Canadian wines for all occasions

I was invited for a second time by CJAD host Sharman Yarnell to do a wine-related bit on her Saturday-morging show called Showtime. And since our little chat was to air soon after Canada Day (and Quebec City’s 400th anniversary, by the way), she thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the state of Canadian wines today – and also, at the state of Canadian wine availability in Quebec.

One great question she asked me was if Canadian wines can provide all the styles of wines you would want. I said yes, and after thinking about it, after taping the interview a few days ago, I’m even more convinced.

One of the wines I mentioned from the outset was Osoyoos Larose’s Le Grand Vin, a solid Bordeaux-style blend (merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot) produced in the Okanagan Valley, whose 2004 vintage sells for just above 40 dollars at SAQ. It’s a great example of the big, structured wines that can come out of the BC vineyards, and that are able to compete with similar wines from around the world.

In a completely different style, Le Clos Jordanne is producing some of the most subtle chardonnay and pinot noir in the Niagara valley. The vineyards are still young, but the wines already show great promise, with beautiful, light-colored pinots that could pass for great Burgundy, and mineral, lively chardonnay reminiscent of chablis.

Heck, you can even find some chardonnay at Vignoble Les Pervenches, in Farnham, on of the best vineyards in Quebec. Light-bodied, of course (climate change hasn’t turned us into California yet), but well-defined and tasting of actual chardonnay. And the reds from this organically-managed vineyards, like the delightful Solinou, made from quite a blend of grapes (Frontenac, maréchal foch, baco noir, seyval noir and zweigelt), are also something to watch for, a sign that Quebec vineyards are coming into their own.

While wine lovers from the rest of Canada must absolutely come to Quebec to taste these emerging wines, Quebecers are still only getting a small taste of the vast, fast-growing Canadian production. At SAQ, only a handful of producers from Ontario and BC are represented on a regular basis, like Inniskillin and Château des Charmes (look for the always solid St Davids Bench series), Colio Estates, Henry of Pelham, Peninsula Ridge (really beautiful, refined wines), Mission Hill or Cave Spring (whose rieslings I’ve always particularly liked). The latest edition of the Canadian Wine Annual includes nearly 400 wineries. So we’ve got some ways to go yet.

Just watch out for the Cellared in Canada wines that have seeped into SAQ shelves, over the last year. The Esprit line from Jackson-Triggs, for instance: when you buy a bottle, you are contributing to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the success of Canadian athletes, but you’re not buying Canadian wine, and you’re not contributing to the success of Canadian vintners and vineyard owners. And that is too bad.

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