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The Grapevine: Wild weather and what it means for Canadian wines, big vineyard sale in B.C., Into the Vine, Legislature wines, and Nouveau wines coming

Canadian wine

We round up what’s making news in the Canadian wine industry in this installment of the Canadian Grapevine.

In this report, from various news releases submitted to Wines In Niagara, we report on Brock University’s take on the wild weather affecting grape harvests around the globe and what it means to the Canadian wine industry, a  weekend of art and food with a unique new VQA wine tasting event called Into the Vine, wines chosen for Ontario Legislature, the Beaujolais Nouveau release at the LCBO, and B.C. winery Phantom Creek’s purchase of premium vineyard in the Okanagan Valley.

Wild weather and what
it means for Canadian wine

Erratic weather conditions are helping drive this year’s global wine production to its lowest levels in half a century, but a Brock University researcher says Canada’s grape and wine industry is poised to ride out the storm.

The Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) reports that unfavourable climate conditions in Europe’s main winemaking regions of Italy, France and Spain will drive a global wine production shortfall of 8.2 per cent this year.

It is the lowest level seen since 1961.

Jim Willwerth, senior viticulturist at Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), said extreme weather fluctuations experienced across Europe, such as frost and drought, are to blame for injury to the regions’ grapevines.

“It’s not good news. It’s got a lot to do with our changing climate and extremes in weather,” he said. “We’re having weeks and weeks of increased risk, which we wouldn’t have seen 50 years ago.”

He explained that warmer winter temperatures are causing bud break earlier in the season, leaving vines’ shoots more susceptible to frost damage in the spring.

“It’s these really big extremes and sharp drops in temperature that resulted in a lot of injury to the grapevines,” he said.

Ontario wine
CCOVI senior viticulturist Jim Willwerth works closely with grape growers in the Niagara region to monitor the grape harvest and combat the effects of climate change on their crops.

The OIV’s report doesn’t mention Canada’s 2017 wine production levels, but Willwerth, pictured above, who monitors the grape harvest in Niagara, said “the size and health of this year’s crop looks very good.”

Work being done by researchers at CCOVI is also helping Ontario’s grape growers to better mitigate the effects of climate change and protect their harvests in the face of extreme weather events, he added.

“In Canada, we deal with extremes and I think we’re more prepared in terms of having some technologies available and research and outreach to help support our industry.”

One example is using wind machines in the vineyard to drive warm air down to ground level when extreme weather such as unexpected frost hits.

Willwerth, along with fellow researchers Debbie Inglis and Kevin Ker, also operates a CCOVI program called VineAlert, which advises growers in the region of immediate cold weather threats to grapevines so growers know when to turn their crop-protecting wind machines on.

The OIV reported an increase in wine production for the U.S., but stressed that the data was compiled before the wildfires broke out across California’s wine country earlier this fall.

“I have heard that because of the wildfires, California wines in Napa are supposed to be going up in price,” Willwerth said.

He also said cost increases of wines from the other affected regions might not be felt right away.

“The thing with wine is a lot of it is still in the cellar, so we might see downstream effects of this in years to come,” he explained. “If a region sustains damage and loss year after year, we definitely will see it in our pocket books. I don’t know exactly what those impacts will be, but you can assume there will be some.”

Phantom Creek buys 63-acre vineyard

B.C. wine

Phantom Creek Estates announced the acquisition of a 63-acre vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

The acclaimed vineyard, established in 2004 by Chris and Betty Jentsch, photo above, is planted to Cabernet family varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) as well as Viognier and an outstanding block of Syrah.

“It is a privilege for us to take stewardship of this special site on the Golden Mile Bench,” said Ingo Grady, President of Phantom Creek.

The property will join the winery’s estate vineyards on the Black Sage Bench in transitioning to organic and biodynamic certification.

“Biodynamic farming requires meticulous attention to detail, which in turn makes us more attuned to our vineyards. It is a sustainable and gentle approach, which we also think yields exceptional wines,” said winemaker Ross Wise, formerly of Niagara.

C.C. Jentsch Cellars produces award-winning wines at its dedicated facility at Testalinda Creek. The family-owned winery will continue to farm three estate vineyards stretching from Testalinda Creek to the Black Sage Bench to Summerland.

“We are delighted to find a buyer that is committed to continuing the tradition of excellence and the pursuit of enhancing this world-class vineyard,” said viticulturist and owner Chris Jentsch.

The Golden Mile Bench, British Columbia’s first official sub-appellation, is located on the western slopes of the Okanagan Valley south of the town of Oliver. The sub-region benefits from early morning sunshine, while being shaded from the warm, late afternoon sun by Mount Kobau.  This, combined with complex, gravelly soils, results in exceptional wines that balance ripeness with fresh acidity.

The vineyard sale closed on Nov. 1.

About Phantom Creek Estates

Phantom Creek Estates farms exceptional wines from historic vineyards with thoughtful precision. The winery, located on the sunbathed Black Sage Bench in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, is projected to open in Spring 2019. The first vintage, now in barrel, was in 2016.

The Nouveaus are coming!

Beaujolais Nouveau

On Nov. 16, the LCBO will begin selling this year’s Nouveau wine collection. Available at a large number of retail locations across the province, the LCBO is offering a selection of 10 products, including two new products from France and two returning favourites from Ontario.

The third Thursday in November is officially known as Beaujolais Nouveau Day, and is celebrated with festivities worldwide. Nearly 50 per cent of the product has traditionally sold out after just one week at the LCBO.

