario continues to mature and grow as a wine region, the passionate winemakers and agencies (like VQA and Wine Country Ontario) are making it easy for us #SparklingWinos to Taste the Place! The soil, the slope, the sunshine, the warmth, the rainfall and the craftsmanship all result in better grapes – and better grapes result in better wine.
Now go out and taste some!
If you’ve made it this far you’re probably thirsty (I know we are!) So here are a few of our favourite Ontario sparkling winemakers that we suggest you try! All of them are trying new things and paving the way for what we believe will be Canada’s next best export: BUBBLES! 🍾