Chalk up another innovation for Bella: the world’s first sparkling fortified (18%) wine, a collaboration with Marrow Vermouth. While on honeymoon in Italy, Wendy fell in love with the Italian digestive Chinato (fortified Barolo wine) and asked Jay if he could make something similar for her. Where to start ..
The wine base – making BC fruit taste old world
Of course, BC doesn’t have old world fruit flavours like those found in Piedmonte so Jay sourced cab franc in 2014 and started a solera wine aging program which provides the perfect balance of oxidation and fruit freshness to mimic old world Nebbiolo juice. However, this solved only one half of the equation (the base wine) but not the other half (aromatized fortification).
It’s easy to fortify wine, but Wendy wanted it to taste like Chinato. In Italy, they macerate local botanicals and cinchona bark (aka “China” in Italian) from South America to give it bitterness, and its namesake.
What local herbs would we use to aromatize our spirit? In walks a guy …
Shawn Dalton first came into the Bella sphere when he, and business partner Joshua McLean, started importing Bella bubs into SK through their import company MeraWine. Eventually, the Okanagan called heavily on Shawn and he moved out west and started up Marrow Vermouth, for which Jay is a huge fan of. As circumstances would have it, Shawn found his way to working with the Bella crew for the 2021 season where talks of herbs, vermouths and fortification were strong … while sipping on Shawn’s vermouth topped up with a splash of our bubbles.
Early in 2022, Wendy poured her favorite Chinato for Shawn and asked: which local herbs would you use to replicate this? The answer rolled off Shawn’s tongue effortlessly and we had a fortification strategy and one of the best collaborations in the making. Yay! Working with Maple Leaf Spirits for the grape based distillate, local honey from Naramata Bench, organic botanicals (photo above) sourced by Green Muse Herbs, and the cinchona bark, Shawn macerated the perfect balance of bitter and floral, with a whisper of sweetness, into the spirit.
But Bella is a bubble house – one of the few wineries in North America that exclusively makes sparkling wine products. Could we make an 18% ABV sparkling product?
The issue is that high alcohol may not be able to suspend the bars of pressure required to make fizz. Traditional methods were out as ferments can’t continue in high alcohol so frizzante, injecting gas, had to be the option. Jay worked with Artus Bottling to determine the perfect balance of pressure we could attain through injection without blowing the bottle. The result is a sparkling fortified wine that curiously you can barely visually notice the small bubbles in the glass, because of the dark colour of the wine base, however they are quite present on the palate providing that gentle crackling sensation so characteristic of sparkling wines. As far as we know, injecting gas into a fortified wine product has never been done before.
So there you have it, ten years after that crazy personal request: the first version of our non-vintage sparkling chinato (pronounced key-NAH-toe) – a perfectly balanced floral nose with a slightly herbal / bitter, amaro style, palate with a gentle spritz. Perfect before or after any meal, chilled or over ice. Enjoy!
- Flavour profile: sparkling amaro
- Ingredients – Cabernet Franc grapes, grape based distillate, botanicals, honey
- Released October 17, 2022
- Product 330ml: CSPC +440266 | $35 | 1,476 bottles