Canada’s wineries are becoming increasingly focused on specific grape varieties as the country’s wine industry matures.
Speaking to the drinks business at the annual Wines of Canada tasting at the Canadian High Commission, several producers voiced the opinion that there was an increasing amount of specialisation and that Canada was “more than just icewine”.
“Ontario is very similar to parts of the New World where there’s a lot of cellar door sales,” said Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook Vineyards.
“That approach rewards having a lot of varieties but it’s not good for focus. Specialisation is catching on though.”
Norman Hardie of Norman Hardie Winery added that plants are increasingly “getting to the right spot” and this was reflected in the growing quality and consistency of the wines.
He added that there was a “big emphasis” on Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc (when it came to the best red varieties) and that Cabernet Sauvignon was much more site specific.
Stephen Gash, managing director of Malivoire, told db that Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator had caused something of a stir a few years ago when he announced that the grape with the best potential in Ontario was Gamay – of which a little is planted (mostly by Malivoire) though plantings are apparently growing.
Nonetheless, Hardie pointed out that the long growing season meant that Canadian regions could handle a relatively diverse array of varieties.
Giving a wider overview of the tasting, Janet Dorozynski, global practice lead for beer, wine and spirits at the Global Business Opportunities Bureau, told db that while Canada had built up a “strong image for icewine, many producers see Canada as being more than that.
“We’re a modern industry, only 20-25 years old but we’re learning more, we’re a country of experimentation and, if I can use the analogy, we’re beyond the awkward teenage years.”
As well as the main varieties being shown at the tasting, Dorozynski also spoke of the potential for Canadian sparkling wines and rosé in the UK – two of the most popular and fastest growing categories – while admitting that it would not be easy to sell Canadian wine in great volume.
“The focus is the on-trade and independent merchants, not supermarkets. It’s expensive in Canada, land, labour and production costs are high. It’s not like South Africa or Chile.
“But we’re not competing in the £5 category, we can’t, but many of the wines are worth it.”