The origins of a distinctive wine region
Because a part of the winning equation in producing fine wines resides in the environmental factors at play, you could say that what we have here is a lesson in Wine Country 101. What makes this the most important appellation in Canada comes from a unique series of factors that are glaringly obvious, considering its singular landscape.
Lake Ontario, thermal control
The Niagara River joins together two Great Lakes: Erie and Ontario. The latter, as an enormous stretch of water, plays an important role as a thermal control for the neighbouring vineyards throughout the year. In the spring, its frozen mass slows down the beginning of the vegetative phase, which saves many plants from late a frost. And the inverse is that, in the fall, its temperature stays warmer than the air and allows for harvesting the area over a period of two weeks, perfect for fruits that are just maturing.
And the falls with all that?
Already, they mark the drastic break created by the Niagara Escarpment, near Lake Ontario. This extraordinary topography contributes to regulating the area’s climate. Better air circulation, infused with the heat of Lake Ontario, comes sweeping across the vineyards. This regulation, in relation to the lake, is also one of the factors that allowed for the creation of sub-appellations included in the geographic area of the Niagara Peninsula, as defined by the VQA, the organization in charge of Ontario’s appellations. Think of the Niagara River, considered to be the warmest of the regions, or of the areas situated on the Escarpment, like Beamsville Bench, Twenty Mile Bench, Short Hill Bench or St. David’s Bench. The whole region enjoys a wide range of temperatures between the night and day, the essential factor in a slow maturation of the fruits, which are then able to conserve their natural acidity.
A wine region to keep your eye on
Though the region is still young, its qualitative growth has already been demonstrated, thanks to the talent of several pioneers. Many chardonnay and pinot noir vintages have had great success, and the Rieslings and Gamays are following right behind… Cheers to Canadian wine!