BC Bubbles

You could call it drinking at lunch, but I prefer to think of it as auditioning a bubbly.

At my table, the wine is as important as the food. You’ve got to have the right one. Right, meaning one you like. And come Christmas, you want your sparkler to be one you love.

So you taste a few beforehand—a delightful task—before you decide. And happily, you don’t need to limit yourself to only one, because there are many days and meals to celebrate this month. Not that you ever need a reason to drink bubbly.

A sparkling wine is always the perfect drink to serve during the Christmas holiday season. My Canadian home province of British Columbia is getting a world-wide reputation for making seriously good bubbly. So why not start right here?

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BC is literally bubbling over with sparkling wine these days, from Prosecco-style wines to high-end cuvées (a French term for blend), such as Fitz, which acquires its bubbles through a secondary fermentation in individual bottles.

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Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, situated in the Okanagan Valley, is crafting champagne-style bubbly using the Traditional Method developed in the Champagne region of France. They not only have a custom built facility for production, they also have a unique advantage in the making of fizz: they have a mountain.

Photo: Jon Adrian
Photo: Jon Adrian

Their Greata Ranch property between Peachland and Summerland, lies in the sight line of Mount Eneas, a 655-metre granite peak, which casts an early evening shadow over the vineyard. Rather than being a bane to the grower, the Fitzpatrick Winery calls this solar obstruction a gift of shade. 

This unique patch of cooler climate vineyard is set within a region known for its heat, and provides the ideal growing conditions for great sparkling wine. The heat the mountain absorbs by day and radiates by night, protects the grapes from the evening chill, and extends their hang time. The results are fruit with a high acidity and extraordinary flavour. Who knew a mountain could make such wonderful wine?

Fitzpatrick’s terroir is not dissimilar to the chilly Champagne region of France, it has been noted. They also share a philosophy with the grower Champagnes of France, in that the wines are made only from grapes grown on the maker’s estates, and from a single vintage.

So when you’re thinking bubbly, think BC. Mine was from the warmer 2013 vintage, but  the ’14 is on the shelves now. It’s impressing the critics:

Fitz Brut 2014

Bone-dry, with well-controlled effervescence. Green apple immediately takes centre stage, joined by peach, pear and lemon zest in this winery flagship, which spent 24 months on lees. Brioche yeastiness starts to come through in the second act, moving the wine from its initial fresh-orchard-fruit profile into the pastry kitchen. Nicely nervy, with chalky minerality and a hint of toasted almond on the finish. A blend of 72-per-cent chardonnay and 28-per-cent pinot noir.

SCORE: 92, Beppi Crosariol, The Globe & Mail, November 29, 2017

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We lingered over lunch, savouring the Fitz in our glasses.

You can taste the sunshine.

And perhaps the shade.

 

TO BUY: Fitzpatrick Winery; BC Liquor here

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