Archive for the ‘Canadian wine’ Category

Controversial Quebec Wine Selections

montrealI just read a very provocative article in the Montreal, written by freelancer Bill Zacharkiw. He is ranting (not that there’s anything wrong with that) about a recent promotion by the SAQ, which is the government-operated wine/liquor monopoly in Quebec, Canada. The promotion seems to have been instigated by James Suckling, former Wine Spectator magazine columnist who has gone “freelance” with his own subscription-based wine blog/website.

Suckling has built quite a name for himself in the U.S., where his former publication has a big following among wine drinkers from beginners to geeks and collectors. But in Quebec, he’s relatively unknown. As Zacharkiw points out, there are many Canadian and European critics and wine educators who have had a substantial influence on the Quebec wine world. None of them were given the distinction that Suckling negotiated for himself: he tasted and rated 200 wines, and 50 that received 90 points or higher were released into SAQ stores. Suckling wasn’t paid for this work, but received publicity in return for himself and his subscription website.

Here’s Zacharkiw :

So what bugged me about this? Well, one is the lunacy of the 100-point scoring system for “judging” wines. The SAQ basing a promotion around this inane system simply lends it more credence. I have already written about the SAQ’s buying policy, which despite its insistence to the contrary, favours wines which have received these high scores from American-based magazines, whose taste profile I feel is out of whack with the Quebec reality.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Canadians World Leaders in Ice Wine — and Very Large Wine Glasses

ice wineThe Canadians are at it again. This time they’ve grabbed the attention of the wine world by setting a Guinness World Record for the Largest Filled Wine Flute. Yes, as the kick-off to the 2011 Niagara Icewine Festival, “38 Ontario ice wine makers and winery proprietors gathered to pour seventy 375 ml bottles and six 200 ml bottles” into a giant flute designed by world-renowned stemware manufacturer Riedel.

Now that’s a lot of icewine. The article said it totaled 18 liters, which by my calculation represents about $3000 worth of icewine. “Wow,” I thought: “That’s one expensive publicity stunt.” But the good news is that the alcohol didn’t go to waste: it was sipped and enjoyed by all in attendance.

Canada’s Niagara Peninsula has earned a great reputation for its icewine. It’s the world’s largest exporter of the stuff, most of it going to Japan and the Far East.

It wasn’t always so. Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo of Inniskillin Winery got the idea to make icewine around 1975. “When we poured the first icewine in 1984,” says Kaiser, “people were drinking junk like Black Nun and Blue Tower.” After that, he says, people got into cheap French wine, and then because of their previous experiences with the sweet Old World wines, they were hesitant to try icewine. But that all changed in 1991, when Inniskillin’s Vidal Icewine won a Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. “The world took note,” he smiles.”

The folks in Ontario know how to have fun with their icewine. Every winter they stage a bang-up icewine festival, most of it “al fresco” in Ontario’s sub-zero (Celsius) winter. In the pictures I saw, everyone’s bundled up from head to toe, they’re all clutching glasses of golden icewine, and they’re all grinning like crazy. I guess the alcohol cranks up the old internal thermostat…

So once again, Go Canada! Here’s to ice, wine, and adventurous Canadians. Cheers!

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Canadians Taking the Wine World by Storm


I have to admit I was shocked by a recent headline in the wine press: “Canada’s Wine Consumption is Growing Six Times Faster than the World Average” (from”Wow,” I thought. “They’ve certainly picked up the pace since I lived there…”

I know something about Canadian drinking habits, which used to run from Canadian Club whiskey and Molson Canadian beer, to nothing at all. You may not know that Canada was home to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, of which my grandmother was a card-carrying, white-ribbon-wearing member. They believed that alcohol — any and all alcohol — was the Demon Drink and would lead otherwise God-fearing citizens (such as my Great Uncle) to rack and ruin. It’s true that Uncle Harry did his share of drifting, usually ending up in some Western boom town where he would drink and gamble till he ran out of money and then move on. I heard he was a mean piano player, and often paid his way by playing piano in honky tonk bars. I know his church-going relatives were horrified, but I’ve always wished I’d been able to meet the guy.

Anyhow… the point of my digression was to explain that alcohol in general and wine in particular was not traditionally a part of many Canadians’ lives. (Just ask all of us who sat through countless dry family gatherings.)

But apparently all that has changed. A report conducted by the British research firm ISWR examined worldwide wine consumption trends from 2005 to 2014. It flagshowed that between 2005 and 2009 alone, Canadian wine consumption increased a whopping 22.5 percent. Wow! In the next five years, 2010 to 2014, a 19 percent increase is expected in Canada, while the rest of the wine-drinking world logs a modest 3.18 percent increase.

Canada is also the world’s fifth largest importer of wine, and is scheduled to hold the number 3 spot by 2014, lagging behind only the U.S.and China. And this with a mere tenth the population of the U.S. and I can’t even count high enough to figure out how much larger China is.

All I can say is, “Go Canada!” Whether my brothers and sisters to the North are enjoying more domestically-made wine (you’ll read another post about that tomorrow), or they’re hitting the Old World and New World wines harder, I say, “Keep up the good work.” Forget that nasty rye whiskey, and limit your lager to hockey-game-watching. Go ahead and pour a glass of red, white, pink or bubbly and keep racking up those numbers.

I’m proud, once again, to be a Canadian: Oh Canada!
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