Canadian Wine Explained

By / Magazine / September 2nd, 2013 / 5

Many of my friends are still resistant to trying Canadian wine. Why do you think that is?

Was it rocker Bryan Adams who said something like, “Canadians need to be told by someone else that what they make is good before they’ll believe it?” Even if he didn’t, it’s still a great quote that more than covers the attitude of many Canucks towards Canadian wines.

I’m betting the majority of my fellow countrymen haven’t tried a real Canadian wine, basing their opinion of the whole industry after a bottle of the lowest common denominator. After all, we still produce some pretty crappy wine in this country, and the general public has a tendency to gravitate to the very cheap and cheerful when stepping outside of their comfort zone.

I still have friends who believe that what they drank from a brown paper bag at a university frat party was port. They’re not alone.

Distribution is one problem. While vinophiles in the primary production regions of Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia dig their own output, the availability of those province’s finer wines across the country is limited, mostly because nearly every bottle is drunk within their own borders.

Not all of course, and as the international status of Canadian wine grows, so does the homegrown acceptance that our grapes produce great wine.

So here’s the deal: when all you wine-hip folks out there get asked to recommend something good to fill a friend’s glass, unleash your favourite Canadian wine. Tweet it, Facebook it and blog the heck out of it. Stop asking why your friends aren’t drinking our wine, and help be the reason why they do.

I’m heading to Nova Scotia this summer. I hear there are some interesting wines made there. Any suggestions?

As a proud Nova Scotian, there’s a special place on my palate for its liquid output. As a middle-aged man, I can say I was there at the beginning when the Domaine de Grand Pré winery outside the town of Wolfville (about 45 minutes from Halifax) put a cork in its first bottle in the early 1980s.

Back then the thought of Canada’s Ocean Playground making a drinkable wine seemed as likely as George Clooney saying “I’d like to thank the Academy.” Well, we all know how that turned out, and, much like George’s stint on The Facts of Life, the uneven buzz around Nova Scotia’s early vintages is, for the most part, long forgotten.

In the last five years alone, the local wine industry has evolved to the point where it can be mentioned in the same breath as Ontario and British Columbia without eliciting a smirk. New wineries, young, innovative winemakers and juice that is modern, yet unique to the region, have all deliciously conspired to make Nova Scotia a major player on the Canadian wine scene.

Though national distribution is nearly non-existent, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to buy when you visit, either through the province’s liquor corporation outlets, private shops in Halifax, farmers’ markets or from the wineries themselves.

The evolution of red wine has progressed very nicely, thank you, but white is really where it’s at in Nova Scotia. Look for one of the 10 wineries producing aromatic whites under the Tidal Bay label. Conceived as an appellation-style wine, each producer has to meet certain production standards and get approved by an independent tasting panel (featuring yours truly), before it gets to use the name.

Glowing comparisons to Champagne (thanks to the climate) have provided local sparkling wines with so many national headlines that it’s to the point where just about every winery is making one or more. Everything from classic traditional-method varieties to fruit-infused versions are available.

Arguably, the hottest drop in town is the summer-in-a-bottle Nova 7 by Benjamin Bridge. A mix of Muscat and subtle effervescence, its yearly release has become a Beaujolais Nouveau event. While bigger provinces may see a limited release, Nova Scotians keep the vast majority of it for themselves.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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