Harvest Review: 2020 might be Ontario’s best vintage yet
2020 is a year for the history books. The international community is focussed on the pandemic and other global issues, making it very easy to overlook what’s happening in our very own backyard. In our Harvest Review series, Quench writers talk to winemakers across the country to find out how they’re handling this year’s unique challenges, from COVID-19 restrictions to climate change and everything in between. We start with Ontario, where the vintage is shaping out to be one of the best yet… though getting it to wine-loving consumers is proving a challenge.
Ontario’s wine industry is a driving economic force within the province. According to “Grape Growers of Ontario”, over 17,000 acres of land in Ontario are covered in tangles of vineyards that account for over 71 percent of Canada’s wine production. The experts responsible for all this wine are at the mercy of mother nature’s ever-changing temperaments when it comes to crafting quality wines.
Ontario winemakers believe this year’s harvest will be one of the best out of recent memory. I spoke with these winemakers about their harvest season, and what their winemaking communities hoping to expect.
Prince Edward County
Nestled closely to Lake Ontario, Prince Edward County is a small but inventive wine-producing region. Home to wineries new and old, the region boasts a wide array of grapes and wines that aren’t found elsewhere in Ontario. Anything from the Rieslings to the Chardonnay grapes, Prince Edward County has them all!
When it comes to this year’s harvest, it seems that the weather coupled with the arrival of COVID-19 made for some ironic circumstances. “Mother nature’s cruel joke this year is that it is one of the best growing seasons we’ve had in recent memory,” said Geoff Webb head winemaker at Black Prince Winery in Picton. “But many wineries don’t have the tank space, due to COVID and not selling as much wine as in normal years… but the quality of what is produced should be outstanding.”
Webb isn’t the only winemaker who believes that the 2020 harvest will be exceptional. Heidi Del-Gatto, co-owner of Del-Gatto Estates, claims the heat of the summer has added fantastic flavour to the grapes from this year’s harvest. “Your fruit is very clean and very sweet, just your grapes might be smaller and yield less juice because of the hot summer and lack of rain.”
Niagara has made quite a name for itself in terms of production and quality. Despite being a relatively young region, Niagara winemakers are responsible for the highest wine production in Ontario. They’ve worked to introduce palates to the allure and mastery of Niagara wines.
Like the winemakers of Prince Edward County, Eric Pearson, winemaker at the Konzelmann Estate Winery, says that 2020 has yielded one of the best harvests he’s ever seen. He also points out that mother nature is to thank for the taste of this year’s wines.
Pearson has a specific goal in mind when speaking about Niagara wines. “Of course when it comes to all winemaking regions in Ontario, BC or Quebec, we are trying to make the best wines possible,” said Pearson, “we are trying to introduce that mindset that, you know, good wine does come out of Ontario and Canada, and sometimes you want to open up your cellar to some Canadian wine.”
Pearson spoke about how despite the usual mechanical hardships, and the ever-present uncertainty of mother nature, Niagara’s wineries produce great quality wines from an always expanding repertoire of grapes. He remains happily confident that 2020’s harvest season will yield some of the best from Niagara in years.