Thursday, August 17, 2017

JoieFarm takes on Champagne




Photo: JoieFarm's Heidi Noble


Heidi Noble, the proprietor of JoieFarm Winery on Naramata Road, asserts that sparkling wines are not reserved just for special occasions.

“Bubble is for every day,” she says.

Consumers clearly have made that discovery. There has been a veritable eruption of sparkling wines from British Columbia producers in recent years. One of those wines is the new JoieFarm Quotidien Brut, which means “your daily ration.”

My theory is that credit should go to the Italian producers of Prosecco for turning so many consumers onto drinking sparkling wine whenever you feel like it. That was something that Champagne did not quite succeed in doing, even after two centuries and the patronage of the likes of Winston Churchill (who was an every day drinker of bubble).

Champagnes usually are expensive; and they should be. The production of Champagne is complex because the fermentation occurs in individual bottles. This gives the wines characteristic biscuit aromas and flavours sometimes referred to a brioche. The character of the wines demands you pay close attention to the quality.

Prosecco has no such pretentions. Few, if any, are fermented in bottle. You can get good bottles for less than $20; the flavours are pleasant and the bubbles are just as lively as Champagne. Consumers might reserve Champagne for New Year’s Eve but don’t hesitate to open a Prosecco on Tuesday evening. And they are buying more sparkling wines from British Columbia producers because the quality easily matches Prosecco and the value is better than Champagne.

In notes that accompany the wines, Heidi says that Quotidien Brut emerged from ongoing industry conversations in the past two years on defining Canadian wines.

“The answer that consistently kept coming up is that Canada possesses the potential for quality bubble production, in particular with Riesling and Chardonnay being the best varietal contenders, coast to coast,” she writes. “To fully engage in this conversation, I decided to make one – a combination of Riesling and Chardonnay.”

She chose to use the Charmat method – allowing the base wine to have its secondary ferment in a pressure tank, not in an individual bottle. It is, she says, “the best method to make quality sparkling wine for affordable easy drinking bubble.” Most Prosecco wines are produced in Charmat tanks.

The brioche aromas and flavours of Champagne are created by the autolysis that occurs when a bottle-fermented wine rests for months, even years, on the yeast lees. Heidi wanted that character in her wine, even if it is difficult to achieve in a Charmat tank.

“I thought about the process for several years,” she says. “I am a big proponent of picking [grapes] several times to achieve natural balance. I took this exact approach to blend this sparkling base wine. Several picks were conducted; one for acid and low alcohol; and one for flavour and ripeness; and blended backwards to achieve an appropriate potential alcohol for a secondary tank fermentation.”

To replace the lees contact a bottle-fermented wine gets, she stored the base wine after primary fermentation on the lees in neutral oak puncheons over winter. “This lends the wine some toast and biscuit flavours as well as providing some slow oxidation,” she writes.

To improve the quality of the base wine, she also has begun to gently oxidize Riesling in neutral barrels, in a solera technique. This is blended with the Chardonnay.

It strikes me that before she knew it what she had let herself in for, Heidi had worked as hard to make Quotidien Brut as if she had just bottle-fermented it. But she is nothing, if not determined. And she was determined to a wine where everything but the price reminded one of Champagne.

Here are notes on the wines.



JoieFarm Plein de Vie Brut 2016 ($19). This is 45% Pinot Meunier, 36% Chardonnay and 18% Pinot Noir. The wine has an inviting pink hue. It begins with aromas of cherry and strawberry that are echoed in the flavours. The active mousse, achieved by gentle carbonation. gives this a creamy texture. This is a very easy to drink sparkling rose with a crisp dry finish. 90.


JoieFarm Quotidien Brut 2016 ($25). This is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Riesling. The base wine remained over winter in neutral barrels and on lees to simulate the autolysis on the lees. It was a clever way of achieving the biscuit notes of classic Champagne. The second ferment was in a Charmat tank. The wine has active mousse and a creamy texture. The wine has nutty flavours mingled with hints of lemon. The finish is crisply dry. 90.

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