Great Read: Canadian Wineries

By / Food / September 30th, 2013 / 1

Wine educator and lecturer Tony Aspler has just released his latest book, Canadian Wineries (Firefly Books $29.95). Tony’s been writing about wine for over 30 years, and is the author of 16 books on wine and food, including Tony Aspler’s Cellar Book, The Wine Atlas of Canada, and The Wine Lover’s Companion. He was wine columnist for The Toronto Star for 21 years. You’ll also find Tony ongoing “Last Word” column in every issue of Tidings Magazine. In December 2007, Tony was awarded the Order of Canada “for his contributions as a leading authority on Canadian wines.” Tony has also written nine novels, including three wine murder mysteries. He has just completed his fourth in the series, Nightmare in Napa.

“When Prohibition was introduced, there were 10 operating wineries in Ontario. When it ended on October 31, 1927, the Board of Liquor Commissioners had granted no fewer than 47 licenses. Prohibition, more than any other factor had turned Canadians into a nation of wine drinkers. In 1920, some 21 million Canadian consumed 221,985 gallons of domestic wine. A decade later, the figure was 2,208,807 gallons – for Ontario alone.” Tony Aspler

Today, there are currently 560 wineries across Canada. Surprisingly, wine is made in every Canadian province – the only exception is the Far North. In Canadian Wineries, Tony tells the story of Canada’s entry into the world of world-class vintages. It was the late 1980s and Canada’s wine industry was embarking on a radical transformation. Faced with free trade, the end of government subsidies and Ontario legislation that banned native grape varieties from table wine, vintners got serious about planting and nurturing Old World Vinafera varieties. Drawing on the knowledge of successful vintners in the world’s great wine regions, Canadian wineries enriched their own growing experience and began to produce award-winning vintages.

Tony has spent much of his decades-long career chronicling this impressive rebirth. In Canadian Wineries, he teams up with photographer Jean-François Bergeron to profile more than 60 of Canada’s best wineries. For eight years from 2005 until 2013, Aspler and Bergeron travelled across Canada — at different times and during different seasons — to produce this practical wine-touring guide to wineries across the country.

In making their selections, they imposed strict criteria:

  • the quality and consistency from vintage to vintage across the winery’s portfolio;
  • the historical significance of each winery, including its influence on the direction and style of the wines in their region;
  • the aesthetic appeal of the winery property and its setting.

The result is a gorgeous and compelling journey through wineries in British Columbia (34 in total), Ontario (34) – the only 2 regions with VQA appellations – and Quebec (9), and Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces (5).

Readers will meet the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the art and craft of winemaking. The winemaker portraits show the winemaking lifestyle, the diversity of the vintners, and the vibrancy of the winemaking community—mostly young, small and family-owned—as well as exclusive glimpses into the working vineyards. Photographs show what the wine tourist sees: the physical features and aesthetics of the winery, the historic or architecturally splendid buildings, tasting rooms and restaurants. Behind-the-scenes photographs show the winemaking equipment, cellars, vats, and interior features inaccessible to the public. Landscape photographs show the beauty of the wine regions in all seasons.

Canadian Wineries includes introductory histories to the winemaking traditions in each province, the stories of Icewine — Canada’s gift of winter to the world — and ice cider, Québec’s winter wine, a new discovery for wine drinkers across the country and abroad. Winery touring guidance includes timing visits, winery etiquette and “three steps to tasting.” Canada has 1.8 million “wine and culinary enthusiasts”, according to the Canadian Tourism Commission. A further 1.7 million American wine and culinary enthusiasts live near the border. Seven million tourists visit Canadian wineries each year. Canada’s wine producers not only contribute to the enjoyment of the region and the country by locals and visitors alike, they are an essential part of an industry that has a $6.8 billion impact on the economy and supports more than 31,000 jobs.1

Canadian Wineries is a beautiful appreciation of 60 of Canada’s most inspiring homegrown success stories – each one a unique contributor to the country’s growing importance in the world of vintage wines.


Looking at the small things that make life great and the people who create them.

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