Canadian Wine: The Undiscovered Pearl Next Door

Canadian wines are surprisingly diverse.

To our north is a large wine-producing country that until recently wasn’t recognized by most American consumers for much beyond maple syrup and hockey. But that’s changing, as production increases and exports are more widely available.

Canadian wine remains well below the radar. And retailers who do stock Canadian items are more likely to offer iconic icewine than dry wine. Americans are often surprised to learn that Canada makes wine at all — many unable to reconcile their mental images of “wine country” and the “Great White North.”

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Inniskillin’s Brae Burn estate vineyard and winery blanketed with snow in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario.

But the trade should pay attention to the success story quietly playing out in our own backyard, in wine regions nestled like jewels along our northern border, primarily Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

While the volume of premium Canadian wine being sold in the U.S. remains tiny, there are plenty of reasons to sit up and take notice. Remarkable improvements in the quality of Canada’s wines, a steady stream of American visitors to Canadian wineries and a recent change in the exchange rate have already sparked a surge in exports to the U.S.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague said that “one of the world’s most exciting new wine regions is in Ontario, Canada.” Last year, Whole Foods featured British Columbia wines in their Pacific Northwest stores, and the Decanter World Wine Awards dubbed an Okanagan Valley wine the “Best Pinot Noir under £15” in 2013. Simply put, there has never been a better time to add Canadian wines to your product mix.

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