The 5 Most Underrated Bottles in Canada
Air Canada’s new sommelier, Véronique Rivest, shares some of her favourite and lesser-known Canadian wines.
Many people don’t realize that Canada produces sparkling wines that can hold their own on the world stage. The Benjamin Bridge Brut comes from Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley. What makes it special is that although it’s produced using traditional methods, it primarily uses the L’Acadie grape (one of the province’s varietals). The wine is remarkably elegant and fresh, with notes of green apple, pear and citrus. It also has a slight and very refined taste of almond brioche. In terms of food pairings, give a nod to its home in Nova Scotia by enjoying it with oysters or grilled fish or seafood.
Vignoble Négondos, located in Mirabel, northwest of Montreal, is Quebec’s first organic vineyard. They work with grape varieties like seyval and vidal that are adapted to our terroir and cool climate. Their philosophy is to use minimum intervention when the grapes are still on the vine and while the wine is being produced; there’s as big a difference between a terroir wine and an industrially produced wine as there is between a nice Riopelle cheese and a slice of Kraft cheese. Opalinois, which is made from 100-percent seyval, is juicy and fresh, with a slightly exotic touch of peach, banana and lychee. To bring out this tropical side, pair it with spicy foods, like fish curry or sushi with wasabi.
Cave Spring Cellars doesn’t always get the attention it deserves because we tend to be on the lookout for what’s new and trendy. But since their beginning, they quickly established themselves as riesling specialists. Their CSV (Cave Springs Vineyards) cuvée is a wine of exceptionally high quality, with remarkable ageing potential. Usually gorgeous at about 10 years of age, but can also hold for much longer. It’s also great value for the money and one of the finest rieslings from the Niagara Peninsula. When pairing, opt for somewhat fancy dishes, such as seared scallops with cauliflower-rosemary purée or perhaps veal sweetbreads sautéed with wild mushrooms.
Little Farm Winery is run by a young couple who are passionate about wine. (Rhys Pender became Canada’s youngest Master of Wine in 2010.) They operate in the somewhat unheralded Similkameen Valley, close to the Okanagan region, and their goal is to make wine using the most natural methods possible. The Pied de Cuve 2014 riesling has quite an apple-like aroma; it almost smells like cider! The wine is barely semi-dry but very taut with a nice acidity that gets your appetite going. By comparison, it’s a little earthier than the Cave Spring Cellars riesling – full of vivacity, energy and character. Share it with friends around a plate of cheese and charcuterie; the conversation will be lively.
Hinterland is a sparkling wine specialist based in Ontario’s most recent wine region: Prince Edward County. All of their bottlings are worth discovering, but this one is especially delicious. Made with the gamay grape, and according to an old (ancestral) method that produces slightly off-dry, low alcohol sparkling wine with vibrant, juicy and scrumptious fruit flavours, this is an absolute delight. Perfect for summer sipping, brunches, with cheese or a bowl of fresh berries. Super flavourful and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
A global star in the world of wine, Véronique Rivest is Air Canada’s new sommelier. Currently, she’s creating a new wine program for Business Class that will perfectly complement chef David Hawksworth’s signature dishes. If you’re travelling in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, be sure to drop by her wine bar, Soif, which placed 10th on Air Canada enRoute magazine’s 2015 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants.