In comparison to most wine regions, Canada seems a bit far north – and far too cold – to cultivate
successful vineyards. But as most wine regions, Canada has pockets of grape growing climates that are
slowly being discovered. For some time, wineries have used the cold winters to their advantage,
producing some of the world's best ice wines. Still wines are also gaining ground as the regions
explore the best varieties for the area. The industry is still small, but consistently growing in
both quality and quantity.
The qualification system of Canada is called the Vintner's Quality Alliance, or VQA. Their stamp of
approval means the wine has been tasted for quality and follows the rules set out by the organization.
The VQA also names the wine growing regions for Canada. The two main regions of the VQA are on opposite
sides of the country – British Columbia and Ontario. These two regions produce about 98% of the high
quality wine of Canada. Between the two there are 7 separate viticulture areas.
On the east coast lies Ontario, producer of over two-thirds of all Canadian wines. This area, while
technically further south than British Columbia, is where the beautiful and delicious late harvest and
ice wines are produced. Vidal Blanc is popular here for the making of ice wines, as is
wines are made here as well, with the vines enjoying the warming affect of the Great Lakes. Popular
varieties for still dry wines include Chardonnay,
Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling,
Pinot Noir and
Hybrids have a strong place here as well, in particular Vidal
Blanc and Baco Noir. The best known sub-region is the Niagara Peninsula, famous for its ice wines, namely
those from Inniskillin.
British Columbia sits along the Pacific Ocean, with much of its wineries centered in the smaller region
of the Okanaguan Valley. This area, close to the Washington State border, has become a wine growers
dream because of its specific micro-climate that is perfect for certain white varieties, like Chardonnay,
Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. For reds, the Bordeaux varieties seem to flourish most.