Canadian wine has come of age. Although Canada has been making wine for some time, there has been a real expansion over the last 20 years leading to a growing reputation for wines that combine the fruit brightness of the new world with the cool climate sensibility of many of the old world’s classic regions.
Many people think of Canada as a cold northern country, and so it’s not surprising that the success of its Icewines has overshadowed other developments. But now the dry table wines and sparkling wines being produced here have caught peoples’ attention.
There are four main wine regions, with the two major regions of British Columbia and Ontario spread far apart. Out west we have the Okanagan Valley, some five hours’ drive or a short flight from Vancouver. Based along two long lakes, there are a variety of climates here, ranging from cool in the north to positively warm in the south, abutting the US border.
Then heading to the east, a 90 minute drive south from Toronto, we have the Niagara Peninsula, relying on a large lake to moderate winter lows and summer highs. Both regions share a cool climate sensibility. In addition, further east there’s Quebec and Nova Scotia, the latter of which is establishing a reputation for its sparkling wines.
Here are some highlights, now available in the UK, selected by Jamie Goode.
Feature produced in association with the High Commission of Canada in the UK
Landscape photography by Jamie Goode
Benjamin Bridge Brut Rosé 2016 Nova Scotia, Canada
From one of the top fizz producers of Canada, this is fruity and expressive on the nose with sappy, leafy cherry fruit, a touch of redcurrant fruit and some wet stone character. The palate is bright and focused with sappy red fruits. This is very refined.
Peller Estates Ice Cuvée Rosé NV Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Traditional method with Gamay providing the colour, and a dosage of ice wine for the liqueur d’expedition. Very pale pink in colour. Distinctive nose is fruity and jellyish with some melon and apricot, as well as a touch of cherry. The palate is bright and lively with an emphasis on fruit, showing cherry, melon and pear.
Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2018 Niagara Escarpment, Canada
Attractive nose with ripe pear and peach fruit as well as a hint of butterscotch. The palate has depth with some peachy richness and notes of nuts and honey, but also nice acidity and focus. Very stylish and expressive, with depth and complexity.
Agent: Daniel Lambert Wines
Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2016 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Intense nose with powerful lime oil and lemon notes as well as some spicy struck-match notes and a hint of toast. The palate has keen acidity, more lemon and lime, some toast and hazelnut, and then a tapering, spicy, mineral finish, together with a hint of gun smoke
Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2018 Okanagan Valley, Canada
There’s some generosity here with pear and pineapple fruit, as well as some lemony notes on the nose. On the palate it’s fleshy and also fresh, with lovely expansive tropical fruit richness countered by bright citrus, and just a hint of toasty, spicy oak.
Agent: Stephen Neumann, Brand Ambassador, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, email@example.com
Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2018 Okanagan Valley, Canada
This is an ambitious and well-executed Chardonnay with sophisticated barrel-ferment characters of nuts and toast meshing well with ripe but balanced pear and white peach fruit, with a spicy citrus finish. Savoury mealy, nutty notes add real interest here.
Agent: Berkmann Wine Cellars
Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2019 Okanagan Valley, Canada
13% alcohol. This comes from the south (Osoyoos and Oliver) and the middle (Naramata) of the Okanagan. It has a lively acid line with lovely pear, pineapple and lemon fruit, with some spiciness and a touch of cedary oak. But the emphasis is firmly on the fruit here: it’s detailed, nicely complex and a little grainy in texture. A really lovely, bright expression of Chardonnay.
Bachelder Wismer-Parke Pinot Noir 2019 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Long ageing in mostly older oak, from a really interesting site 5 km from the lake at 110 m, with clay-limestone soils rich in magnesium. It’s fresh, pure, detailed and nervy with sweet red cherry and redcurrant fruit as well as notes of iron and dried herbs, as well as good acidity and a fresh but silky mouthfeel.
Agent: Liberty Wines
Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2018 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
From a 10.45 ha vineyard planted in 2000 and 2001 with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Some post ferment maceration, and aged in 25% new oak. This is a supple, well balanced Pinot with a core of sweet red cherry fruit, some wild strawberry and also some savoury, spicy oak notes adding some structure and framing to the vivid fruit. This is sophisticated and gastronomic, and I’d give it a couple of years to let the fruit and oak marry into a seamless whole. There’s a delicacy here that’s quite compelling.
