Why is Canadian wine virtually unknown outside our borders?

The Globe and Mail

(Getty Images/Creatas RF)

The question

Why is our great Canadian wine so underappreciated and relatively unknown around the world?

The answer

Good question. There are at least two reasons. The first has to do with supply. We produce little wine by international standards, just 56 million litres in 2010, according to the California-based Wine Institute. That accounts for a mere 0.2 per cent of world production – less than such countries as Algeria, Macedonia and Uruguay. Also, most of our best wines are produced in minuscule quantities, which rarely get shipped outside of their home provinces, let alone beyond Canadian borders. So, good Canadian wine, with the exception of icewine, is not exactly on the global radar.

Story continues below ad

The other reason may involve stigma. Outside our borders, Canada is strongly associated with snow, hockey, Niagara Falls and Mounties. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true. This is an image people find inconsistent with the sensual seduction of wine. It’s no surprise that the one Canadian wine that’s found traction on international markets has the prefix “ice” in it: icewine. If you need frigid temperatures and ice to make something, well, Canadians must be good at it.

Wine vines are a tender crop, and it’s hard for people to believe that vines can grow well in Canada. Often, when you insist that this is indeed the case, they will cringe in disbelief, as one of my Italian cousins recently did while I was vacationing in Italy.

This, I’m afraid, creates a prejudice. To some extent, people drink the label as much as the wine. When an outsider sees “made in Canada” on a bottle, bias can enter the equation, and bias can play a strong role where wine is concerned. (One would have to hide the label of a Californian or Australian wine to get many French drinkers to give it a fair, unbiased assessment, for that matter.)

Besides, if stores around the world are filled with fine selections from France, Italy, California and other higher-profile wine regions, why would someone bother trying his or her luck on a great white (or red) from the North? Have you spent any money exploring Macedonian wine lately?

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

Follow on Twitter: @Beppi_Crosariol

Topics: