Signature Varieties & Styles - Wine Country Ontario

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Primary White Varieties

White | White wines are made from lighter-skinned grapes such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris, but always pressed prior to fermentation to avoid skin contact. White wine can be refreshing and crisp, sweet and aromatic or rich and smooth depending on the variety and winemaking techniques used.

Chardonnay | The most widely produced variety in Ontario is crafted in multiple styles. Ontario Chardonnay naturally expresses substantial weight and richness with cool climate “tree fruit” aromas of apple, pear and peach. When the wine is fermented and aged in oak barrels expect added layers of wood spice, smokiness, and a touch of vanilla or butterscotch. Ontario’s natural acidity produces well-structured, firmer, more ageworthy Chardonnay than in many New World regions. Some can age well for over 10 years.

Riesling | One of the first vinifera varieties planted in Ontario, Riesling takes on classical Germanic character. It exhibits refreshing citrus, peach or floral aromas with a light “petrol” element and racy acidity. It is made in a range of dry, off-dry and sweet styles, including Icewine. Ontario Rieslings often age very well.

Other important varietals | Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer

Primary Red Varieties

Red | Made from dark-coloured grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, among others. Red wines tend to be fuller in body, are often oak aged and have delicious berry or fruit flavours. Ontario’s cool climate styles are the perfect complement with food but be sure to match the weight of the wine with the richness of the food for the ultimate pairing.

Cabernet Franc | This winter-hardy grape is one of the Bordeaux varieties, often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon both in its homeland and here in Ontario. Alone it shows red currant, raspberry, herbal and tobacco characters, with oak aging adding toasty, chocolaty complexity. It is made in easy-drinking unoaked styles, more structured cellar-worthy versions and, as Ontario has discovered, it can also make great Icewine.

Pinot Noir | The great red grape of Burgundy has a natural home in Ontario. Made in classic cool climate style, Pinot Noir renders wines with cherry fruit, earthy/forest floor character and oak spice flavours. They are paler in colour, light to medium bodied and become silky smooth with a bit of age.

Gamay Noir | Described by some as the “next big thing”, Gamay Noir is gaining popularity with consumers. This light to medium-bodied red is also used in many rosé wines, but in either case Ontario VQA crafts Gamay that is fruity, floral and earthy. The bright acidity keeps them easy drinking and flavourful.

Other important varietals | Gamay Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Baco Noir


Fun, trendy and versatile – Ontario VQA Rosé is hot. Try refreshing summer sippers, something soft and lush, or discover the serious side of rose with crisp and structured styles – Ontario has it all. Rosé every day? Why not?

The beautiful pink hue of rosé comes from the short maceration (a.k.a. skin contact of red varieties such as Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlo. Delicious to drink on its own an also a great match with many foods.


Other Wine Styles