Canada's star turns

Related tags Wine Chardonnay Canada

Canada is a rising star in the world of wine. To date, little appreciated on this side of the Atlantic, its wines are worth seeking out, providing...

Canada is a rising star in the world of wine. To date, little appreciated on this side of the Atlantic, its wines are worth seeking out, providing some novelty and distinct value for money. North American wines are so overshadowed by California, with their mass volume wineries, that it is not surprising that Canada has had to struggle to be recognised. Yet the tradition for growing grapes dates from 1811 when Johann Schiller from Germany planted a 20-acre vineyard, followed later by an estate on Canada's most southerly land, Pelee Island. Today two Canadian provinces ­ Ontario and British Columbia ­ ship wines to the UK. The cool climate sites might be compared with Burgundy, Germany and New Zealand, which has only a few acres more than Canada under vine. "If you consider how Australia, New Zealand and, more recently, South Africa captured the imagination of the British consumer, then there is no reason to doubt the opportunity for Canadian wine," declares Ros Burridge of the Canadian High Commission. Look for the VQA initials to ensure a quality Canadian wine, standing for the Vintners Quality Alliance. Introduced in 1988 in Ontario and two years later in British Columbia, it is their equivalent of "appellation controlee". It means that only prescribed grapes can be used and that a single named variety is at least 85%. Niagara is a top district for Canadian wine, based close to the famous waterfalls and to the pretty town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Cave Spring Cellars, founded in 1986 by the Pennachetti family, is a justly proud producer. Its Indian Summer Late Harvest 2000 has appealing fruit and a clean medium-sweet palate (Berry Bros & Rudd can supply). The same winery also offers two Icewines. This is a distinctive style, which has only legally been available for two years after an EU ban was lifted. The concentrated fruit and sweetness makes a thrilling wine to offer by the glass ­ delicious with desserts and blue cheeses. Icewines made from Riesling and Vidal vines are shipped by Cave Spring. The former, from 1999, shows peaches and youth whilst the Vidal 2001 has lychees and more depth. Chateau des Charmes is also from Ontario. Dating from 1840, the sixth generation is now responsible for winemaking. Its Late Harvest Riesling ­ currently 1998 ­ shows lovely balance, whilst there is real depth and complexity in their Icewine, notably the 1998. They ship in 20cl and 37.5cl sizes, which makes them easier to sell rather than full bottles. Stevens Garnier of Botley, Oxfordshire, is the agent. Inniskillin has one of the widest and most stylish ranges, including reds such as Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Its whites include Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Founded in 1975, it is innovative, yielding the world's first sparkling Vidal Icewine. The grapes were harvested between 27 December 2001 and 5 March 2002. Hallgarten of Luton is the importer. From British Columbia's Okanagan Valley comes Mission Hill, presided over by Anthony von Mandl and Montana's former chief winemaker, John Simes. Its 1999 Merlot Reserve has soft inviting fruit, delicious with lamb, whilst the 1998 Vidal Icewine has almost an apricot intensity combining sweetness and acidity (Berkmann of London is the agent). Paradise Ranch is another BC winery with Icewine from Chardonnay, Riesling and ­ amazingly ­ Merlot (Wine-connect of Hamilton, Scotland can supply).

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