Signature Varieties - Wine Country Ontario

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Signature Varieties & Specialties

Primary White Varieties

White | Ontario’s cool climate and limestone rich soils produce a wide variety of fresh, delicious white wines with crisp acidity that makes them incredibly food-friendly. Chardonnay and Riesling are Ontario’s two signature varieties along with other specialties such as Pinot Gris and limited editions of Chenin Blanc and Viognier. Ontario produces a range of styles depending on the variety and winemaking techniques used.

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

VQA Chardonnay

VQA Chardonnay

The most widely produced variety in Ontario, is crafted in multiple styles. Ontario VQA 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.

VQA Riesling

VQA Riesling

One of the first vinifera varieties planted in Ontario, VQA 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 VQA Icewine. Ontario VQA Rieslings often age very well, but are equally as enjoyable in their youth.

VQA Sauvignon Blanc

VQA Sauvignon Blanc

A green-skinned grape and one of the most commonly grown in the world, this variety takes on unique qualities in Ontario due to the terroir and cool climate growing conditions. VQA Sauvignon Blanc is typically dry, with a strong backbone of acidity thanks to Ontario’s limestone soils. It often has unique herbaceous and fruit flavours of ripe grapefruit, peach, bell pepper and grass. While it is often produced in a fresh, fruit forward style, some are barrel-fermented or oak aged – these wine styles are often labelled as Sauvignon Blanc Fumé or Fumé Blanc.

VQA Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris)

VQA Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris)

Often called the “grey grape” due to the unique greyish pink-toned colour, this variety is well-suited for Ontario’s cool climate and limestone soils. VQA Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris) is a dry, light-bodied wine with high acidity and refreshing citrus, green apple and stone fruit flavours.

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.

Other important varietals | Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Baco Noir

VQA Pinot Noir

VQA Pinot Noir

The great red grape of Burgundy has a natural home in Ontario. Made in a classic cool climate style, VQA 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.

VQA Cabernet Franc

VQA Cabernet Franc

The aristocratic parent of Cabernet Sauvignon is the soul of Ontario’s reds. 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 VQA Icewine.

VQA Gamay Noir

VQA Gamay Noir

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

VQA Baco Noir

VQA Baco Noir

A French-American hybrid variety bred in France and first planted in Ontario in 1955 to withstand Niagara’s cold winters, Baco Noir is one of the most unique varieties grown in Ontario. VQA Baco Noir is renowned for its dark fruit, full body, lively acidity, herbal notes and soft, smoky tannins.

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