Dinner Out: Sparkling Wine Masterclass

Dinner Out: Sparkling Wine Masterclass
By Scott Campbell

Two of my all-time favourite things have to be food and wine. So when NSCC’s newest cool climate wine and viticulture faculty member, Patrick Cantieni, invited me to join him and Grand Pré Wines vineyard manager Devon Koeller at Benjamin Bridge Winery for a masterclass on sparkling wines with winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, along with food pairings by Le Caveau chef Jason Lynch, I knew I was in for a fantastic evening.

Jean-Benoit guided us through the evening with his expert commentary on the elegant sparkling wines that were set before us. His brilliant deconstruction of the wines and their lineage gave everyone present a true understanding of how the humble grape was able to become such a rich and complex, yet lively and celebratory glass of wine. With Patrick and Devon at my table to help define the elements present in our sparkling wines, and my own delighted palate to help describe Jason Lynch’s marvelous accompanying plates, we embarked on our evolutionary wine journey.

When we arrived we were greeted with a glass of Pinot Noir (barrel sample). For those of you familiar with a Pinot Noir, you would probably not expect a sparkling wine, nor a white wine. However this Blanc de Noir base wine (both sparkling and white) was created from a Pinot Noir grape, but before it took on the familiar red of what many expect when having a Pinot Noir. My winemaking compatriots described this wine as having a nutty oak flavour with a bit of overripe mango, a slight oxidation, some smoke, and a lively acidity. These features married perfectly with Chef Lynch’s Guinea with oyster mushroom: an earthy plate brimming with deep rich flavours that created the perfect backdrop for the sparkling Pinot Noir.

Next up, Jean-Benoit introduced us to the 2016 Reserve wine. With two years on lees (a term indicating the amount of time that the sediment left from the fermentation process was left in the bottle allowing the wine to take on additional characteristics), this wine had an elegance beyond its years but still managed to hold onto its youthful freshness. Chef Jason created a very flavourful dish of Nova Scotia squid with lobster butter. Again, Chef had created an amazing accompaniment in the rich seafood for the sparkling wine.

Our next featured wine was a real treat indeed. The NV Brut and the NV Brut LD (Late Disgorgement: the wine left on the lees for 4 years). The latter of the two came in a magnum bottle and is an exceptionally rare treat that everyone present got to enjoy. The additional years seemed to bring out the familiar citrusy notes, but there was a distinct buttery component as well. Again, a bright yet complex wine.

The 2014 Sparkling Rosé was next. Devon and Patrick were quick to note tastes of honeydew, lime, strawberry, and wild cucumber, but also found that the exceptionally long finish of the wine revealed deeper flavours of mint. Chef Lynch again rose to the occasion of creating the perfect pairing for this wine with a delicious grey sole with a velvety shrimp sauce.

Jean-Benoit then introduced us to the 2013 Brut. Of all the amazing wines we’d enjoyed, this one challenged my winemaking friends the most in terms of coming up with suitable descriptors. The nature of these sparkling wines is that they can tend to exist at both ends of a flavour spectrum: rich and velvety while still being fresh and lively. The 2013 Brut was no exception. It was full of fresh notes alongside what we could best describe as a smooth elegance. Chef Lynch’s presentation of arctic char with dehydrated scallop brightened and highlighted the delicate nature of the wine.

The final wine of the evening was the 2012 Brut Reserve. This has been an award-winning wine for Benjamin Bridge and for good reason. Jean-Benoit described our climate as a fairy godmother for wine that is able to gift it with eternal youth. This 2012 masterpiece still held the same strong citrus that we’d come to expect, but there was an enhanced structure present that gave it the maturity necessary to carry forth the elegant notes of quince and prune that were noticeable. Chef Lynch’s brilliant pairing of maitake mushrooms and prunes was the ideal finale to this scintillating sparkling wine adventure.

If you have an opportunity to try any of these great wines I would heartily encourage you to do so. Jean-Benoit and all of the great members of the Benjamin Bridge family are always on hand to explain the delicate balance that their vineyard manages in order to bring about these sparkling treasures.

Cheers.

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