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waters on wine

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery.

Despite concerted marketing efforts from the wine industry, Nielsen data shows millennials are drinking more spirits and beer as well as embracing cannabis. For them, for now, wine is an afterthought. As a result, you can expect to see more premium wines in cans and other packaging innovations made to shift standard – some might say, elitist – marketing practices to appeal to emerging consumers. These won’t be novelty products. They’ll be authentic wines packaged for convenience and have the added benefit of reducing producers’ carbon footprints.

Connoisseurs needn’t worry they’ll be faced with ordering an allocation of La Tâche Grand Cru, one of the world’s most collectable red wines, in tall boy or mini-keg, but every measure will be made to embrace new sales opportunities. Some might say the industry’s future depends on it.

The millennial question isn’t the only looming concern for producers increasingly taxed with challenges surrounding climate change, water constraints and global market developments.

But, I believe that coming decade may will be the roaring Twenties for Canadian wine. The most determined domestic producers have long been teaming up to showcase their vintages and varieties at international trade fairs, such as ProWein in Germany, and at specialty tastings in London and New York to raise awareness and drum up orders. Those efforts will be rewarded.

Hybrid grapes are having a moment with hipster wine bars and anyone looking for distinctive wines with different personalities.

For the country’s fine wine producers, which includes virtually every operation with the ambition to sell bottles of wine for more than $20, export markets are crucial to their long-time success and profitability. The best Canadian wines are made in small batches, which gives producers the opportunity to promote quality products that offer a real sense of place. Following the model of an established region, such as France’s Burgundy, Canadian producers could enjoy success by managing their scarcity. None of Canada’s winemaking provinces – British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia – need to be the next big thing on the world wine stage. Any and all of them have the opportunity to be the next little thing and to augment their domestic sales, diversify their sales channels and solidify their long-term economic sustainability.

One of the interesting lessons from the early export success stories is that the world isn’t looking for top-of-the-line reserve wines from any Canadian producer. It’s labels that offer real quality at a good price that are always in demand. These are the sorts of wines reliably being produced in British Columbia and Ontario that might have the added benefit of creating more wine tourism as wine lovers come to realize that Canadian wine exists.

Other countries that should flourish in the coming years are Greece and Portugal, countries that will finally benefit from the impressive array of unique grape varieties and extreme value for price ratio on offer. Also, expect to hear much more from Australia, which 20 years ago went from being the world’s most enviable wine producing nation to its most underappreciated. There are some seriously talented young vintners and marketers working down under who are sure to capture the imagination of a new generation of Canadian wine lovers.

This week’s featured reviews include a selection of Canadian wines that would stand out on the world’s stage. There’s a rich and toasty sparkling wine and a stylish red blend from two of Ontario’s pioneering estate wineries and an exciting red produced with maréchal foch grown on some of the Okanagan Valley’s oldest vines. Finally, a ripe and rich red blend from the Okanagan shows solid aging potential and polish.

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery's Old Vines Foch Reserve ranks as one of the top wines made from the maréchal foch grape on the planet.

Ex Nihilo Vineyards Night 2017 (Canada)


PRICE: $50

This full-bodied Bordeaux style blend includes cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot from the Golden Mile and Black Sage benches in the Okanagan Valley. It shows impressive complexity in the form of savoury, floral and fruity notes, with a ripe core of red fruit and smooth texture, befitting a wine that spent 20 months in older American and French oak barrels. Drink now to 2027. Available direct through

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled 2017 (Canada)


PRICE: $34.95

As with many Ontario producers, Flat Rock in Jordan has been focusing time and effort on producing top quality sparkling wine. This classically made bubbly comes from a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, which was fermented and aged in older French oak barrels to add richness and texture to the base wine before undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle. The result is an attractive crisp, rich and complex sparkling wine that offers plenty of toast, honey and zesty citrus notes. Drink now. Available direct, through

Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery Terroir Caché 2016 (Canada)


PRICE: $44.95

I’ve been excited about this wine since tasting it from barrel two years ago. Mostly merlot with malbec (28 per cent) and cabernet franc (19 per cent), this is a rich and integrated red, with generous fruit, terrific structure and length. It’s now bottled, released and showing the warmth of the 2016 vintage as well as the meticulous attention to detail that informs the efforts of this Ontario winery. Hidden Bench works solely with grapes grown on its estate vineyards, which are 100-per-cent organically certified. Drink now to 2028. Available direct through

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Old Vines Foch Reserve (Canada)


PRICE: $46.99

Once the ugly ducklings of the wine world, hybrid grapes are having a moment with hipster wine bars and anyone looking for distinctive wines with different personalities than the usual suspects of cabernet, chardonnay and pinot. This concentrated and complex Okanagan red isn’t cheap, but it ranks as one of the top wines made from the maréchal foch grape on the planet. Made with fruit from vines planted more than 50 years ago, it offers cherry jam, black olive and smoky oak notes as part of an interesting and enjoyable mix of jammy and savoury flavours. Best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2025. Available direct through

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this column incorrectly referred to tasting notes for Ex Nihilo Vineyards Night 2016, when it is in fact from 2017.