This heavily forested country is not only the home of great things like winter sports, but also has a flourishing wine industry. Having been produced here for over 200 years, Canada’s wine industry was originally based on port and sherry style fortified wines. It was not until the 1960’s when Canada noticed a higher demand for lower alcohol dry white wines. As the years went on, the quality of wines produced here improved and the industry began to distinguish itself and be taken more seriously. 1988 was a significant year for the industry due to the establishment of free trade with the US, as well as the establishment of the Vintners Quality Alliance. Not only is Canada maintaining a good reputation for wine, but these winemakers are also demonstrating how very cool climate regions can still produce complex and aromatic wines.
Canadian wine is mainly produced in British Columbia and Ontario, with some production also in Quebec and Nova Scotia. British Columbia is blessed with hot and dry summers, long hours of sunshine, and low humidity. This area’s terroir is consisted of glacial stone, fine sand, silt, clay to the north, and gravel to the south. Ontario produces the largest percentage of homegrown wine and parallels the US border along Lake Erie. This region has a continental climate with glacial till and clay-loam soils.
Being the cool climate country that it is, Canada’s wine industry is bolstered by its high quality whites, light reds, and dessert wines. Riesling is amongst Canada’s most planted varietals. Elegant, crisp, and long-lived, these Rieslings are produced as dry, late harvest ice, and sparkling wines. Chardonnay is the other dominant white grape of Canada with its nice structure, natural acidity, and ripe fruit. Other whites commonly found here are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, and Semillon.
Reds also play a big part in the Canadian wine industry. Among them are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and French hybrids such as Baco Noir and Marechal Foch. With its wines being comparable to the finest Beaujolais Crus, Gamay Noir is also making headway with its red berry fruit, French oak, and carbonic maceration.
Another key player in the game is Canada’s ice wine which is usually made from Riesling or Vidal. These grapes are not harvested until December or January once temperatures have dropped to at least -8 to -10 degrees and they have frozen solid. Then the grapes are handpicked and pressed while still frozen, highly concentrating the juice with its sugars and acidity. These wines are luscious with notes of tropical fruits such as pineapple, guava, passion fruit, and mango.
With each year, Canada continues to prove that it can provide the world with more than just awesome ski resorts and maple syrup. The wines of Canada are receiving more and more attention from wine buyers globally and are now heavily exported throughout the US, Europe, and Asia.