In the CBC TV interview above with Amanda Lang and Kevin O’Leary, anchors of the national news program The Lang & O’Leary Exchange, we discuss the Canadian wine industry from the perspective of Canada’s largest wine site:
Which new wine regions are emerging across the country?
How is climate change affecting traditional regions and wine styles?
Will Canada ever have completely open borders across the country to ship wines?
What’s next for the Canadian wine industry?
Here are my latest reviews of Canadian wines.
Posted with permission of CBC
Amanda: The wine industry is flexing new muscle as the warm climate opens new wine regions for business, and provincial laws pave the way for inter-provincial wine trade. At the same time, traditional regions are facing new challenges as the wine harvest is just around the corner. Natalie MacLean is the wine writer and publisher of the wine review website nataliemclean.com. Great to have you with us.
Natalie: It’s great to be here, Amanda.
Amanda: I want to start with the effect of global warming on opening up new regions, how broad is that going to be, what sort of an impact in the industry that might have?
Natalie: It could be pretty broad according to some predictions. It depends on which predictions you believe, but some people are thinking that even areas like Yellowstone Park in the United States, more production in Brazil, China, and so on, even Scotland, the north of Scotland, I’d love to see Domaine MacLean, are going to open up, because with climate change, the grapes are going to be able to ripen at northern latitudes and that’s going to provide for more, new and different regions.
Kevin: Natalie is it true, right in Canada and places like BC and certainly Ontario, I go back twenty years, I remember (inaudible), the grapes in Ontario, you drink the wine made here, you went blind. Now they have some of the best Cabernet Franc in the world as a result of the global warming. We should be very happy about this development, should we not?
Natalie: Yes and no. In traditional cool climate regions like Canada, and Germany, they used to have problems ripening grapes, especially late ripening grapes like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, so on. Now they’re getting consistent ripening, which is the good news story. But these cool climates were also known for zesty, zippy whites like Riesling, even Sauvignon Blanc and what’s happening, as the climate warms, those whites are losing their edge. So this is affecting not only the introduction of new regions, but the existing regions are changing including cool climates likes Canada’s.
Amanda: It’s interesting in your long time years, Natalie, certainly you will remember that Kevin once told you that you couldn’t get a decent Cabernet for under $70.00 and now he sells one.
Natalie: Yes. Full circle.
Amanda: Interesting how things change. But let’s talk about the trade of wine across the provinces. I mean Kevin’s right, there was a time when the reputations of Canadian wines were very poor partly because the industry is very young. So I want to start with what regions you think now are really the most promising in this country?
Natalie: You know, across the country, there’s so much potential even in traditional producing areas of Niagara, the Okanagan, we have such a range of styles. The other thing that’s happened is that we are learning better what grapes work in our soils. But with this climate change, we’re seeing the emergence of new regions like Prince Edward County, which is about a three hour drive north of Niagara. Their winters were traditionally very cold. Today, they have 30 wineries there. If you look down to Nova Scotia, they traditionally did German hybrids, cool climate grapes. Now, they’re specializing in varietals like Chardonnay and so on. So you’re seeing this change happening in regions across the country and going more north, as well, in our own traditional region here in Ontario.
Kevin: Natalie do you think there will ever be a time when a Canadian wine gets international respect? Because when I travel abroad, rarely do I see Canadian wines stocked in retailers in other countries, even in the United States. There’s an old joke, it’s about a wedding in France and the man’s saying “the champagne was Canadian”, which was, you know, funny, a funny line. Are we ever going to get respect or are we the Rodney Dangerfield of wine forever?
Natalie: We have respect, the problem is volume. So in international competitions, we win gold head to head with the world’s best. So the quality is there already, there’s no Dangerfield issue when it comes to quality. What is, is a volume issue and we can’t export a whole lot of wine, we can’t fill the channels of the United States in their big distribution. But in wine, as you know, Kevin, small is good. It’s artisanal and I think that’s what we should be embracing as Canadians. I’m not the spokesperson for the Canadian wine industry but I do think we should be giving our own wines a chance, especially this weekend; it’s time to taste the fruit of our labor.
Amanda: Of course I’d love to give our wines a chance; if you live in one province it’s very hard sometimes to drink the wine from another province. There are several different stumbling blocks. One is that weird inter-provincial trade barriers and the other one of course is our liquor control boards. Are we ever going to live in a world where we can actually drink wine from BC freely if we live in Nova Scotia?
Natalie: I think it’s coming. You know the laws that govern us to the federal level went back to the prohibition, 1928. Those have been abolished. What’s happening now are provincial barriers especially in Ontario and Quebec. So, BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia have pretty much opened the borders for shipping, but Ontario and Quebec remain, but you know what, it’s inevitable. I think the free market will benefit everybody. I mean, I’m pro-free market, more choice. Because what BC produces is a completely different style from Niagara and then again, Nova Scotia, and that’s the beauty of wine, the diversity. So let everybody have a sampling of everything.
Amanda: Now Natalie, sometimes we have you on and actually ask you about specific wines. We’re going to put you on the spot and say: is there one in particular right now that you’re recommending?
Natalie: My goodness, it’s the one somebody will be buying me tonight. I mean, we have so many flagship wines across the country, Burrowing Owl in BC, Painted Rock. You know these are the premium wines. But you know Le Clos Jordanne in Ontario, Luckett Vineyard and Domaine De Grand Pre in Nova Scotia – there’s just such a constellation of stars across our country, we really should be giving them a shot.
Amanda: We appreciate your time today, Natalie. Have a good weekend.
Natalie: Thank you, you too, Amanda.
Amanda: Natalie MacLean, wine writer and publisher of wine review website nataliemclean.com.