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Oliver winery uncorks new opportunity
An Oliver winery will be breaking new ground this spring when they release their first bottles of a Prosecco-style sparkling wine.
Stoneboat Winery, a family run artisanal winery, is the first winery in B.C. to use the Charmat method to produce one of the fresh, fruity sparkling wines. In Italy, where Prosecco wines originate, Glera grapes are the usual source, but Stoneboat has chosen to use Pinot Blanc as its base.
“It’s all pears and peaches. It’s delicious,” said Tim Martiniuk, general manager of the winery and son of the founder, Lanny.
Until now, two methods were used to make sparkling wines in B.C. In the traditional method, like champagne, the bubbles come from a second fermentation in the bottle. The other method is to add bubbles after the fact.
“Then you’ve got wines that are carbonated, like pop,” said Martiniuk, explaining that the method they employ uses specialized stainless steel pressure tanks to do the second fermentation.
“This allows us to create fresher, fruitier sparkling wines that are very similar to Proseccos, light and refreshing,” said Martiniuk. “The base wine we use is young and fresh and aromatic. It doesn’t require the same amount of time to produce like Champagne.
“We’re trying to make a product that you don’t need to cellar and wait for a special occasion to open.”
Sparkling wines made using the traditional method tend to be more lean and yeasty, due to the ongoing fermentation in the bottle. The fresh fruity flavour is one of the reasons for the rapid growth in market share for Proseccos, which have been gaining popularity as an alternative to champagne.
Stoneboat hopes to tap into that growing popularity. They have their eyes set not only on the domestic market, currently dominated by imports for this style of sparkling wine, but also on exports to Asian markets.
Martiniuk said the first batch of wine is nearly ready, and expects to be bottling it in mid-March. Getting to this stage has been a long process, however.
“We’ve been thinking about this for four years,” said Martiniuk, noting that the specialized equipment they needed wasn’t available in Canada. “It’s a long-term project and we decided after looking at it that it was going to be too expensive for us to take that risk.”
That is, he continued until they learned of the federal government’s agri-innovation program, and the possibility of obtaining interest-free government loans for up to 50 per cent of the project cost.
“The technical aspects of production are intensive, and the capital required is very significant for a winery of our size,” said Lanny Martiniuk. “We are fortunate that there is government support for projects like ours, and with our new equipment we believe that we can create a product that is every bit as delicious as import wines made with the same technology.”
The Martiniuks secured a $125,000 loan from the Agricultural Innovation Program, a $50-million government initiative, to support their move into the sparkling wine sector.
“Our government is pleased to support innovative ideas like this that help introduce new products to the marketplace and help grow our economy,” said Okanagan Coquihalla MP Dan Albas. “These products will help Stoneboat Vineyards tap into domestic markets currently dominated by imports and increase export sales.”