Arterra Fine Wines – A Winery Profile

New Winemaking Directions for Marco Piccoli
by David Lawrason

This feature was commissioned by Arterra Wines Canada.

There is a new premium wine in Ontario that is rising into the limelight. It’s actually a fascinating chapter in the evolution of Canadian wine – whereby Canada’s leading wine company – Arterra Wines Canada – has created a VQA wine – Arterra Fine Wines – that is currently tiny and totally within the domain of one winemaker named Marco Piccoli.

This requires a couple of paragraphs of background.

Domestically Arterra Wines Canada, the company, produces all the wines under the Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin labels in Ontario and B.C., plus Sumac Ridge, See Ya Later Ranch, NK’Mip, Steller’s Jay  and Laughing Stock in B.C. It also imports many wines like Robert Mondavi of California and Kim Crawford of New Zealand, to name just two of the more well known.

It is Canada’s founding wine company, opening in 1874 as the Niagara Falls Wine Company then changing its name to T.G. Bright. It became Vincor Canada after the merger with Inniskillin under the watch of Donald Triggs and Alan Jackson in 1994. In 2006 it was purchased by New York-based Constellation Brands, the world’s largest wine company.

Then, with a sigh of relief among Canadian wine enthusiasts, it was reclaimed as a Canadian company when the Canadian business of Constellation was purchased by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in 2016, and the name changed to Arterra Wines Canada

Arterra Fine Wines launched only recently with the 2015 vintage, narrowly focused on premium chardonnay and pinot noir. In 2016 a more expensive Special Edition pinot and merlot named “Epoca” were added, and with the 2017 vintage a pinot gris. Quantities are limited to about 3,000 cases overall.

The Arterra wines were created by Italian born and trained winemaker Marco Piccoli. He was hired to be the winemaker of Jackson-Triggs VQA (100% Ontario) wines back in 2005. I interviewed him at that juncture and was very impressed by his passion and intellect. He is all about what’s in the glass.

Marco Piccoli, Winemaker

Marco Piccoli, Winemaker

His talent and personality put him on an upward trajectory within Vincor/Constellation, and today he is Senior Winemaker of Arterra Wines Canada. But that is more of an administrative role, and Marco has always wanted to be a hands-on winemaker. He was given a chance to be hands-on again with the launch of Arterra, the brand.

“We decided to do something different,” he explained, “something controversial and less traditional. For me that meant applying partial appassimento techniques to pinot noir and merlot-based reds, and being more experimental with chardonnay.”

Appassimento is the process of making wines from partially dried/raisined grapes, conceived in northeast Italy whose climate is actually quite similar to Niagara. Marco Piccoli was born and trained in the Udine region of Italy and made appassimento reds in his early years, as well as in Argentina, where he worked with Luigi Bosca before coming to Canada in 2004, as a result of a new partnership between the University of Udine and the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University.

He insists that the technique is not meant to change the terroir-driven character of Niagara’s wines – and its pinot noirs in particular. “Niagara is a very special terroir,” he says. “What I am trying to do for pinot noir in particular is to not alter the natural aromas and flavours of Ontario fruit, but build texture.”

Only 25% of the pinot fruit is from dried grapes, which is a key decision toward keeping the flavour authenticity.

The very warm 2016 vintage produced riper pinot fruit than usual, so along with the appassimento technique, he used a heavier barrel ageing regimen to create a big pinot with very ripe cherry and toasty flavours.

With Arterra Chardonnay, he is striving for elegance and complexity. He eschews the use of sulfites which allows more oxygen contact. He uses selected commercial yeasts, enables partial malolactic fermentation and ages the wine nine months in French oak (15% new) with gentle lees contact.

The new Pinot Gris is designed to be a straightforward and direct reflection of the its Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard. There is no use of sulphites, no malolactic, no wood ageing or lees stirring.

So, what’s next for Marco Piccoli and Arterra Wines? “I think Niagara is a very special place for sparkling wine, so that is another direction I want to go,” he explained. “I have some bottles en tirage now, but I have not decided when to release them. It might be years away.”

The wines are sold direct-to-consumer at ArterraFineWines.com. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also available at Wine Rack stores.

To read the complete WineAlign reviews, please click on the bottles or links below.


Arterra Pinot Gris 2017

Arterra Pinot Gris 2017

Winemaker Marco Piccoli discusses his Pinot Gris

Arterra Chardonnay 2017

Arterra Chardonnay 2017

Winemaker Marco Piccoli discusses his Chardonnay

Arterra Pinot Noir 2017

Arterra Pinot Noir 2017

Winemaker Marco Piccoli discusses his Pinot Noir

Arterra Special Edition Pinot Noir 2016

Arterra Special Edition Pinot Noir 2016

Winemaker Marco Piccoli discusses his Special Edition Pinot Noir

Arterra Epoca 2016

Arterra Epoca 2016

Winemaker Marco Piccoli discusses his Epoca

For full details on all the wines, or to order wines, please contact: [email protected]

This feature was commissioned by Arterra Wines Canada. As a regular feature, WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our writers independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted on WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries and wine agents pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, and its content, is entirely up to WineAlign.