Time to decide what Canada does best in wine – Aug. 23, 2014

By Anthony Gismondi

In the wake of Junea��s WineAlign National Wine Awards ita��s time to look ahead to where Canadian wine is headed.
Based on the last decade, it is clear production will continue to rise and, likely, so will prices.

There is nothing cheap about domestic wine any more and at present prices wineries should be prepared for some serious pushback from competing imports. In fact the majority of small local producers have entered into the rarefied air of the $20-plus category, a market that is small, discriminating and, frankly, fickle.

Ita��s going to take some heavy lifting to stay at this level, including finally coming to grips with the export market where we have barely scratched the surface. There is plenty we can offer the world even if we have yet to decide exactly what it is we do best.

Interestingly, the more we improve the harder it is to decide on what might be our best grapes. We are getting closer to those answers and after the awards were over I asked a number of judges from across the country if they would share their views with me about what they thought we were doing best.

Quebec City food and wine blogger Remy Charest suggests: a�?Riesling and Syrah are shining, and providing the most complex and exciting wines across Canada followed by Chardonnay and to a lesser extent cabernet franc and Pinot Noir.a�?

But he was equally excited by the growing diversity of offerings including a�?Delicious tannat, melon de Bourgogne, verdejo, albariA�o blends, well-crafted reds from Marquette or remarkably fine maple wines. Ita��s good to see more clarity and focus, year after year.a�?

Janet Dorozynski, an Ottawa-based judge who works with Canadian embassies around the world, said: a�?Chardonnay and Riesling continue to prove the most reliable and exciting, whereas for reds, Syrah continues to shine. There were also a number of impressive traditional method sparkling wines, which given that most (if not all) of Canadaa��s wine regions are cool climate areas, this is a style that makes sense and whose quality improves by leaps and bounds each year.a�?

Toronto wine writer and sage David Lawrason said: a�?There is always palpable expectation and excitement in the judging room when certain flights are encountered: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling, Chardonnay and sparkling leap to mind, with Gamay and even cab franc joining the list this year. Overall these varieties have provided more pleasure and excitement year after year, and this makes them, in my mind, Canadaa��s best varieties coast to coast.a�?

a�?We are becoming a confident wine country a�� you can feel and taste it in our wines like never before,a�? said Vancouver wine educator D.J. Kearney.

She was particularly impressed by a number of Rhone-styled wines. a�?Planted in the right sites, Viognier, Marsanne and roussanne are responsible for some of my highest scores, most lavish notes, and the best wines will blossom in the bottle for several more years. Likewise, Syrah is simply going from strength to strength, and not just in B.C., but Niagara too.a�?

Calgary wine buyer Brad Royale said: a�?Judging these awards over the years Ia��ve seen a wonder in advancement with purity of varietal, oak use and, most importantly, a sense of place. It is much easier now to identify Prince Edward County versus Niagara Peninsula versus Naramata Bench … this is any wine producing countrya��s goal, and wea��re well on our way.a�?

Toronto master sommelier John Szabo was on about the large number of sub-region, and vineyard-designated wines entered that point to a growing confidence among winegrowers in their grapes.

a�?Winemaking is being relegated to a supporting role whose sole purpose is to make the place a�� a special parcel, or a unique sub-area a�� shine. Ita��s a clear sign of a maturing industry and a turning point from chasing a style to creating a style.a�?
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