Sparkling wine means bubbles and preferably lots of them but how are the bubbles created? Yeast and sugar are added to a base wine and during a second fermentation - either in the bottle (Traditional Method) or in a pressurized Tank (Cuvee Close or Charmat style) - the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol and CO2. The carbon dioxide dissolves into the wine and voila you have bubbles.
Most Traditional Method sparkling wine, and certainly those from Champagne, are a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Cava, Spain’s Traditional Method sparkling wine, is made from local grape varieties although Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are permitted.
The base wine for a Traditional Method sparkling wine is typically dry, high in acidity and low in alcohol with fairly, neutral flavour. The toasty bread and biscuit notes are autolytic flavours from the yeast during the second fermentation. By comparison, more aromatic base wines are used for a Tank Fermented sparkling, the most well-known being Prosecco made from the Italian grape Glera.
Strewn’s Sparkler is made using Tank Fermentation. The base wine is an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and we want to ensure the lovely citrus aromas and flavours of lime, lemon and grapefruit are not overwhelmed by yeasty bread and biscuit flavours, and that it has a crisp and refreshing finish on the palate.
A Versatile Food Wine
While the tradition of drinking Champagne to mark celebrations originated in the royal courts of Europe during the late 1700s, where the expensive drink was viewed as a status symbol, sparkling wine is one of the best matches for many dishes.
Sparkling wine usually contains high levels of acidity and a small amount of sugar (sweet Asti being an exception). These two extremes complement elements in almost any food, from rich, buttery salmon to red-hot Thai food. Sparkling wine penetrates to the lower layers of the rough surface of the tongue providing a super cleansing effect n the mouth.
Here are some ideas for food to enjoy with sparkling wine:
- Cheese – rich, creamy Brie or aged, hard cheeses such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar
- Dishes that are oily, nutty (especially almonds) and egg-based (scrambled eggs anyone?).
- Any pasta or risotto dish, particularly those with cream or mushroom sauce.
- Shrimp and shellfish, smoked salmon, caviar, fried calamari, and raw oysters on the shell
- Simple tapas style dishes with a touch of saltiness, Prosciutto or Serrano ham
- Desserts that are not sweet, such as berries, shortbread cookies, pound cake, angel food cake.s dark or bittersweet chocolate.
- And don’t forget buttered-popcorn and potato chips!
With most of the summer fruit harvest complete, stone fruits are being replaced by apples and pears, which are considered pome fruits. If that term is not familiar, it refers to the family of fruits that have a core of several small seeds, surrounded by a tough membrane (pommes is the French word for apples). More than 15 varieties of apples are grown in Ontario along with five major varieties of pears, with Bartlett being the most popular. These fruits can be the perfect ingredients to a delicious autumn food and wine pairing! After all, what grows together goes together.
Oaked and Un-Oaked Chardonnay
Chardonnay is an ideal candidate to match with fresh orchard fruit. The aromas and flavours of Chardonnay are reminiscent of freshly picked/fallen fruit. Both unoaked and oaked versions can be wonderful matches for apples and pears. Fermenting or aging Chardonnay in oak barrels gives further complexity to the wine. These include elements of vanilla, coconut, nutmeg and cloves, which helps make Chardonnay compatible with a wide array of cooking methods, flavours and textures.
If you belong to the ABC School of wine enjoyment (Anything But Chardonnay), then Riesling is your answer! A noble, cool-climate grape, the quintessential characteristic of Niagara Riesling is fresh green apple and ripe, sweet pear. Rieslings pair well throughout the sunny, autumn evoking the orchard scents of freshly picked apples and pears! Dry Rieslings are extremely food-friendly wines.
Pome Fruit and Wine Match-Ups
Here are some examples of how Niagara apple dishes can be paired with Chardonnay and Riesling.
Company coming over? Start the festivities off right with a selection of locally sourced cured meats and a side of apple chutney. The acidity in the wine will help cut through the fat of the meats, while the saltiness will temper the crispness of the wine. The apple chutney will help pull all the flavours harmoniously together. Pair with the Strewn 2014 Riesling ($14.95 - Winery/Online).
Pork and apples are a classic combination Try roasted pork tenderloin with butter-sautéed Niagara apples. The perfect Strewn pairing: 2014 “Terroir” Chardonnay French Oak ($28 - Winery/Online).
Looking for a fabulous local dessert? The Wine Country Cooking School’s Apple Cider Cake uses both local apples and local cider to create a wonderfully moist cake that pairs delectably with the 2013 Select Late Harvest Riesling ($18.95 - Winery).
Need an autumn salad? When it comes to pears, roasted pears tossed with mixed greens, bleu haze (smoked blue cheese) and a grainy-mustard vinaigrette makes a fabulous and easy autumn salad. Match with a crisp Riesling such as Strewn’s 2015 Riesling Terroir.
Say Cheese - Bartlett pears are fantastic with a wide range of cheese. Top rich, creamy cheese with a generous slice of a Bartlett pear on a toasted baguette. Pair with Strewn’s popular Chardonnay Barrel Aged ($14.95 - Winery/LCBO). Bleu cheese, salted nuts and dried pears have also proved to be fantastic with aged Niagara Icewine. The perfect Strewn pairing: an award-winning, Riesling Icewine ($58 - Winery) - a match not to be missed!
Not a Fan of White? Pining for a Red?
Due to the inherent flavour profile and structure (mainly acidity) of apples and pears, sommeliers classically favour white wine pairings. However if your guests drink red wine only, lighter styles of Merlot or lighter Cabernets would work well in many of these cases. The TwoVines Cabernet/Merlot ($12.95 - Winery/Grocery Stores) and the 2013 Merlot Premium ($23 Winery/Online) are two reds that would be more than suitable for those pining for red wine.
Article originally written November 2015; wine matches updated May 3, 2017