Ontario’s best sparkling wines
These bubblies (some of them locally made) are perfect for celebrating spring
Winemakers who use the charmat, or tank, method to produce inexpensive bubbly are delivering beautiful sparkling wines a third of the price of French champagne. Ontario excels at bright, fruity wines with good acidity, which are brilliant bases for this process. The numbers of Niagara and Prince Edward County charmat bottlings are growing rapidly, as they are elsewhere in Canada, from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia, and around the world. Here are my top LCBO picks, timed for spring (when we all cherish a bit of bloom).
Casa-Dea 2013 Dea’s Cuvée
$18.95 | Ontario | 88 points
Made from estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay in Prince Edward County, this wine tastes like champagne with its apple, dried flowers and honeyed fruit. It’s light-bodied, dry and tart-edged, with a fresh mineral finish. LCBO 261263
PRO TIP: Expensive, traditional-method bubblies made in the champagne style get their effervescence from secondary fermentation—i.e., long aging in the bottle—which results in bready, nutty aromas. Charmat bubs, on the other hand, are quickly re-fermented in large pressurized tanks, which emphasize the fruit flavours.
Pelee Island Secco
$13.95 | Ontario | 86 points
This charmat is made from pinot blanc and a rare white grape called auxerrois. The aromas are mild, but you can detect honey, plus ripe yellow plum and pear fruit from the pinot blanc grape. It’s medium-weight, fairly fleshy, off-dry and fruity, yet buoyed by good acidity. Chill well. LCBO 225946
Villa Sandi Prosecco Il Fresco
$13.95 | Treviso, Italy | 87 points
This light sparkler, made from the prosecco grape grown in northeast Italy, has more complexity than most of its kind. It’s not particularly aromatic, but there is nice peach, pear and almond on the nose. It’s light- to medium-bodied, fresh and firm, with slightly foamy mousse. LCBO 394387
PRO TIP: Prosecco, made from the glera grape, is the most popular Italian sparkler made in the charmat method, but sweet Moscato d’Asti from the Piedmont region and comeback kid Lambrusco (an off-dry sparkling red we’re spotting at hip wine bars like Archive and Enoteca Sociale) are also tank-method stars.
Bottega Il Vino dei Poeti Rosé Brut
$13.45 | Italy | 86 points
This pearl-pink pinot noir–based fizz captures fresh strawberry flavour in an impeccably balanced, vaguely off-dry style. It may not warrant grand ratings due to its simplicity, but it is pure and exacting, which can be hard to attain with wine so light (only 11.5 per cent alcohol). Chill a bottle or three for brunch. LCBO 277202
Hinterland 2014 Borealis Method Charmat Rosé
$22 | Ontario | 88 points
Vicki Samaras and Jonas Newman of Hinterland are Prince Edward County’s charmat maestros. The Borealis rosé is light and fresh, and the nose shows crabapple, cranberry and strawberry. It’s well balanced, with the minerality typical of county wines. LCBO 431817