Canadian Wines and Grape Varieties

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007 at 12:00 am

ice wineCanada has a stable wine industry. The country has been engaged in wine production since the 1800s. But it was only in the 1980s that the country began exporting their quality wines, expanding their products to wine connoisseurs around the world.

Although, most of Canada is considered too cold to plant and grow grapes, there are still enough areas in the country where climate is favorable. Generally, temperatures will drop just enough during fruit-ripening seasons allowing the vines to be exposed to long hours of sunshine creating a richer and fuller tasting wine.

Early vintners tried their hand with the Vitis vinifera grape varieties that came from Europe. They were, however, disappointed with the yield of the variety. Soon, they were found out that local and native species of Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia were better.

Today, most commonly grown varieties in Canadian vineyards are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc and Riesling. These varieties entered the Canadian wine industry in the 1970s and 1980s. These varieties seem to be the most ideal in Canadian climate.

Wines that are cultivated in the colder parts of Canada are more acidic and aromatic than those from hotter areas of the country. It is a common belief among wine makers that the colder the climate, the more fruitier and lighter the resulting wines would be. Wines from colder climates are also more aromatic and has longer aging potential.

Canada is also known for its Icewine. Together with German’s Eiswein or icewine, Canadian ice wine is the most famous and most expensive ice wines in the world. To the uninitiated, ice wine is a kind of dessert wine created from extracting the juices of grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The fact that water freezes while the sugars and other dissolved solids in the grapes do not, squeezing the frozen grapes will produce a highly concentrated sweet wine with high acidity.

The Vidal and Riesling grape varieties are most commonly used to produce ice wine. Recently, however, vintners are utilizing Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay for ice wine production.

Among the White table wine varieties that are popular in Canada today include Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Viognier. Reds meanwhile include Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Noir, Maréchal Foch, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah or Shiraz.

For sparkling wines, Canadian vintners have found out that more suitable varieties to create great sparkling whites include Riesling and Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. For sparkling reds, wine makers will usually settle for Gamay Noir.

Aside from these common varieties, there are some types of grapes that are slowly becoming popular among Canadian vineyards. The Syrah or Shiraz is a variety that finds its place in warmer climates. This variety has been cultivated because of its capability of producing premium wines. Other new whites that have entered the scene are the Gewürztraminers from Niagara, and the aromatic Sauvignon Blancs from Ontario.


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