“The release of Nouveaus marks the one time of year you’ll find wine-lovers around the world enjoying the same style of wine at the same time, and the LCBO is delighted to bring this beautiful collection to Ontarians every year so that they can take part in the tradition,” says Marie Cundari, acting director, wines, LCBO. “Delicious and affordable, it’s no wonder the collection is beloved by our customers and a consistent best-seller.”

Priced between $10 and $17, the Nouveau wine collection offers good value, says Cundari. Their fresh and fruity character is best appreciated when consumed young and served slightly chilled. Highlights from the LCBO’s 2017 Nouveau wine assortment include the new Pardon My French Beaujolais Nouveau (France, $13.95) and Beaujolais Nouveau Dubouillon AOP (France,$14.95). The Ontario wines joining this year’s collection are Reif Estate The Fool Gamay Nouveau ($12.95) and Reif Estate Kerner Nouveau (The Hanging Man) ($12.95).

Rounding out the collection this year:

• Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau (France, $10.95)
Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau (France, $13.95)
Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Joseph Drouhin) (VINTAGES, France, $16.95)
Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau (G. Duboeuf) (VINTAGES, France, $15.95)
Mezzacorona Novello, Trentino (Italy, $9.95)
Negrar Valpolicella Novello Del Veneto IGT (Italy, $10.95)

The Nouveau wine tradition began more than a century ago in the Beaujolais region of France, where local winemakers developed a way to make wine within six to eight weeks of harvesting the grapes and releasing it in celebration of that year’s bounty, a tradition that exists in many other wine-producing regions. This short turnaround time allowed toasting the year’s harvest with wine made from grapes of the very same year.

Into the Vine comes to Toronto

VQA Wines of Ontario is hosting an unforgettable weekend of art, wine, and food with a unique new wine tasting event — Into the Vine. In collaboration with six local and international artists and studios, VQA Wines of Ontario will bring to life a multi-sensory experience inspired by six VQA wine varieties.

Taking over the former Andrew Richard Designs building (571Adelaide St. East), Into the Vine will be open to the public from November 10 to 12.

Into the Vine is the latest extension of VQA’s Tastes Untamed brand platform, which launched last year with a multimedia brand campaign. As Ontario VQA wines continue to receive national and international acclaim, and take their rightful place on the international stage, Into the Vine is showing that VQA is much more than a stamp on the bottle. It’s an experience, one that is bold, fresh and creative, just like the wines we produce, according to Sylvia Augaitis, Executive Director of Marketing for the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario.

“VQA Wines of Ontario is proud to present this wine tasting – deconstructed,” she said. “We’re excited for Torontonians to explore the new, inspiring, flavourful innovations happening in our own backyard – both in wine and culture. This is the perfect opportunity to experience first-hand why the international wine world is so excited about our locally crafted VQA wines. I invite you to join us for this journey Into The Vine.”

Guests in Toronto will journey through six unique multisensory experiences designed as artistic expressions of six different wine varieties: Sparkling, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc. With artists creating work in multiple disciplines ranging from projections to large scale murals, each experience will engage audiences in a unique way. Complemented by the culinary creations of Toronto entrepreneur Chef Cory Vitiello, Into the Vine is set to challenge wine conventions in one immersive experience.

“Wine tastings have been relatively the same forever,” says Sid Lee Creative Director Alexis Bronstorph. “So we challenged ourselves to do something different in that space. Something that spoke to the energy and excitement of VQA Wines of Ontario. By giving people the opportunity to see, touch, and play with what makes our wines so special, we can create a robust and memorable tasting, and bring some pride to the wines we make here.”

Ontario wines picked for Queen’s Park

Christine Michael, Regional Sales Consultant, Sandbanks Winery is pictured with Honourable Dave Levac, Speaker of the House.

The Grape Growers of Ontario with the Honourable Speaker of the Legislature and MPP for Brant County, Dave Levac, hosted the 39th Annual Wine Tasting event at Queen’s Park on Nov. 1.

Chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario, Matthias Oppenlaender, along with CEO Debbie Zimmerman announced that the following have been chosen as the official wines of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly for 2018:

Red Wine:
2016 Sandbanks Winery Sleeping Giant Foch-Baco Noir

White Wine:
2016 Reif Estate Winery Pinot Grigio

“The Grape Growers of Ontario are appreciative of the Members of Provincial Parliament for their continuing support as we celebrate the grape harvest and choose the official red and white VQA wines of the Legislative Assembly for the coming year,” said Oppenlaender.

“We are very honoured to have Sandbanks Sleeping Giant (Foch-Baco blend) chosen as the official red of the Ontario Legislature. We’d like to thank the Grape Growers of Ontario and the Ontario Government for making this possible. This wine is a brilliant example of our passion for producing high quality VQA wines with 100% Ontario fruit,” says Christine Michael, Regional Sales Consultant, Sandbanks Winery.

Steve Neuhof, Toronto Territory Manager, Reif Estate Winery is pictured with Honourable Dave Levac, Speaker of the House.

“I am delighted to have our 2016 Pinot Grigio selected for the Ontario Legislature. A portion of the grapes for this wine were harvested from a 23-year-old vineyard block, giving the wine nice depth and complexity, showing off the terroir of our farm. Pinot Grigio is also one of my favourite whites, it’s such a refreshing wine and so versatile, and … I’m Italian!,” says Roberto DiDomenico, winemaker, Reif Estate Winery.

Members of Provincial Parliament gathered to select the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s official red and white VQA wine to be served at legislative functions throughout 2017. Participants tasted and marked their preferences on a voting ballot to determine which wines would be selected from six Ontario VQA wineries.