We have a confession to make. As loyal and patriotic Canadians who are wine enthusiasts, we’ve previously struggled to find consistently great wine from our own country. But we’ve been beyond pleasantly surprised by the leaps and bounds with which the Canadian wine industry has taken in terms of quality and consistency in recent years. In September of 2017 AdVINEtures had the privilege of joining Her Honour Judith Gichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, on a 3 day trip to the Okanagan Valley to present her award to 12 wineries and more recently we were a guest of Delta Air Lines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) where Canada was the featured region. What has become abundantly clear is that Canadian wine is not only earning respect on the world wine stage, it deserves it.
To be fair, it’s only been relatively recently that the Canadian wine industry has seen the type of investment needed (both monetary and in terms of expertise), to reach such international and critical acclaim. As we learned through completing Fine Vintage’s Canadian Wine Scholar Certification Program, the last 20 years has seen a revolution in Canada with respect to numbers of wineries, land under vine and international awards.
Last week, the Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) hosted its 39th annual event which featured 180 wineries from 16 countries pouring their wines at more than 50 events over 8 days. As this year’s featured region, Canada was well represented with 76 Canadian wineries attending including several we’ve previously written about: Meyer Family Vineyards, Road 13, Township 7, and Blasted Church.
Although technically there are vineyards planted in 6 Provinces, only 4 produce a significant amount of wine: Ontario, BC, Quebec and Nova Scotia. With close to two thirds of all Canadian land under vine, the Ontario wine industry is the largest contributor to the Canadian wine economy and was represented at the VIWF by 11 wineries. Well established names like Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs from the Niagara Peninsula were there along with wineries representing Prince Edward County, and Pelee Island. Ontario is using its cool climate to its advantage by focusing on the grapes that seem to grow best with what the terroir gives them namely Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
Nova Scotia, though tiny in comparison to Ontario in terms of wine production, has been carving out its own reputation particularly with sparkling wines that are receiving consistently good ratings. It was actually in the Canadian Wine Scholar course mentioned above where we first tried wines from Nova Scotia and the L’Acadie Vineyards Prestige Brut Sparkling wine was one of the clear standouts for both of us. Made in the traditional method including bottle fermentation, riddling and disgorging, this wine spends 3-4 years on its lees which adds the wonderful autolytic notes one enjoys in Champagne. At a price point of $33, it also happens to be a great value wine.
But to no one’s surprise, it was the VIWF’s own backyard that provided the biggest Canadian presence with no less than 60 wineries participating from British Columbia. The growth in this Province alone is staggering—25 years ago there were 10 wineries, today there are close to 300. In terms of geographical conditions, while Ontario boasts a cooler climate and mostly produces whites, sparkling and lighter or blended reds, the vast majority of BC wine is produced out of the Okanagan Valley, a much warmer climate that is more favorable to growing Bordeaux varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
As Canada celebrates its 150th year as a country, it’s exciting to watch the development of this relatively young wine industry and the terrific potential that still remains untapped. Expect to hear more great things coming out of Canada as winemakers continue to gain a better understanding of what this country’s unique terroir has to offer.