Agent: Liberty Wines
Haywire Gamay 2018
Haywire Gamay 2018 Okanagan, Canada 12.5% alcohol. From the Secrest Mountain Vineyard in Oliver, in the south of the Okanagan. This is a mix of destemmed and whole cluster fruit, fermented naturally in concrete and then aged in concrete. It shows lovely aromatics of red cherries and strawberries, together with some fine herbal hints – the green integrates well. On the palate this is quite light, sappy and drinkable, with pure red fruits and some fine herbal hints. Very expressive and bright with nice clarity and poise, and some stony mineral undercurrents. Lovely stuff.
Checkmate Opening Gambit Merlot 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
14.5% alcohol. Interesting to try this ambitious Merlot with a bit of bottle age. It’s sweetly aromatic with hints of ash, gravel and mint as well as sweet cherries, plums and blackcurrant. The palate is smooth and resolved with sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, as well as touches of tar and spice. There’s still some grippy structure here. Sleek, warm and polished and beginning to drink very well, in a lush, forward style.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Classique 2017 Okanagan Valley, Canada
This spends 18 months in French oak, of which a quarter is new. Fresh and supple with some peppery notes as well as sweet black cherry fruit. Lively and fresh with some depth on the palate, showing ripe black cherry fruit at the core and also some salty, peppery notes around the fringes.
Painted Rock Red Icon 2017 Skaha Bench, Okanagan Valley, Canada
This ripe, expansive Bordeaux Blend has quite a bit of Petit Verdot in the mix, as well as a touch of Syrah. It’s rich, smooth and mellow with concentrated, sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit as well as some grainy tannins and hints of ash, gravel and tar adding some savouriness. It’s texturally rich, but finishes with some freshness.
Agent: The Wine Treasury
Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2020 Ontario, Canada
One of the few remaining hybrid varieties in Niagara. This is juicy and bright with a meaty edge to the sweet brambly fruit. There’s a hint of bacon, and the palate has both sweet fruit and also some spicy framing. Juicy and delicious with accessibility and drinkability.
Agent: Wine Rascals
Stratus Riesling Icewine 2020 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
It’s unusual to find an ice wine with this much alcohol (13.8%), but the result is a stylish, vinous ice wine with textured, spicy citrus fruit, a hint of baked apple, some honey and a long spicy finish. There’s a warmth and intensity here.
Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2019 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Cherry red in colour, this has a pure, aromatic nose of wild strawberries and cherries, with a slightly jelly-like edge. The palate is fresh, sweetly fruited and very sweet, with some acidity providing a foil to the liqueur-like cherry and strawberry fruit. Has a long stewed strawberry finish. This is a beautifully balanced, complex sweet wine. Quite remarkable.
Agent: Liberty Wines
Wines of Canada Tasting
Tuesday and Wednesday, 10th and 11th May, 2022
Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London SW1Y 5BJ
Registration compulsory via www.canadatasting.co.uk
What indie retailers say about Canada
Monta Konrads, Vinvm, London
“Canada is an exciting cool climate wine region with many delicious high quality wines to offer. Well known for their icewines, we find that Canada is gaining recognition for other styles too such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. With consumers always looking for new and fascinating wines, Canadian wines are on top of our recommendation lists and once opened they speak for themselves.”
Ben Franks, Novel Wines, Bath
“The exciting thing about Canadian wines is they offer quality additions to our fine wine list and come with an established trust for Canada as a brand. In the UK market, Canada is best known for icewines, which are traditionally expensive, so there isn’t an expectation that Canadian wines come cheaply and this makes pricing the wines easier than other long-distance imports like premium South American or Asian wines.
“Our Haywire wines, the Gamay especially, have a natural fruit intensity that’s balanced by beautiful acidity thanks to Okanagan’s diurnal range and continental climate, giving our list a snapshot of something different that sits between the best of Beaujolais and new world Pinot-style wines. That something different and consistent quality are two big plus points for a retailer like us, specialising in lesser known wines.”