Thoughts of Bubbly

Truth is, I love bubbly! That may not sound like much of a confession, but I’ve never liked any kind of soda – because of the carbonation. Yes, I realize the contradiction. But what can I say? It is definitely my all-time favourite drink.

Bubbly’s on my mind for a lot of reasons: I was delighted at the recent Taste Ontario event atthe Royal Ontario Museum by how many Ontario wineries that were there were offering bubbly. I knew of some of Ontario wineries that do bubbly (13th Street Winery and Henry of Pelham, Huff Estates Winery, Vieni Estates, and Hinterland Wine Company, for example) but I had no idea that Angel’s Gate Winery, Creekside Estate, Flat Rock Cellars, Sue-Ann Staff, Reif Estate Winery, and The Grange of Prince Edward also do.

Another reason bubbly has been on my mind is because I just finished reading a terrific book: The Widow Clicquot, by Tilar J. Mazzeo. It’s about Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin – THE Veuve (which is French for widow) Clicquot.

My sister recommended the book a couple years ago and I forgot about it until recently. It’s a fantastically interesting story about Barbe-Nicole, a young widow and mother who took the reins of the new winery her husband’s family founded. She grew the business and is credited with many of key innovations that helped the Champagne industry grow and flourish in the late 18th and early-19th century.

She solved one of the technical problems that had had dogged champagne makers: how to produce clear champagne. The solution she came up with: storing the bottles tip-down and at an angle (on a so-called riddling rack) so that the lees could settle and then be removed through a process of disgorging.

The book also provides lots of insights into many aspects of the wine industry. One of the biggest surprises to me, for example, was the fact that for a long time bottles were all blown glass, and not too sturdy at that. It wasn’t until bottles were made of forged glass that they became sturdy and more-or-less uniform in shape. And even when wines were bottled (many were sold in casks), they weren’t labelled. The initials of the winery might be on the cork or cask, but not on each bottle! Veuve Clicquot’s signature egg yolk yellow label was one of the first.

I highly recommend the book – it’s a great read. Only thing is, it made me thirsty – for bubbly and to learn more about the innovators in the wine industry!

P.S. If you’re particularly into the process of making bubbly, you might be interested in this video of Jonas Newman of Hinterland Wine Company explaining the different methods.

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