Baco Noir: if you live and drink wine in Ontario, then seeing this on a wine label is probably not a curiousity. But, if you don’t live in a cool wine making region, then this hybrid grape has probably never passed your lips.
A cross of Folle Blanche from western France (historically used to produce Cognac) and a Vitis Riparia vine indigenous to North America, Baco Noir grows happily in vineyards of Ontario and produces wine that is deserving of the glass. Typically a smoky, fruity, deeply coloured wine, it was once a mainstay in Niagara, before the arrival of European grapes.
In the late 19th century a small root-eating louse, called phylloxera, nearly decimated the grape populations on the continent. As the pest was native to North America, vines that grew in Canada and the United States were found to be immune and an attempt to save the wind industry in France resulted in the creation of these hybrid grapes.
Eventually a root grafting solution became the answer, and the hybrids have since been banned in France. In the New World, most of the vines have been pulled in favour of European grapes but a few, like Baco Noir, have remained a mainstay in vineyards along the shores of Lake Ontario.
Sandbanks Estate Winery in Prince Edward County makes a lovely Baco Noir. Perfectly suited for the marginal climate of The County, these vines thrive and make a great, food-friendly wine.
Tart berry fruit, highlighted by warm spices and an enlivening mineral undertone make for a mouthful of juicy blackberry with a hint of tobacco and a lively finish. Proudly serve this with any kind of barbecued meat, hearty tomato-based dishes, or a cheesy beef slider.
Sandbanks Estate Winery Baco Noir 2007 Vintages 110049 $14.95
On a final note, cold-hardy hybrids are making a new stand in vineyards these days as focused research is creating grapes that make very drinkable wine. Boutique industry in otherwise impossible regions, like Ottawa, is slowly becoming feasible. Lucky for us.
Holly Bruns is a writer and sommelier who lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. Her love for wine grew out of a love for food and consequently she spends all of her spare time shopping for, drinking, and playing at pairing food with wine. You can find her at her blog, Wine Out Loud, where she keeps the focus on affordable, good wine.