Despite the global wine industry’s best efforts to encourage consumers to drink sparkling year round, it seems two enduring occasions remain paramount: New Year’s Eve—and Valentine’s Day.
With that in mind it’s fair to assume that the annual stampede to buy bubbles should be under way any day now. The good news? There’s no shortage of worthy British Columbia sparklers to help fan the flames of love.
In the last few years, B.C. sparklers from the Okanagan, Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley have truly come of age. Thanks to the dedication (and significant investment) of early pioneers like Blue Mountain, Summerhill, Sumac Ridge and others, sparkling has become firmly established as one of the province’s hallmark wine styles. And while traditional method (Méthode Champenoise) is still front and centre, the remarkable success enjoyed by Prosecco has not gone unnoticed by B.C. wineries. Here as elsewhere the Charmat method is helping to shape another tier of bubbles for everyday drinking.
Just what is that makes B.C. so well suited to producing good bubble? The late Harry McWatters (who founded Sumac Ridge Estate) firmly believed that it was all about the natural acidity in B.C. grapes. And that there was nowhere compared to the central Okanagan. So much so that in 1985 he started laying down wine which would later be released as the inaugural Steller’s Jay.
It should come as no surprise that the majority of today’s B.C. sparkling wines do indeed originate from around the shores of Lake Okanagan and from Okanagan Falls. From easy drinking, fruity quaffers to single vineyard wines and top tier vintage reserves, B.C. bubbles, truly, run the gamut.
While traditional method wines generally stay true to their original Champagne varietal origins (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), Riesling and Chenin Blanc make occasional appearances. Perhaps as a result of Charmat’s less labourious—and less costly—process, winemakers seem inclined to work with a far wider range of grapes, especially aromatics such as Gewürztraminer and Muscat.
When it comes to pairing those romantic bubbles there’s no shortage of ideal matches, especially with suitably seductive west coast treats such as freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, chilled cracked Dungeness crab and scallops in garlic and cream sauce.
Which glass to use, coupe or flute? Don’t even think about pouring your chosen love potion into once much celebrated Champagne ‘coupes,’ rumoured (wrongly) to have been modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breasts. Despite such titillation, nothing will wipe out the bubbles (and all that natural B.C. acidity) quicker—and leave your sparkling tryst a little flat.
This blend of Vancouver Island-grown Pinot Gris, Ortega and Müller Thurgau yields a stream of lively bubbles, up front apple and toasty followed by with a bright palate of creamy and citrus notes. $34.99
Made with fruit from both the Okanagan and Vancouver Island, a fun wine with aromas of orange blossom followed by stone fruits and tropical hints on the palate. Perfect with peach and prosciutto!. $24.95
Arguably the most fun of any BC sparkling package, guaranteed to get hearts a flutter, this wine’s a shoo-in for Valentine’s. Pretty in pink, an unorthodox blend of mainly Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Merlot yields intriguing apple, berry, stone fruit and tropical flavours that are crisp, juicy and eminently quaffable at just . $20 Also offered in handy 200 ml. size ‘piccolo’ bottles ($7)
100% Chardonnay from East Kelowna. Up front citrus and bready notes followed by a broad, creamy stonefruit and citrus palate wrapped in bright acidity with pleasing mineral undertones. $39 (winery direct)
Ten years after launching its first sparkler (The Bub) OCP has become a major sparkling producer. Mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (with some aromatic varieties) from Summerland and Oliver vineyards made in “state-of-the-art” Charmat tanks. Pretty pale rose in the glass, good mousse, persistent fine bubbles with ‘strawberries and cream’ notes, layered and edgy. $24.90
Classic blend of Chardonnay (69%) with Pinot Noir (31%) sports fine bubbles and a solid mousse with forward citrus and brioche notes before a well structured, full palate. $39.99
Easy drinking ‘breakfast wine’ made from three varieties of Muscat. Floral and orange blossom aromas with lots of bubbles before flavours of peach and nectarine through a fresh, off-dry finish. $22 (winery direct)
Under winemaker Mary McDermott, Township 7 has become a force in BC sparkling. Traditional Method, 100 percent Pinot Noir; delicate pale salmon colour, persistent, fine bubbles; strawberry, rhubarb and mineral through the finish. $48.97
@ Vitis Magazine