Towards the end of the most enjoyable long-table dinner on a terrace at Toronto’s One King West, Craig McDonald revealed that he would be treating us to an exclusive sneak peek of a brand new wine that is very close to his heart.
Back in 2014 McDonald secretly began working upon what he felt would be a natural extension of the famed (and historied) Trius Brut. By taking this Niagara Méthode Classique classic, which already ages sur lie (AKA on its dead yeast cells) for up to two and a half years, and then ageing this further for a total of five years, it was McDonalds aim to create a sparkling wine of such worthy autolytic (read: lees contact-enhanced) character that there would be no need for any of the final stage “manipulation” through the addition of a traditional Liqueur d’expedition.
Usually a wine made Méthode Classique would be finished with a certain amount of sugar (referred to as the dosage) in order to achieve a specific “House style”, but in the case of this new Brut Nature McDonald decided to simply top up the late-disgorged bottles with around 30ml of the original base wine per bottle.
The resultant bottling would be a Chardonnay-heavy sparkling wine that showcased the purity and finesse of the wine’s original intention, allowing one to put a magnifying glass to the delicate complexities brought about through the influence of autolysis. At 1.5g of residual sugar from both the primary and secondary fermentations, the Brut Nature would clock in as what the Champenois would refer to as an Extra Brut; by comparison the standard Trius Brut comes in at 10g per litre.
Whilst simply removing this dosage may seem like the easiest thing to do in the world, it’s not quite a simple as at, as without this finishing/polishing step many a wine would simply not stand up to any kind of scrutiny. McDonald understands this implicitly:
“Yeah, you know, sometimes when you lift up the hood and have a look at the workings underneath, it’s not so pretty, mate… Some would say that it’s pretty courageous to do this, you know, not using any tricks, but I’m not afraid to do that… …I have faith in the original base wine and the extended ageing on lees here”
And I am extremely glad that he did have the courage to go through with this, as the final wine is a testament to the magical potential of the traditional process itself. The Brut Nature exhibits the hallmarks of a top-notch Méthode Classique, with complex leesy aromatics alongside just a touch of bruised apple. On the palate the wine is a textural marvel, and was simply the finest expression of extended tirage I have tasted in some time, the microboules achieving a delightfully delicate creaminess in the mouth that I haven’t tasted outside some better Champagnes.
The yet-to-be-labelled Brut Nature will be released in around November and the only 300 cases produced will be available exclusively from the winery. The price has yet to be decided, but McDonald feels that it will land in around the same price as their Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc at around $55.
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And Craig was pretty good at the old sabering lark.