Canada is a fairly new wine region in the grand scheme of things. The leading wine style that has made Canada famous is Ice Wine – a style of wine traditionally made in Germany. Unlike Germany, Canada can guarantee enough frost to make this style of wine every year and in large quantities. These Ice Wines are made throughout Canada but are mostly found in the eastern region of Ontario, and are made from many grapes including Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.
Outside of Ice wine production, Canada is making quite a variety of white wines and lighter red wines across the country.
Main Grapes or styles
Vidal Blanc – is a hybrid grape varietal that is the predominate grape variety behind the fair majority of the country’s Ice Wine production. It is a white grape with flavours of tree- and stone-fruit flavours and is perfectly suited to the Ice Wine production, less so for dry table wines.
Chardonnay – is one of the leading white grape varietals that are making some very Burgundian-like wines. As Canada is fairly cold, Chardonnay is planted in the warmest sites and produces wines that are a mix between California and Burgundy Chardonnays. They have flavours of peaches and citrus fruits with a yeasty, nutty aroma profile. It is also important in sparkling and sweet wine production.
Pinot Noir – is by far the most important red grape varietal that is used in the country’s top red wines. As Canada is such a cool climate it isn’t really suited to grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, which have thicker skins and need warmer sites to ripe. Pinot Noir is planted throughout the country, mainly in Ontario, and produces wines that are both fruit-forward and more floral and savoury like classic Burgundy wines.
Riesling – is the grape behind the country’s best sweet wines and many of the leading dry white wines too. It is still small in plantings but is growing every year as it is one of the only wine-grape vines that are best suited to cold climates, naturally.
Ontario – is in the east of Canada and centre around Lake Ontario and the Niagara Falls. Much of Ontario’s wine production is made up of sweet wines. Though the country’s best Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Rieslings are found here also.
The leading sub-region is Niagara Peninsula.
British Columbia – is on the western side of Canada, close to the capital of Vancouver. Here it is warmer than Ontario and can get very warm in the height of summer. Many Rieslings, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay vines are planted here, the top wines are often made from Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.
The leading sub-region is Okanagan Valley.
Overall climate – how it effects the wines
Canada overall has a cool climate with a risk of frost in the winter time. The majority of the wine regions are found on the USA border – so aren’t too far north where frost and snow are constant issues. Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley are much warmer with irrigation needed in the dry plains – often regarded as having semi-desert conditions in the height of summer. The cool to warm climate results in crisp, dry white wines and light, refreshing red wines.