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Can Canadian Wine Match Champagne’s Allure?

With a bottle like this one, we might just stand a chance.

Cipes Blanc de Noirs 2008 $35

If you ask a hundred wine writers what their favourite wine is, the hands-down winner would be Champagne. If you ask a hundred casual wine drinkers what the most overrated wine is, I’d bet they’d give you the same answer. The dichotomy is a result of a few things: wine writers love Champagne’s acidity and ethereal balance; general consumers hate its price and pomposity. Increasingly, the bridge between these two solitudes looks like it might be in our own backyard. Canadian sparkling wine—don’t dare call it Champagne, or a helicopter full of French patent attorneys will land on your front lawn within five minutes—has a legitimate chance at being your gateway bubbly wine.

For starters, Champagne’s latitude is almost identical to Kelowna’s, meaning the grapes are fully capable of producing the acidic backbone that is de rigueur for great sparkling wine. Secondly, we’ve reached the point where we have a pretty long track record of making bubbles: Summerhill has been making sparkling wines since 1991, Blue Mountain the same year and Sumac Ridge’s Steller’s Jay since 1989. And these producers are now really starting to get into the types of wines that are reaching new heights in character and quality (and, of course, price): Steller’s Jay has Pinnacle, an aged (2006) and elegant 100-percent pinot noir that’s a steal at $31. Even better is Blue Mountain’s 2007 Reserve Brut ($40), a chardonnay/pinot blend that channels Champagne’s acidic bite. But it’s Summerhill who’s embraced the high-end market with the most zeal. They have sparklers from 1996 (Cipes Traditional Cuvée), 1998 (Ariel) and the wonderful bargain that is the 2008 Blanc de Noir, an organic pinot noir wine that channels the creamy and dry elegance of a Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label at half the price.

Now that’s something to pop a cork for.

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