The Goode Report: Taste Canada 2016

Dr. Jamie Goode’s Global View on Canadian Wines

Dr. Jamie Goode

Dr. Jamie Goode

Canada House is beautifully situated, overlooking London’s Trafalgar Square. Nelson’s Column guarded by its lions, and the elegant architecture of the National Gallery: quite a view. It was built in 1827, and originally housed the Union Club, but in 1923 the Canadian government bought it for £223 000 (CA$420 000). Sounds like quite the bargain. In 1993 the Canadian government closed it with the intention of selling it as a way to save cash, but the new liberal government headed up by Jean Chrétien reversed that decision.

And on a gloriously sunny day in May it was the location for a rather special tasting of Canadian wines. ‘Taste Canada 2016,’ hosted by the Canadian High Commission and Global Affairs Canada, was the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at introducing Canadian producers to the UK market since 2010. As well as a walk-around tasting of scores of wineries from all over the country, there was a seminar showcasing some of Canada’s best wines. This seminar, which lasted two hours, took attendees through 30 different wines, organized by style. Because it’s so rare to see Ontario wines alongside those from BC in Canada, I’m guessing that this was one of the most impressive public tastings of Canadian wines yet to be held (of course, the most extensive tasting is the WineAlign’s own National Wine Awards of Canada, although this is quite different in its scope.)

Canada House - photo by Janet Dorosynski

As an honorary Canuck I’d been asked to lead this seminar, ably assisted by some genuine Canadians, including two of WineAlign’s own: Dr Janet Dorozynski (trade commissioner) and Treve Ring (wine journalist and critic). The panel also consisted of Thomas Bachelder (winemaker, Bachelder and Queylus) and Jean Benoît Deslaurier (winemaker, Benjamin Bridge). We had some interesting discussions, but the stars were the wines, which showed really well. Particular highlights? If I’m allowed to pick personal favourites, then they’d include the following, which would make a rather nice mixed case:

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2008, Nova Scotia

Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative Ancient Method 2008, Okanagan Valley, BC

Flatrock Cellars Nadja’s Riesling 2015, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2012, Beamsville Bench, Niagara

Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008 Narrative Ancient Method 2008 Flat Rock Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2015 Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2012

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2013 Okanagan Valley, BC

Bachelder Wismer #2 Foxcroft Block Chardonnay 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara

Norm Hardie County Pinot Noir 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario

Hidden Bench Felseck Pinot Noir 2013 Beamsville Bench, Niagara

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2013 Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014 Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013

Unsworth Pinot Noir 2014, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC

Tawse Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012, Creek Shores, Niagara

Nichol Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Naramata, Okanagan Valley, BC

Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Classiqe 2013 Okanagan Valley, BC

Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 Tawse Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012 Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2013 Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Classique 2013

‘I thought the quality of the tasting was superb,’ enthused Norman Hardie, whose pinot noirs and chardonnays from Prince Edward County and Niagara were extremely well received. ‘This being the third tasting in five years has created some momentum. I think the quality of the audience says something very positive about the quality of wine coming out of Canada.’

Tim Turyk of Unsworth from Vancouver Island was also pleased with the tasting. ‘It is impressive that the event can attract such a quality list of attendees and much credit must go to the High Commission staff.’ He sees it as a good chance to benchmark. ‘We consider it a great opportunity for us to get feedback on our wine from international wine experts, many of which that have little or no experience with Vancouver Island wineries, and certainly no particular bias towards Canada, and it is comforting to know that the wine can hold its own in that venue.’

#TasteCanadaUK2016Thomas Bachelder, who makes highly regarded chardonnay and pinot noir in Niagara, was also delighted with the way that this tasting brings together producers from geographically distant parts of the country who rarely see each others wines. ‘Whatever the intention of bringing Taste Canada UK 2016 to Trafalgar Square, the by-product is that it has made a bunch of geographically-separated Canadian winemakers fall in love with each other and their wines.’ He adds, ‘it was wonderful to see winemakers from BC discover Nova Scotia wines – they are 5000 kilometres apart back home! Watching the love-in between BC and Ontario wineries in London was enlightening: we had to cross the pond to see that we needed more interaction‎ back home! The two behemoth wine-producing provinces have to see themselves as complementary partners, not competitors.’

‘The event was superb,’ says Spencer Massie of Clos du Soleil from the Similkameen Valley in BC. ‘It was well attended, and we saw a steady stream of people through. I had a couple of serious wine loving business friends who live in London who had never heard of Canadian Table Wines, and they were most impressed.’

‘We organise these tastings at Canada House to support the industry and introduce the best Canada has to offer to the UK market,’ says Emma Finn, who works for the Canadian High Commission. ‘You can tell by the buzz in the air and the record number of guests at this Canada House tasting that it’s an exciting time for Canadian producers.’ Finn points out that since the first tasting, in 2010, the number of Canadian wineries with distribution in the UK has risen from two or three to more than 15.

I’ll leave the last word to Thomas Bachelder. ‘I am not sure of the original intent behind Canada House at the time of its construction in Trafalgar Square, but I can imagine the founders being happy, touched and moved by the coming together of the little but burgeoning Canadian wine industry that happens under its roofs.’

Jamie Goode

Canada House – photo by Janet Dorosynski

The Goode Report

Dr. Jamie Goode is the first international member of the WineAlign team, and one of our core judges for The National Wine Awards. He completed a PhD in plant biology and worked as a science editor before switching careers to wine writing. He’s a book author (The Science of Wine and Authentic Wine), writes a weekly wine column for a national newspaper (The Sunday Express), freelances for international magazines and blogs daily at wineanorak.com, the site he founded in 1999 and one of the world’s most popular wine websites. A sought-after speaker and experienced wine judge, he has judged wine in the UK, South Africa, France, Australia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia. He tweets as @jamiegoode and is on Instagram as @drjamiegoode.


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