Thursday, October 18, 2012


A couple of posts ago, I touched on the fact that we'd made a quick visit to Salt Spring Vineyards when we ventured over to the Gulf Islands for an all-too-short of a stay with Tyrant.  As previously mentioned in the blog, this tasting room visit was largely to talk about the Blattner varietals that the winery was working with.

During our tasting, we were told about a new wine that Salt Spring was releasing - a sparkling wine, styled somewhat after Prosecco and made with another uncommon varietal.  Sold - and that's where we're headed tonight.

1270.  2010 Salt Spring Vineyards - Splash! (Gulf Islands - BC)

The primary subject of my visit may have been the work that Salt Spring Vineyards and their winemaker, Paul Troop, were pioneering with Blattner varietals, but Splash was a whole different bit of "new."  It's not produced from a Blattner varietal.  Rather, the grape used is Léon Millot - another varietal that very few folks will have heard about.

Some years back, Salt Spring owners Dev and Joanne McIntyre had been visiting L'Acadie - a winery clear across the country on the Canadian East Coast in Nova Scotia  - where the McIntyre's discovered that Léon Millot was quite commonplace in the region.  It's another varietal that is particularly suitable for cooler, coastal climates.  They loved the wines that they tried and thought that they'd give it a try out on the West Coast.  Ironically, Boo and I had visited L'Acadie when we made a short trip to my namesake city, Halifax, back in 2006.  I'd encountered Léon Millot for the first time back then and wondered why no one was growing the grape on Vancouver Island or on the Gulf Islands.  It sounded like a natural fit to me.

There are a couple of wineries giving the varietal a go out West now but it's still not a grape that will strike a memory chord with many a wine drinker.  The varietal doesn't even rate a mention in Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine.  Hardly a traditional grape, it is a hybrid (a cross of two or more species of grapes) from a classic vitis vinifera grape, Goldriesling, and another hybrid grape with the attractive and memorable name of Millardet et Grasset 101-14 O.P.  As such, it is the type of grape that is generally passed over when growers are determining what grapes they want to plant in their vineyards.  After all, do you really want to risk your investment planting something that no one's ever heard of or ever tasted?

Well, the McIntyre's did.  In part, to take advantage of the early ripening tendencies and the fact that the varietal is largely resistant to fungus diseases - both qualities that lend themselves to growers in cooler climates.  All the same, most references to the grape (that I could easily find) still seem to be limited to small amounts being grown in Switzerland, Alsace, Canada and New York.

I had only seen the grape used previously to make still wines, but Salt Spring thought they'd make partial use of their crop in the production of a sparkling wine.  The winery was already making a traditional Champenoise style bubble.  So, this second sparkler was made to be more at an introductory level.  The base wine sees forced carbonation - along the lines of Prosecco and more "discount" bubbles - rather than the traditional double fermentation in the bottle method of Champenoise and classic sparkling wines.

I was rather excited to try the wine, but I'm afraid to say that it's not going to be a fave.  For having seen forced carbonation, I didn't find much, if any, in the glass and there wasn't any noticeable mousse in the mouth either.  To be honest, as much as I love an explosive mousse, I can live with an absence of same - provided I enjoy the taste and the palate.  Not so much there, unfortunately.

I don't think it was the fact that Léon Millot just doesn't match up as a viable grape - because I remember enjoying some of those Nova Scotian wines - the wine just didn't result in my hurrying to refill my glass or in having to force myself to slow down between sips.  For me, the wine offered little in the way of fruit or excitement.  My sad.

On the glass half full side, it was an intriguing wine to discover and to try.  AND I haven't added Léon Millot to my Wine Century Club tally either; so, I get to add a new varietal for the second post in a row!  That brings me to 139.  And on that happy note...

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that your bottle of Splash was as uninspiring as the one (of two purchased - still thinking I should refund the other) I had a few months ago. Don't say I didnt warn you though!