Description 1 of 2
Ontario is the most productive wine-producing province within Canada, accounting for the majority of its wines. Though it is located in the middle of the world’s “wine belt,” at 41 - 44 degrees N (the same as Tuscany, Burgundy, and Oregon), the climate is a bit cooler. But it is still very well suited to grape-growing. Four of the Great Lakes (Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Superior) are in Ontario, as well dozens of freshwater lakes, providing plenty of irrigation. Most of the vineyards are situated in the south, parallelling the US border, along the shorelines of Lakes Erie and Ontario, where it is most warm. The soils are a combination of glacial sediment and clay-loam.
The Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) of Ontario regulates the labeling and quality of the wines. For a single varietal to be declared on a label, the wine must be 85% of that varietal. Labrusca varietals had been the norm for grape plantings, as in most of Canada, due to their hardiness in cold climates. But modern production techniques have made it easier to work with vinifera plantings, and much of the labrusca has been pulled in favor of these. The three most popular enduring labrusca are Baco Noir, Vidal, and Maréchal Foch.
Ontario first became known for quality Rieslings, produced in styles that run the gamut from dry to sweet, much as they do in Germany and Austria. Of course, getting as cold as it does means this is a great place for Icewines, with a full freeze on late harvest grapes by mid-December/early January. The wines are produced while the grapes are still frozen, and the sugars and flavors are fully concentrated and preserved. The Niagara Peninsula appellation within Ontario is best known for its Icewine production from Riesling as well as Vidal and Chardonnay. A regional specialty is Chardonnay Musque, which is a sparkling Chardonnay Icewine.
Besides the aforementioned varietals, others produced here are Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. For reds, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are popular. Cabernet Franc, is perhaps the standout red varietal, often produced as a single varietal, with a range of styles from young, light, fruity and herbal to oak-aged, full-bodied and concentrated. Some red late harvest and Icewines have also been successful from Cabernet Franc.
Ontario is divided into four subregions:
*Niagara Peninsula: best known for its Icewines, experimental modern productions, and largest range of styles.
*Lake Erie North Shore: with its sunny exposures and excellent grape (and other fruit) growing conditions.
*Pelee Island: the warmest appellation, that is even known to grow sun-loving Tempranillo. Home to Canada’s first commercial winery, Vin Villa, opened in 1866.
*Prince Edward County: This area was hit the hardest by Canadian Prohibition, being the first to enact the ban in 1901 and the last to repeal in 1948. It is now making up for lost time, and is the fastest growing region in the country, given its appellation status in 2007. A great range of varietals and styles are now produced there, in the warmest areas on the north-eastern shores of Lake Ontario. ~Amanda Schuster
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Description 2 of 2
, Canada’s land of sparkling waters, is the second largest province in the nation encompassing, 1.1 million sq. km. The province has a relationship with wine production dating back to the early 1800’s. For nearly two hundred years Ontario’s wine industry has grown and matured by stops-and-starts, never more rapidly than in the last decade or so. The province has three official Designated Viticultural Areas, or DVAs: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island. Together these three regions are responsible for 90% of the grape production. The majority of wineries are found in the southern extreme of the province, beginning in the east between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and running westward as far as Lake Huron. In this part of the province growers take advantage of the moderate climate that is enhanced by the Great Lakes, and fertile soils which have long been home to orchard crops. The resulting fruit is both mature and complex. While production is focused on VQA approved vinifera varietals, there are many wineries that continue to work with ecologically suitable hybrids such as Baco Noir and Marchel Foch. With an industry dedicated to continued improvemnets in quality standards, Ontario wine producers are at last making a mark on the global wine scene.
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