It’s no great surprise that California is the home of most of the U.S.A.’s top Traditional Method Sparkling Wines. The ‘Sunshine State’ would not be the first on the list of regions that someone from Champagne, for instance, would consider suitable for sparkling wine production. Warmth and over-ripeness are the dangers, but through research, ingenuity and investment the best producers have been able to combat these issues and produce wines that find their own unique sense of balance.
Searching for coolness, acidity retention and moderate sugar accumulation in California means staying close to the coastline. Although some of the pioneers of the style set up in famous still wine areas such as Napa, most newer entrants head to regions such as Carneros and the Alexander Valley. Expect a warm, sunny abundance of golden fruits, moderate acidity and, in the best examples, palates that avoid heaviness. You might expect dosages to be low in general, but whether it is the taste of the local market or the fact that warm-climate grapes do not always suit low-dosage styles, most producers do not push their wines too dry.
New York State is home to a handful of sparkling specialists, especially in the Finger Lakes area. Most producers rely on a broad portfolio of wines, however. There seems to be a lot of untapped potential for the Champagne varieties here, although a complete transformation from the State’s heyday with hybrid varieties has not yet transpired.
Oregon, much like Central Otago in New Zealand, is an area where success with still Pinot Noir has started to be reflected with success in sparkling wine production. This has been limited, so far, however; it may simply be that few have judged the domestic market quite ready enough to justify the enormous expense required in setting up a sparkling wine operation. A minor player, for now.
Five Top U.S. Sparklers with International Availability
Roederer Estate Quartet N.V. (export label)
Roederer Estate Quartet Rosé
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs
Domaine Carneros Estate Brut Cuvée
J Vineyards Cuvée 20
Canada is not short of potential for Traditional Method Sparkling Wine, although it mirrors England in only seeing serious thought going into classic sparkling wine varieties over the last two decades. Before this, it was frequently assumed that only native and hybrid varieties would be able to withstand fierce winters and short growing seasons.
The Niagara Peninsula is Ontario’s most prominent vineyard area, where the proximity to the Great Lakes both moderates summer heat and wards off the onset of dangerous freezes in winter. Nearby Prince Edward County also shows promise.
The Okanagan and its surrounding viticultural areas in British Columbia are also touted for sparkling wine production from classic grapes, although little is produced yet. Canada’s largest success story on the export market, however, hails from Nova Scotia. This is truly frontier land for wine production, but one sparkling specialist – Benjamin Bridge – has put the region on the map. For now they are almost the only producer with any real export presence.