CITY CELLAR: Much like Canadians, Canadian wines have earned respect abroad
Allow me to generalize with the following grand and sweeping statement: we Canadians are a very proud and humble people. It’s rare that we toot our collective horn very loud but when we do get international attention or acclaim for something, Céline Dion notwithstanding, it generally bolsters our confidence and excitement in whatever we’re talking about.
And that’s a good thing.
Well, there was a lot of talk about Canadian wine in an international context last week. Those of us in the British Columbian wine world certainly go all a-twitter (and flock to Twitter) when international superstars mention our little corner of the world. Those stars don’t get much bigger and brighter than Jancis Robinson, world-renowned wine authority, Master of Wine, author and editor of both the World Atlas of Wine and Oxford Companion to Wine.
She’d recently received an assortment of Canadian wine samples to help her get up-to-date on how we’ve been doing, and shared her thoughts in both her Financial Times column and on her website, JancisRobinson.com.
With a little ink here and there on both Quebec and Nova Scotian wine, her main focus was the juice coming out of BC and Ontario, with her preference ever-so-slightly leaning towards the Okanagan (hooray!). Okanagan Riesling, to be more specific, is what she liked best.
In fact, two of her top three Canadian wines were Rieslings from Tantalus Winery out of Kelowna, both the 2008 ‘Old Vines’ version and winemaker David Paterson’s killer 2010 outing as well.
Interestingly, she didn’t seem to pigeonhole us either, giving high marks and accolades to everything from a Chardonnay from Meyer Family Vineyards and a Roussanne-Marsanne-Viognier blend from Pentage, to Church & State’s insanely good ‘Coyote Bowl’ Syrah, Laughing Stock’s ‘Portfolio’ Bordeaux blend and JoieFarm’s ‘PTG,’ a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay. It was nice to see she not only believes in us, but that we don’t just have one trick up our sleeve.
Coincidentally, last week I sat on a panel that debated the question of whether BC should focus on a signature grape variety (or blend), in order to market ourselves on an international level. While the ‘yea’ and ‘nay’ sides lobbed arguments back and forth, we ended up narrowing the discussion and — really — ending up sharing mostly similar opinions.
We don’t necessarily need to be growing the 70-plus varieties currently planted (perhaps Zweigelt is just too weird and Cabernet Sauvignon too difficult to ripen and so on), but our strength does seem to be in our small-scale diversity of the wines we do do well, many of them listed above. Our unique terroir, from cool Lake Country to the Osoyoos desert and with sagebrush, lakes, hills, valleys and (not to forget) our short, hot growing season — that’s what really makes our wines show well.
When it comes right down to it, however, we’re such a tiny spot on the world wine map that we can hardly supply the Canadian provinces with our wines, never mind other countries. We produce about a million cases a year, whereas Chile’s Concha y Toro winery alone makes 15 million annual cases. How’s that for perspective?
It’s nice though, and more importantly encouraging, when we get that nod from others telling us we’re on the right track and to keep going with what we do well.
I have the opportunity this April to pour wine at a James Beard dinner in New York City, alongside the incredible Thai cuisine prepared by Angus An from Maenam Restaurant in Kitsilano (I consult on his wine program). It’s a no-brainer that Riesling pairs very well with that style of food, so I’ll be bringing along that 2010 Riesling made by David at Tantalus. I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to share one of our local wines that many of the attendees will have recently read about.
And when I do share it that night, I look forward to tooting our horn a little louder.
Questions for Kurtis? Tweet @KurtisKolt or drop him a line via KurtisKolt.com!