English wine-growing and making was regarded as a bit of a joke until not so long ago but no-one is laughing any more at the fanatical English and Welsh wine growers.
English and Welsh wine growers have achieved tremendous results during the past fifteen years and by the end of the second millennium wine-making in the United Kingdom had become serious business.
Quebec is the French-speaking province of Canada. The weather circumstances are everything but ideal for cultivating vines and making wine.
Temperatures can drop to minus 40°F/C or even lower in winter which is fatal for vines. A handful of enthusiasts tried a surprising way to protect the vines against the cold of winter. The vines are kept pruned low and before the first frosts they are covered with a layer of earth which is then removed in spring. Apart from this interesting cultivation technique and the hard working nature of the local growers, there is little else positive to say about this wine region. The wines that we tasted were extremely dubious and their prices far too high.
Ontario is the wine region in Canada with the longest continuous activity. The vineyards are in three districts: the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, and Pelee Island. These three districts are all close to the Great Lakes. The epicentre of the wine industry is the town of Niagara-on-Lake, where the present-day generation of wine growers and makers have their origins in Germany, France, Italy, and even The Netherlands. Although Ontario shares the same latitude as the Cotes du Rhone, its climate is much harsher. The summers are hot and winters extremely cold. Wine-growing is only possible close to the most southerly of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie. The soil here consists of a mixture of clay, gravel, and loam which is rich in minerals and trace elements. The underlying geology consists of hard rock which gives additional complexity to the wines.
Various hybrid grape varieties are grown here such as Seyval Blanc and Vidal for white wines and Maréchal Foch and Baco Noir for reds. Although Seyval, Vidal, and Baco Noir deliver good to excellent results the Ontario growers are increasingly choosing to plant more vinifera varieties such as Pinot Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Gewiirztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling on the one hand and Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot on the other.
Although wine has been made here for some considerable time which left much to be desired, the past decade has seen this region striving for the best quality. The old hybrid or even worse native America Vilis labrusca vines have increasingly been replaced with Vitis vinifera varieties. Wine is made in two districts: the western Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, and the eastern Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.
The first two areas and the Similkameen Valley are recent additions that are busily in the process of development. The historical heart of British Columbia lies in the Okanagan Valley where the weather conditions are more suited to growing grapes and making wines. The summers are hot and dry, with little rainfall.
The soil consists of rock, fine sand, clay, and alluvial deposits in the south. The more northerly vineyards that are cooler and more humid are mainly planted with French and German grape varieties of Auxerrois, Bacchus, Chardonnay, Erenfelser, Gewiirztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, while the more southerly ones have the traditional red varieties of Pinot Noir and Merlot.
British Columbia has three types of winery.
The Majors are the large wine industries which get their grapes from far and wide, the Estates use only those grown in British Columbia, of which at least 50% is from their own vineyards.