Canadian Wine: An Overview

Canadian Wines have been on the increase since the 1970s.  Although increasing in popularity, these wines are still not on the radar of the large scale North American or world market.  If you count fruit wines, one can find wine from every province in Canada.  There are 2 major areas of production: British Columbia’s Okanogan Valley and Ontario’s Niagara Penninsula.  There are countless others, but the areas with the largest output are the 2 mentioned above.

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Across Canada, there are now nine primary Viticultural Areas that are recognized to produce grapes for appellation wines certified by the Vintners Quality Alliance system (VQA).  The quality assurance group called the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA)  acts to enforce the appellation system. The VQA symbol on a bottle assures the consumer of quality production, content varietal percentage, appellation and vintage.  The VQA is government sanctioned and regulated in Ontario by VQA Ontario and in British Columbia by the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI). Ontario and British Columbia are the only two regions in Canada that currently produce wines that meet the VQA standard accounting for 98% of the country's premium wine production. The majority of these appellation wines come from Ontario`s appellations, where approximately 15,000 acres of wine grape vineyards are planted. Stretching along the centre of the world's cool-climate wine belt, Ontario appellations share similar growing season characteristics with some of the most recognized and respected wine-growing regions of the world. 

Grapes that perform to the best of their ability have been typically cooler climate grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, hybrids Baco Noir and Marechal Foch.  With increased knowledge and practise (and the help of global warming), many warmer climate grapes have been successfully tried: Gewurtztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Merlot. 

Specifically speaking, Inniskillin is the largest producer and exporter of wines including award winning Vidal Icewines.  They have vineyards located in both major wine regions; Ontario and British Columbia.  But as most wine lovers know, boutique wineries with lower fruit yields and attention to smaller details bode premium wines that entice your palate.   There are countless wineries that do not have large enough production to sell in liquor stores and rely mostly on local restaurants and vineyard sales.  These vineyards are treats to find!  Look for perennial favorites: Tawse Winery’s Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Chardonnay, Angel’s Gate’s Gewurtztraminer, Cave Spring’s Gamay Noir and Riesling, Wayne Gretzky’s Meritage blend and Chardonnay, Marynissen’s Gamay Noir, Cabernet Merlot and Sandra’s Summer Blend White, Stratus’ Red-Bordeaux style blend scoring 92/100 from Wine Access and 13th Street’s Gamay Noir and Riesling are some of the finest Ontario has to offer. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

In British Columbia’s Okanogan valley look for Quail’s Gate’s Pinot Noir, Merlot and Rose, Burrowing Owl’s fantastic Merlot and Syrah, and Black Hill’s Estate Winery’s Nota Bene Bordeaux style blend and Alibi Loire Valley style white blend.  Hopefully you have found something to search for on your next trip to Canada.  At the very least you have a new found knowledge of great things happening in “The Great White North”.  Happy Drinking! 

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