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Re: [nafex] Ontario's New Wine Industry
I was very impressed by some of the local Canadian wines I brought back from
my Toronto visit.
----- Original Message -----
From: "victoria l. caron" <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 5:49 AM
Subject: [nafex] Ontario's New Wine Industry
> Here is an article from a news site to which I am subscribed. To open
> articles a password is needed, so I copied it to pass it on.
> September 17 ,2001
> Canada's Wine-Producing Region a Climatic Wonder
> By Lesley Wroughton
> NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario (Reuters) - Along the southwest
> shore of
> Lake Ontario, between Niagara Falls and Toronto, lies a
> little-known climatic
> wonder attracting vintners from around the world.
> A 5-mile by 45-mile shelf along the Niagara escarpment
> mimics optimum
> grape-growing conditions of France's Burgundy region for the
> short Canadian
> Warm air from the lake bounces off the escarpment above the
> providing a temperate moderate climate that produces
> European-style wines.
> Now a tiny industry better known for winter-season ice wines
> is flourishing, with
> new vineyards opening and vintners from France, Australia
> and elsewhere
> coming to test their skills in what could be the next New
> World growth market
> after Australia and New Zealand.
> Large French and American companies are also investing in
> the region like
> Boisset, Burgundy's largest wine producer.
> Hard to believe in a country known more for its picturesque
> snow-covered vistas
> than delicate bouquets of Chardonnay and Riesling. But the
> enthusiasm of the
> newcomers tells the story.
> A new 20-year growth strategy by the Wine Council of Ontario
> hopes to open
> new markets after years of efforts to develop this unlikely
> wine region.
> The plan sees Ontario's wine industry growing to $961
> million over the next two
> decades from the current $220 million -- still small when
> compared with
> California, whose wines reached a retail value of $13
> billion in 2000.
> The growth has seen many new wineries open in the past year
> including Peller
> Estate, Jackson-Triggs and Peninsula Ridge. An agri-tourism
> industry is
> blossoming alongside 60 wineries, with accommodations and
> restaurants that
> have attracted top chefs.
> Jean-Pierre Colas, a Frenchman who worked with masters of
> Burgundy, was
> skeptical when he first visited the region that was once
> considered the purveyor
> of plonk, or cheap table wine.
> Colas, whose intense eyes peer out from wire-rimmed
> spectacles, was headed
> for Chile in 1999 to try out winemaking in a country whose
> techniques had long
> intrigued him when he accepted an invitation from Canadian
> Norman Beal.
> Beal, a former oil commodities trader in New York, was
> looking for a vintner to
> put his newly acquired Peninsula Ridge vineyard on the
> global map. Colas
> came, saw the soil and unique grape-growing conditions, and
> was convinced.
> "It is not really a style, it's a philosophy, and first it
> is the grapes," says Colas who
> was amazed by the knowledge of the local grape growers about
> "This area is very special, unlike in Europe where we grow
> one varietal, here we
> can grow everything and the results are great everywhere."
> NEW WINE MARKETS
> That a talent such as Colas, former head winemaker of
> Chablis house Domaine
> Laroche in France, believed in the region showed the
> potential for Niagara
> Peninsula to expand its product beyond its internationally
> acclaimed ice wines.
> A sweet dessert wine produced from grapes left on the vine
> through the first hard
> frost, the ice wines of Ontario compete with German and
> Austrian eiswein,
> although they only won entry to the European market in
> March. Now Ontario is
> looking to increase its ice wine production five-fold from a
> current 70,000 cases.
> A half bottle of ice wine sells for about $29.
> But Colas thinks he can produce table wines that are equal
> to or even better than
> those of other New World regions.
> At Peninsula Ridge, a short drive from Toronto and Niagara
> Falls, he combines
> his French-inspired expertise with stainless steel vats and
> oak barrels in a cellar
> designed with equipment from Europe.
> Using his hands to gesticulate his passion for his work,
> Colas speaks in
> French-accented English about the challenge of starting from
> scratch in such a
> viticultural outpost.
> The quality of his first vintage surprised him: a Sauvignon
> Blanc and Chardonnay
> of notable body and flavor.
> DEVELOPING WINE WORLD
> Canadians have been making wine since the early 1800's but
> not until the last
> decade has the industry focused on quality, due to economic
> realities shaped by
> trade agreements and increased foreign competition.
> Elsewhere in Canada, British Columbia on the Pacific coast
> has a thriving but
> smaller industry.
> For many years local Ontario winemakers used grapes from
> native species,
> among them Vitis Labrusca, which produced brands like a
> mediocre pink bubbly
> called Baby Duck -- for years Ontario's best selling wine.
> In 1988 the Ontario government limited the use of Labrusca
> grapes, and the
> federal government offered wineries funding to replace it
> with the more accepted
> Vitis Vinifera from Europe, which includes Chardonnay and
> At the time, several wineries voluntarily adopted the
> Vintners Quality Alliance
> (VQA) appellation system which has since been put into law
> that sets standards
> for quality and specifies a wine's origin.
> Australian Phillip Dowell is the new winemaker at
> Inniskillin, probably Canada's
> best known winery, whose founders Donald Ziraldo and Karl
> Kaiser were
> granted in 1975 the first new commercial wine license in
> Ontario since before
> the Depression.
> Like Colas, Dowell, who came from the Yarra Valley in
> Australia's Victoria state,
> was surprised by wines already produced in the region.
> "Niagara has now to substantiate itself to the rest of the
> world as a bone fide
> wine growing region," he said. "They are doing that with ice
> wines but are now
> also having to establish that with the table wines."
> A STYLE OF ITS OWN
> But Dowell says the local wine industry needs to develop a
> style it can call its
> "This is the most continental of any region in the world
> that can produce many
> styles of wines and qualities -- and that creates the
> uniqueness of character of
> the region, and that is where you start to develop the
> region's style," he said.
> Dowell says he was impressed by the standards of winemaking
> in Niagara and
> is boldly experimenting with Shiraz that his native
> Australia is best known for. "If
> we can ripen Merlot here, there is no reason why we can't
> ripen Shiraz," he said.
> Len Pennacheti, owner of Cave Spring winery and President of
> the VQA,
> believes the industry is finally coming of age.
> "We didn't have high quality grapes available to us as an
> industry because we
> didn't think we could grow them," he says. "Now it is a
> matter of convincing the
> marketplace that we are serious, that our wines aren't
> The tall, dark-haired native of Niagara says the region has
> to learn to focus on
> wines it produces well. "We need to find an emblematic grape
> varietal like New
> Zealand has done with Sauvignon Blanc and my money is on
> "Riesling has been an ugly duckling grape variety for
> decades. In Australia they
> put it in different packages and don't call it Riesling. We
> proudly put Riesling in a
> classic bottle and sell it as a kick-ass varietal."
> Paul Speck, owner of Henry of Pelham winery says the
> industry's transition
> happened with the VQA.
> "The industry has a little more meat on the bones than it
> did 10 years ago," says
> Speck, whose winery started in a barn making 2,000 cases and
> now produces
> 75,000 cases.
> He believes that ice wine will continue to open doors. "If
> we take the same
> focused approached using ice wine as the door opener
> internationally and
> following it up with our Chardonnays and Rieslings, we will
> impress them."
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