While you may think of Canadians as laid-back and easy going, they take their wine very seriously. Primarily sourced from Ontario, the distinction VQA on a bottle stands for Vintners Quality Alliance, which means it was made out of 100% Ontario-grown grapes that have thoroughly been vetted for flavor and quality. Wines grown in cold weather tend to be more complex and balanced, with higher acidity and more mineral flavors—making them the most food-friendly wines in the world. With 23 million liters produced a year, if you’ve never heard of Canadian wines, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the Great White North’s largest grape growing region.
Follow the Wine Trail
With over 150 wineries, deciding where to go will be your biggest challenge. Located in three primary grape-growing regions, or “appellations,” the soil and climate in Ontario create distinct conditions in Lake Erie North Shore, the Niagara Peninsula, and Prince Edward County. You can use this route planner to start formulating an itinerary, or find a few must-see stops and scout out others in the vicinity.
Give Icewine a Try
An Ontario treasure, Icewine is wine made from grapes that have been left to freeze naturally on the vine from certain varietals like Vidal Blanc, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. A sweeter dessert wine with fruity, tropical notes, it’s the perfect compliment to rich, strong flavors like blue cheese or foie gras. Try it on it’s own or add a splash for an interesting twist on your favorite cocktail.
Take Advantage of Your Surroundings
This area of Canada is especially beautiful with vast nature and sprawling trails to explore. Instead of drinking and driving, rent a bike to tour the vineyards. When you need a break from tastings, tour the thundering Niagara Falls, or visit the Niagara Escarpment (a ridge carved by ancient glaciers) that’s a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. When you’re planning your trip, look into staying at one of the area’s charming B&Bs, full of indulgent spa experiences and delectable local food to pair with.