Week 3 of social distancing is now well underway, and I have long since finished my emergency rations from my Friday the 13th #Quarantini LCBO run after work. That feels like another lifetime ago. I’ve now started working my way through my wine cellar, like many others out there, since who knows when the next special occasion might be? This led to me busting out a bottle of Silver Line Blanc de Noirs Ice Rosé Sparkling by G. Marquis from Niagara-on-the-Lake, a premium wine brand belonging to the larger family of brands owned by Magnotta, which includes a range of wineries, wine-in-a-bag kits and homebrew beer kits, ciders, and breweries.

I haven’t written about G. Marquis and their wines yet, so despite having lackluster emotions about their beer, I still picked up a bottle of their VQA sparkling wine pre-pandemic at the LCBO. Packaged in a fancy looking cardboard box (long since lost to the recycling bin), a 750 mL bottle will set you back $29.95 and weighs in at 13.4% ABV, a much better price point than a bottle of Champagne. The bottle boasts that the sparkling wine is made using the méthode classique and is a traditional blanc de noirs using icewine for the dosage step. This means that their sparkling wine follows the traditional winemaking techniques employed in the Champagne region, allowing natural fermentation, permitting only select varietals of grapes into the process, and “dosing” the wine just before corking it with the liqueur de tirage to encourage a second fermentation and natural carbonation in the bottle. In short, it mimics the process of producing Champagne but since it doesn’t take place in the demarcated region of Champagne, it must go by another name – sparkling wine. If I’m spending mid-range money on a bottle of bubbly, I try to buy brands that follow the French tradition since it’s a style I quite enjoy. Apparently I haven’t written about sparkling wine yet on the site, so I’ve allowed myself to get a little nerdier than usual talking about wine today.

The bottle does not list the grape varietal (the box may have, but it’s long gone), so I guessed Pinot Noir as it is the only accepted red varietal that can be used in the traditional method, dosed with a Cabernet Franc icewine as that is a common varietal used in icewine production. G. Marquis’s website confirmed that hypothesis for me. You’ll notice that there is no vintage statement on the bottle – sparkling wines allow for blending of grapes from various vintages to produce a house style that is consistent from year to year, adapting to fluctuations in the harvest. I think this bottle has been resting on my wine rack, patiently awaiting its turn since December 2018. Cellaring potential, according to their website, is 2-4 years. Since COVID-19 has my immunocompromised brain half convinced that the world won’t be here in 2-4 years, I’m getting into my back catalog at the moment.

Appearance: Pink colour bordering on cooked salmon, with vibrant small natural bubbles.

Aroma: Very heavy aromas of strawberry and blueberry, as well as yeasty undertones and pizza crust. I took my glass to another room to get a good sniff to make sure the homemade pizza wasn’t tainting my nose.

Palate: Underripe strawberries, juicy tangerine, fruity and floral notes with biscuit notes.

Acidity: Medium-plus acid – anything less than that would be criminal in sparkling wine.

Body: Medium to light-bodied with an off-dry finish.

Aftertaste: Lingering biscuity aftertaste.

Suggested food pairings:  Oysters if you can get your hand on them. I paired it with homemade pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes since that is what was fresh from the oven.

Overall: True to style, with creative use of Ontario icewine for the finishing touch. This one is a solid sparkling wine option with limited home delivery available from the LCBO during this time of quarantine.

Shawna O'Flaherty

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