Wines from Canada
Canadian Wine – the lowdown
The two vineyard regions of Canada are more than 3,000 kilometres apart, which is 50% longer than the width of Europe. Consequently, Ontario in the east and British Columbia in the west have hugely differentiated soils and weather conditions, which are the major influences on how grapevines grow.
Ontario’s vineyards are close to the US border and are divided into three main subregions: Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore and Niagara Peninsula. They all share a cool climate, favouring varieties such as Chardonnay and Riesling – though they also make excellent Gamay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, which wine writer Jamie Goode has singled out as one of their best talents.
“The Canadians have long been proud of their wines and finally this pride is increasingly justified” – Jancis Robinson
The vineyard area of British Columbia is one third the size of its distant eastern neighbour. There are five different appellations here but nearly 90% of the wine comes from the Okanagan Valley, which surrounds the lake of the same name. Dozens of different grape varieties thrive here including Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Due to the cool summer night and warm sunny days, the wines produced are beautifully balanced between ripeness and elegance. A hallmark of Canadian wines.
"For me wine is the three 'P's': the place, the people and the product. British Columbia ticks all these boxes with exuberance, elegance and conviction." - Steven Spurrier
One of Canada’s best-known styles is Icewine, which is made in both regions. It’s a lusciously sweet style made from grapes that have frozen on the vine, and produces a wine of remarkable intensity. However, it is the dry reds and whites that are garnering the most accolades in recent years, and as their reputation grows wine enthusiasts are realising there’s more to Canadian wines than icewines.
The Pennachetti family have been making wine in Niagara since the 1920s. In 1973, they planted the first vines at Cave Spring estate, and today the third generation farm the same land.
They were among the first in the region to realise the potential of Riesling. Their vineyards are composed of limestone, shale and sandstone and the proximity to the lake echoes the riverside viticulture of Germany. They now have 66.5 hectares of vines, and in addition to Riesling they grow Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer.
“Cave Spring Rieslings are outstanding: intricate, concentrated, detailed, expressive and limpid” - Andrew Jefford
A minimal intervention philosophy in the vineyard and winery ensures that varietal purity and a strong sense of place is manifested across the whole range. They are also conscious of the importance of sustainability, creating their own compost on site, altering their vineyard treatment programmes to reduce their carbon footprint, and ensuring they use lightweight glass bottles to minimise their impact on the environment.
“There’s probably no better estate than this in all of Canada, given its long track record for excellence” – Ian D’Agata
Based near the south shore of Lake Ontario, this biodynamic estate is hugely respected throughout the wine world, winning Canadian Winery of the Year three times, appearing on the cover of Decanter in the UK for producing one of the outstanding Chardonnays outside of Burgundy.
Founded by Moray Tawse in 2005, he aims to unite traditional winemaking techniques with state of the art technology to create wines of exceptional elegance, depth and character.
“A taut mineral nose and a fresh lemony palate this is really impressive, linear Chardonnay with amazing finesse…..a stunning effort” Jamie Goode
By farming biodynamically and organically, Tawse aim to produce the most honest reflection of their terroir. This practice treats the vineyard as a holistic system, requiring a sensitivity towards the environment that is believed to imbue the wine with particular purity and expressiveness. They produce as many as thirty different wines, with different cuvées of Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir made to reflect particular vineyard blocks.
“A brilliant Chardonnay – this should take the place of a Premier Cru Meursault on a wine list” Steven Spurrier
Established in 1927, Tantalus is proud to call itself the ‘oldest continuously producing vineyard in British Columbia’. The current team took over the estate in 2004, with a determination to focus on Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
They own 17 hectares of vineyard with the earliest plantings dating back to 1978. To ensure the best possible quality for their grapes, Tantalus don’t use any herbicides and have developed areas of natural forest to promote the biodiversity of their ecosystem. Their range includes icewine and sparkling wine, but they are probably best known for their dry Rieslings which are widely respected in Canada and, increasingly, internationally.
Based due east of Lake Okanagan, Tantalus are also known for their LEED-certified winery building, designed and constructed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and which includes a renowned tasting room with commanding views over the lake.
“I was seriously impressed by the BC Rieslings – not least Tantalus” - Jancis Robinson
Since its inception in 2006, La Stella has been inspired by an Italian philosophy. They are situated in south Okanagan, close to Lake Osoyoos, and make wines that pay homage to the great estates of Italy.
The reds are styled on super-Tuscan originals. Using the Bordeaux varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc plus a little Sangiovese, they produce bold and flavoursome reds that have attracted high scores from wine critics around the world. Their grapes are sourced from six different vineyards, each of which brings different qualities to their blends.
Le Vieux Pin are dedicated to making wines that capture the essence of French winemaking tradition, but with the fruit and character of the New World. Their range of wines takes inspiration from famous French regions – especially the Rhone. As a result, the focus is cool climate Syrah made to bring the elegance of the varietal to the forefront.
To fully realise the quality they are aiming for, winemaking at Le Vieux Pin is meticulous and considered – they have even been known to de-stem grapes by hand to keep the fruit in pristine condition. The very best wines of each vintage are labelled as the Équinoxe range and have received high critical acclaim.
“Remarkable wines from British Columbia. Especially the Rhonies; scented Syrahs” - Steven Spurrier