Niagara is a humble wine growing region that is one of the world’s best.
Here are five reasons why the Niagara Peninsula is perfect for making World Class wines.
1. The Talent
Terroir is not just about the great soils and topography that Niagara lays claim to. Terroir is also about the people behind the wines.
These people make the countless decisions behind each wine we taste in Niagara, from the viticulture techniques to the way that wines are labelled.
It all contributes to your experience and enjoyment, and it is all a reflection of the place where these wines are made.
This is where Niagara truly shines as a wine region, especially now with a couple of hundred years of winemaking and grape growing under its belt.
The talent found in Niagara’s winemaking industry surpasses all expectations. You’ll find people like Sue-Ann Staff whose family has been in the grape growing industry for many decades, to new immigrants who bring their passion and education to the craft of winemaking like Andrezj Lipinski at Big Head.
We have winemakers who are self-taught and truly excelling, like Adnan Icel at Icellars, and winemakers who have studied and brought back the best of the best from other regions, like Chablis-born Jean-Pierre Colas at 13th Street Winery.
Niagara has a wealth of talent and diversity behind each winery…and it shows.
Each vintage, I am amazed at the quality and unique styles of each wine I taste from Niagara’s independently owned wineries.
2. The Many Varietals
Micro-climates in the Niagara region allow us to ripen everything from Riesling to Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon, and do it at a world class level. Many wine growing regions are limited by their climate, soils, or even by bureaucratic rules to only be able to work with a few different varietals.
For example, in Burgundy they can only work with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In Chianti, Italy, they are allowed to work mostly with Sangiovese.
The pioneering and innovation era is over in those regions, but in Niagara we are just starting to understand and excel at growing the right grapes in the right places with the right approach. After a few decades of experiments and studies, we are now at a place where the wine quality is exceeding expectations.
In Niagara, the varietals we can produce are like our wines and our winemaking talent – diverse.
If you’re thinking of a visit to Niagara wine country, there’s a very good chance you’ll discover a new favourite wine varietal – or many!
3. The Diversity of Flavour Profiles – With Niagara’s Signature Bright Acidity
Speaking of diversity, not only does Niagara produce a multitude of grape varietals, but there is also a wonderful diversity in the flavour profiles across Niagara’s 10 Sub-Appellations.
For instance, the Four Mile Creek can get really hot in summer months. At times it can be as hot as Osoyoos, BC – Canada’s only official desert. The wines from the Four Mile Creek tend to be richer and more concentrated.
At the same time, wines just a short drive away in the Vinemount Ridge Appelation might carry a fresher, snappier flavour profile due to the cooler micro-climates.
Wherever you find yourself tasting wines in Niagara, there is one flavour profile that is a signature of Niagara – what I like to call ‘bright acidity’.
Since Niagara has warm sunny days coupled with cool evenings – or a strong diurnal temperature change – Niagara wines can be rich and flavourful, yet still bright and fresh. These wines can age really well, yet still be versatile and enjoyable now.
This is the kind of thing that many warmer wine regions struggle with, and that many locals just take for granted.
4. The Innovation
Unlike regions of the world with heavy traditions and bureaucracy around what varietals and wine styles are ‘allowed’, in Niagara, winemakers are free to innovate and listen to the land.
They’re able to plant vines where they feel they will grow best, and are not limited to certain varietals or techniques.
As a result you see innovative new wines like Marynissen’s Cabernet Franc Gewurz – a 50 case production wine that completely blew past my expectations.
And you see wonderful winemaking like that of Francois Morissette at Pearl Morissette – unforgettably delicious, low intervention wines that truly express Niagara’s terroir.
5. The Potential
Niagara’s future for World Class winemaking is very bright, as is the prospect of any Niagara wines you might be cellaring.
There are new vines being planted every day in Niagara, and in 2020, Niagara had ‘the Vintage of the Century’. 2021 is looking like it is going to be a stellar vintage too.
If you haven’t yet visited wineries in Niagara, or if you haven’t visited recently, it’s time to plan a visit. You won’t regret it!
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