Canadian wine has made dramatic strides in the past few decades. Although wine has been made in Canada for more than 200 years, up until the 1970s, fortified and sweet wines were the mainstay. Not only that, but the after-effects of Prohibition had prevented alcohol licences from being granted.
But a handful of wineries making a concerted effort to plant new varieties, plus a trade agreement with the US, has helped to change the perception of Canadian wine, which is now regarded as among the world’s best.
Canada’s cool climate makes it ideal for white varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. There’s plenty of summer sun to achieve perfect ripeness, but the temperatures are also cool enough to lock in that all-important acidity.
The star of the trio is undoubtedly Chardonnay, and the much-vaunted Niagara Peninsula in the eastern region of Ontario has attracted interest from Burgundian producers – a testament to its reputation.
It’s not surprising, then, that the two top-performing Canadian white wines at the IWSC are both Chardonnays: 50th Parallel Estate 2018 and Hidden Bench Estate Winery Felseck Vineyard 2017 both scored 95/100pts and were awarded Gold Medals. They’re made a long way away from each other, however – the former in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, and the latter in Beamsville Bench, Ontario.
The following are all excellent examples of Canadian white wine from the IWSC’s 2020 Northern Hemisphere tasting.
50th Parallel Estate
Toast, ripe lemon, weighty green apple and a touch of struck match fill the nose. On the palate, zesty lime and grapefruit cavort against a backbone of savoury oak and steely acidity. A charming, racy wine with exceptional poise and class. 13.1%
Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2017
Hidden Bench Estate Winery
Unctuous and layered, this cracking Chardonnay presents sweet and savoury flavours aplenty. Packed with candied lemon and stone fruits, the flinty minerality offers a lively sensation throughout while graceful mouth-watering spice leads toward a long, toasted finish. Top marks. 13.5%
Hidden Bench Estate Winery
Very ripe, full and creamy this is an accomplished Chardonnay where candied peel, honey, nuts and spice join together on a tasty journey to a smooth, flinty finish. 13%
Estate Chardonnay 2018
A rich, red apple and white blossom nose with hints of marzipan leads into a lively, cool palate of zippy lime and pineapple. A wine of excellent balance and elegance. 13%
Reserve Pinot Gris 2019
Mission Hill Family Estate
A spectacular bouquet with piques of drizzle cake, apricot and lemon blossom opens this seamless combination of precision, concentration and zingy minerality. Thirst-quenching, pretty Pinot Gris as it should be. 13%
Terrifically vibrant nose where saline, refined aromas of lemon, flinty smoke and spices soar above an excellent, weighted, textured palate before a long, clean finish. Eminently drinkable! 13.5%
Black Hills Estate Winery
Ripe, stone fruit and zingy acidity that carries the subtle oak beautifully. Delicate lemon curd notes on the palate, which is just silky and creamy enough without becoming cloying. 12.5%
Bricklayer's Reward Riesling 2018
Colio Estate Wines
Very typical, Riesling on the nose. Citrus, hint of kerosene with lush apple and pear backing it up. Hint of sweet cinnamon backs up the nose on the palate. Soft and approachable, nicely balanced with fruit ripeness. 10.5%
Signature Chardonnay 2017
Le Vignoble du Ruisseau
Melted butter on warm, toasted bread meets the nose. Decadent tarte tatin satiates the palate alongside a core of attractive, green fruit and well-balanced, smoky oak. Unctuous and superbly composed. 13.5%
Reserve Chardonnay 2017
A big, bouncy chardonnay bursting with flavours of mango, candied lemon, quince, nuts and oriental spices. The palate is broad and complex yet surprisingly crisp. A sunny, good time wine. 13%