Ontario’s northern location

One might think that Ontario is too far north to grow grapes. But in fact, Ontario’s wine regions lie between 41° and 44° latitude, just like other well-known wine regions, including Burgundy, Tuscany and Oregon. Ontario’s angle to the sun allows it to capture every ray of sunshine needed to ripen classic grape varieties.The daily temperature fluctuations over the growing season create conditions that are critical to achieving a fine balance between acidity, alcohol and fruit expression. Wines from cooler climates are more aromatic, lighter bodied and have higher acidity than those from warmer climates, which provides refreshment, harmony with food and good aging potential for Canadian wines as well.

The proximity to large lakes

Ontario’s vineyards span the southern part of the province and are located near three of the Great Lakes – Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Huron. These lakes mitigate the cold winter temperatures and cool the vineyards during Ontario’s hot summer days. The Great Lakes have shaped Ontario’s wine regions and play an important role in mitigating extremes of the region’s continental climate.In winter, the lakes do not freeze over; their warmer waters help protect the vineyards on their shores from destructive deep frosts. During the summer, their cooler waters mitigate heat extremes, as 30 degrees Celsius is not uncommon.

The legacy of large glaciers

Over the ages, Ontario experienced glacial events that shaped and eroded layers of sedimentary rock and ancient reef structures, creating the Niagara Escarpment. This layered escarpment runs through southern Ontario and forms a sort of backbone between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, this stratum forms the Niagara Peninsula, which has very complex soil structures.There are gradations and inclusions of sand, gravel and clay over limestone that lie in a band between the lakeshore and the crest of the escarpment. This band, which affects Niagara’s vineyards and orchards alike, runs east-west for about 50 km and varies in width. The same glacial events impacted Prince Edward County. The predominant limestone is the same basic soil type found in Burgundy and other regions of northern France.

Potential for great wines

Internationally, it surprises many people that British Columbia (BC) produces wine at all. Since it is so far north, above the 49th parallel, the logical thought is that it must be too cold. Even those who accept that Canadian wine is made here expect it to be a marginally cool climate region, but British Columbia is like no other place on earth when it comes to growing grapes. BC has the unique combination of extreme heat and cold that results in intense, fruit-driven, fresh and structured Canadian wines.

Specific climate

With vineyards north of the 49th parallel, one would expect a very cool climate, similar to other wine growing areas at that latitude, such as Champagne in France and much of Germany, which are indeed very cool places to grow grapes. The Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley, where most grapes are grown in British Columbia, belie their location and instead of a cool climate, have a unique climate that can best be described as a short, hot growing season with desert-like conditions.

A desert in Canada

Although wine is grown in many parts of southern British Columbia, 90% of all vineyards are in the Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley, a four-hour drive east of the city of Vancouver. Between Vancouver and the wine country lies the Coastal Mountain Range. These impressive mountains remove moisture from the weather, which comes from the Pacific Ocean.While Vancouver is a coastal city, dry, desert-like conditions prevail in the Okanagan and Similkameen. Annual precipitation ranges from 318 mm in Osoyoos on the U.S. border to 415 mm in Kelowna, 100 km to the north. The dry desert region of the southern Okanagan Valley is the northern point of the desert network that extends across the U.S. and into Mexico. Low rainfall and plenty of sun make it easy to farm sustainably and help produce pure, intensely fruited Canadian wines.

Québec history

Viticulture in Québec has a long history, dating back to 1535, when Samuel de Champlain planted vines, albeit unsuccessfully. In purely commercial terms, the region is young, but the winemakers here were somewhat ahead of their time. The Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) was founded in 1921, but until 1985 it was illegal for producers to sell their Canadian wines. Those who were in the business operated illegally and somewhat tentatively before winemakers were finally able to obtain permits through the SAQ.

Climate and soils

The province has a humid continental climate with fertile farmland in the southern part where the main growing areas are located. Tree crops and soil crops grow with little risk of damage from low temperatures, but grapes are another matter. Long winters and high humidity make the production of Canadian wines a challenge.The St. Lawrence River moderates the climate, but extended cold spells are a real threat. Growers use a variety of techniques to prevent damage, from burying the vines to using special fabric films. This can quickly become expensive and requires a lot of attention to detail.

7 different wine regions

Like all great vineyards in the world, each of Quebec’s wine regions is very different. Their unique identities are determined by the unique geology, climate and soils of each region, which highlight the individual characteristics of the various “terroirs” in the Belle Province.These are the regions: Deux-Montagnes, Richelieu River Valley, Appalachian Foothills, Monteregian Hills, Appalachian Plateau, Lake Saint-Pierre,
Québec and the Banks of the St. Lawrence River.

Wines shaped by the sea

The area lies between the shores of the Northumberland Strait and the fertile Annapolis Valley. Nova Scotia produces table and dessert wines mainly from hybrid grapes, with a new trend towards vinifera plantings. Here in Nova Scotia, the vineyards are never more than 20 km from the sea, and the vines grow in the sediments of an ancient primordial sea bed. The highest tides in the world, a mix of sandstone and shale soils, and the fact that Nova Scotia is surrounded by large bodies of water all contribute to a unique and ideal viticultural climate. Every Canadian wine produced there has a delicious freshness with a hint of saltiness reminiscent of a sea breeze.

The appellation: Tidal Bay

Over 200 international and national awards have already been given to Nova Scotia Wines. Tidal Bay is a unique appellation in North America and is an ode to the wine regions of Europe. These fresh, Canadian white wines must meet a strict set of rules and pass the evaluation of a tasting panel before they can proudly put the Tidal Bay stamp on their label. The result is true terroir. Each winery may put its own stamp on it, but at its core, each Tidal Bay tastes truly Nova Scotian and pairs perfectly with local seafood.

The new Champagne?

The Canadian sparkling wines produced in Nova Scotia are attracting attention around the world and are being compared to Champagne for their quality. It helps that some of our winemakers grew up or studied in Champagne, but what really makes Nova Scotia’s sparkling wines sparkle is the delicious acidity that comes naturally in our cool climate.