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Canadian Wine -
A Budding Future
wine guycanadian wine - a budding future

November 2002
Unbeknown to most
Canadians have been producing wine for several centuries. However, the thought of premium production from traditional European vinifera vines was given little thought until the mid 1970's. This transformation occurred in 1974 when partners Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser were granted the first Winery license since prohibition (1929). Mr. Kaiser, a native of Austria, had studied winemaking in his homeland, and when he moved to Southern Ontario in 1969, noted the favorable climate and soils of the Niagara Peninsula, were a suited home for Vinifera vines. Their little boutique winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, was called Inniskillin. The vision was to grow and produce only the finest wines from traditional vines, and so the partners became the pioneers for Canada's premium wine evolution.

As this new era emerged in Canadian winemaking, serious thought and research were placed into both the vineyard and vinification of the wines. During the late 1970's, and early 80's, there was rapid growth of many estate wineries, and new vineyard plantings, in both Ontario and British Columbia.

The '90s brought a whirlwind of incredible growth, and international recognition. Commercial wineries grew from 30, to well over 100, consumers gained a newfound appreciation, sales of VQA wines grew from zero to 10 million liters by 2000, vintners arrived from abroad, and international awards were won, beginning with the Grand Prix d'Honneur from Bordeaux, France in '91 for Inniskillin's '89 Icewine. In 1997 Brock University, in Niagara, Ontario, founded the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the first of its kind, graduating students with a B.Sc in Oenology and Viticulture.

Presently, the Canadian Wine Industry is characterized for its ability to produce fine wines, and Icewines with a vast expansion in exports and foreign winery investments. With hundreds of international awards for both Icewine, and table wines, the future for Canadian Wine has never been brighter.

Appellation - Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA)
In 1988, the VQA was formed as a governing body over premium production for Canadian Wine. Representing an appellation of origin system and a symbol of quality, with rules and regulations similar to the (AOC) in France and the (DOC) in Italy. A wine which bears the VQA seal must be 100 % provincial / regional grown (Ontario, British Colombia) grapes, from one of the 7 designated growing regions, and adhere to the rules governing the vineyard, vinification and finally the finished bottled product.

On June 29, 2000, the Ontario VQA received provincial legislation, and is now law.

Wine Regions
Ontario is home to more than 60 VQA devoted wineries, and 13,000 acres of premium grapes, which are located between the 41st and the 44th North Latitude. In Ontario, the VQA recognizes 3 designated grape growing areas - The Niagara Peninsula, Pelee Island, and Lake Erie North Shore. These regions are classified as continental cool climates, with similar growing seasons to Burgundy, Oregon, and New Zealand.

White wine styles - Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc, Red wines styles - Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah

British Columbia houses over 50 VQA wineries, and 5,000 acres of grapes that lie between the 49th and 50th parallel. 4 regions are designated; the Okanagan, Fraser and Similkameen Valleys and Vancouver Island. The Okanagan Valley is the largest region, with over 40 wineries, and its southern half is home to the only semi-dessert in Canada, known as the "Golden Mile". Here the Bordeaux varietals flourish, and have proven themselves over and over again on the international stage.

Icewine was originally developed in the cool-climate regions of Europe, some 200 hundred years ago, and is ideally suited to the climate conditions during Canada's winters. Icewine, is to Canada, what Shiraz is to Australia, Champagne to France, and Zinfandel to California. The general perception of Canada is snow, cold, and ice hockey…Hence Icewine is welcomed with open arms.

Grapes are cloaked with protective netting in the fall, and are left on the vine well after any normal harvest. During this time, grapes are naturally dehydrated, adding concentration of flavours, aromas, sugars, and acids, in the juice. The arduous task of hand harvesting and pressing, takes place at night, when temperatures have dipped below -10C or 15F. Yields are extremely low, 5-10%, as the natural water content (80% of the grape), is left behind in the form of ice crystals.

Rare and treasured, Icewine is characterized as winter's gift to the wine lover, luscious, highly aromatic with refreshed acidity, intense depth of flavours, and superb aging potential. Savour this unadulterated nectar on its own, or as a splendid accompaniment to foie gras, rich veined cheeses, spicy foods, and most fruit based desserts and sauces.

Written By Maria Moessner
, Inniskillin Wines Estate Sommelier

For further information, travel plans, and event details
Inniskillin Wine Estate
Ontario -
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