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
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
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
On June 29, 2000, the Ontario VQA received provincial legislation,
and is now law.
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
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 - www.wineroute.com
British Colombia - www.winebc.com