Canadian Wine: A Guide to the Country’s Tasty Delights

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From incredible landscapes to world-class cities, Canada has a lot to offer. Add to that a respectable wine scene and you have every reason to plan a hike in the Great White North, glass in hand.

Most turn to whiskey or a good Bloody Caesar when they think of Canadian beverages, but the wine landscape is quite significant. Hundreds of growers dot the map, from rolling hills near Lake Ontario in the east to high-growth dessert areas like British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Even better, many of the best places for Canadian wine are right across the border, a convenient exit from many of our major metropolitan areas.

Facebook/Ontario Wine Region

The lion’s share comes from Ontario, the province renowned for its Icewine. And while Canada is the world leader in this particular style of cold-climate dessert wine, which is often syrupy and sweet, it also makes many other styles, especially in its southern parts. People are increasingly looking to the land both for improved versions of reliable hybrid grapes and for new perspectives involving iconic varietals.

Ontario

Ontario’s oldest and best-known designation (referred to here as Geographical Indications) is the Niagara Peninsula. Located at the foot of Lake Ontario, it is home to glacial soils, a cooling effect from the nearby lake and ten sub-appellations. It’s just a short hop across the border to the Finger Lakes wine region, one of the most famous in New York State. The main grape varieties here are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. Caves stack up here, located directly on the lake and moving inland higher on a bench. If you like clean wines with nice acidity and freshness, this is a prime spot. It has also become home to a fine bubbly scene with a keen interest in Pet-Nat wines. It is not uncommon to come across plantations of Cabernet Sauvignon and Baco Noir too, not forgetting Vidal, grown almost exclusively for icewine.

There is also the north shore of Lake Erie and Prince Edward County. In total, about 60% of Canadian wine comes from this province, which benefits from good soil and the microclimates and breezes associated with the nearby large lakes. For city dwellers, there are quite a few close to bustling Toronto, including some urban operations within the city limits. Consider having your home base in town and a day-long escape to wineries and tasting rooms. We like Sandbanks Wine Estate, Southbrook Farms Winery for its impeccably modern facility (and fun orange wines, among other things), and Iniskillin if you can’t resist the rich culture of Icewine. But there are countless options to choose from, so follow your palate.

British Columbia

The west coast of Canada is a bit different, geology and wine wise, to name a few. Much of the wine region here is inland in dry, sunny valleys. It is warm enough here for wines like syrah, pinot gris, merlot, malbec, sauvignon blanc, semillon, etc. It is home to the country’s second largest wine region in the Okanagan Valley, where about 8 out of 10 bottles produced in British Columbia come from. In the mid-1970s (it’s a young industry here too, much like the United States, largely affected by prohibition), growers began to have luck with white grapes like Gewurztraminer and the scene started to take shape.

A scene from the Okanagan Valley.
Facebook/British Columbia Wines

There are now some 200 wineries here and now 11 sub-appellations, having approved half a dozen earlier this year. It’s arguably the most exciting place on the Canadian wine list, rapidly evolving and producing great wines along the way. Much of it is near the border, making it a pretty convenient weekend hike for folks in places like Seattle and Vancouver.

Tastemakers of note include the State-of-the-art cellars in Lake Country, excellent Pinot Noir and Riesling courtesy of Martin’s Alleyand desert hills, known for its Gamay Noir, Zinfandel and some choice Viognier. As always, grab a map and ask around if you have the chance to go. For accommodation, consider Watermark Beach Resort and The Cove Lakeside Resort in Kelowna.

Other

Quebec and Nova Scotia are also home to vineyards and wineries, but in much smaller numbers. You will find grape varieties such as Maréchal Foch and Seyval Blanc, as well as wines ranging from dry or sparkling to sweet or fortified. Quebec now has more than 100 producers, with the Eastern Townships being the most concentrated, located in the southern part of the province. As you can imagine, there is a fair amount of winemaking history here, dating back to the era of French exploration in the 18th century. It’s a very short growing season here, so often hybrid grapes are used and some growers even go out of their way to warm the ground during certain times of the year.

Find it here

If a trip to Canada isn’t planned, you can probably find solid wines from our northern neighbors at your favorite local bottle store. Wines from the Okanagan Valley and Niagara regions are increasingly in demand, which means more options nationwide at wine shops and restaurants.

And, given the regulations at the border (which are quite restrictive), you might want to get Canadian wine this way, whether you’re traveling or not, because it’s often cheaper or at least cheaper. brain teaser. One more reason to drink Canadian wine? Labeling standards are among the strictest and most honest for any wine, meaning you’ll enjoy exactly what’s listed on the bottle of your choice.

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