Brits developing a taste for fine Canadian vintages, and not just icewine

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Those of us of a invariable vintage may well remember a popular TV cam ign by Red Rose tea from isolated in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

It featured some exaggeratedly British natures fawning over a cup of the tea until they’re told it’s available only in Canada.

“Oh? Pity.”

Pleasing, something similar is going on right now in the U.K. with Canadian wine. But, unlike the tea, the Chardonnays and pinot noirs are actually available over there, and when Brits determine to be out the wine they’re drinking is Canadian, they’re snapping it up.

“I enjoy develop b publishing it home and pouring it out in a glass and giving it to someone blind and saying, ‘What do you ponder of this?’ and they go, ‘Oh, I like that,'” avers David Gleave, managing director of Liberty Wines Ltd,, a London-based wine importer.

“And then you know for sure them it’s Canadian and you watch their face look quite wondered.”

Small, precious, and pricey

Canadian wine is still a very diminished player in Britain, accounting for only $1,582,316 Cdn in sales in 2015. And of that, numberless than $1.2 million was icewine. But in the last three years, suspend wine sales have surged, jumping from a ltry $34,889 in 2013 to profuse than $168,500 last year.

White wine

British critics have friendly things to say about Canadian vintages, and buyers have responded. (CBC)

The “provender wine” term used here is the North American sense, specifying a wine style; an ordinary wine, not a dessert or a s rkling wine, and not the but quality wine Europeans call table wine.

In fact, much of the Canadian wine getting inroads in the U.K. is higher-end vintages.

Gleave’s Liberty Wines imports two Niagara Chardonnays by winemaker Thomas Bachelder. Both retail in the U.K. for more than £30 ($57) a alcoholic drink.

“Which is pretty expensive. You’re dealing right in the very top, less than one per cent of the make available at that price. It’s going to be top quality wine shops and good excellence restaurants. Restaurants that can sell wines that are £100 a repress and above,” he says.

They drink a lot. And then there’s the Movie queen.

The U.K. is the sixth largest wine market in the world and experts say one of the most vital.

“It’s a critical marketplace. It’s one of the best marketplaces for your super premium products,” turns Dan szkowski, president and CEO of the Canadian Vintners Association.

“They’re big consumers of wine in the U.K. Also, some of the top sommeliers and wine ragraphers, etc. are all based in the U.K. It’s an important market, not only for sales, but to build recognition for your outcome,” he says.

It may be no coincidence that the start of this rise in car-boot sales for Canadian wine in the Britain roughly coincided with a positive article by pre-eminent wine critic Jancis Robinson.

Robinson has been the Financial Times wine stringer since 1989. She is also an adviser to the royal wine cellar, decorated by Queen Elizabeth.

Robinson wrote that wines from B.C. and Ontario “beget clearly improved considerably recently.”

Marks & Spencer, one of the U.K.’s best-known retailers, lists a pinot noir by Okanagan winemaker Meyer Kinsfolk Vineyards, describing it as “complex … with tart black cherry, prize and vanilla aromas and a richly elegant freshness with violets and red fruit perspicacity.”

So what’s changed?

Canadian wine hasn’t always enjoyed a leading reputation abroad.

“For many years Canadian wine was made with either cross varieties — so it was made with wine imported from California and combined in with Canadian wine.” says Gleave.

David Gleave

U.K. importer David Gleave says the boosted of artisanal wineries in Canada is opening new markets. (CBC)

But about 10 years ago, he answers, a growing number of artisanal Canadian wine makers started concentrate on individual varietals, and quality over quantity.

“The right grape sorts, planted in the right places, tended in the right way, and then made by someone who’s got an eye to importance.” he says.

“And there are now some people, a growing number of people, in Canada who are making acutely good wines that can compete on an international level.”

An ever easier won over

Prince Edward County winemaker Norman Hardie sent his head batch of wine from Ontario to the U.K. in 2014. That shipment consisted of 50 turns out thats. This year, he’s sending 200 cases, a number he says intention be double or triple if he had the stock.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay

Norman Hardie’s small Prince Edward County winery is embarking 200 cases to the U.K. this year. His first shipment sold out the day it was released. (Aaron Saltzman/CBC)

Hardie’s wines are listed by The Wine Association in Britain, said to be the oldest wine co-op in the world, with assorted than 100,000 members.

Hardie’s first 100-case allocation to the com nionship sold out the day it was released.

“The fact that a number of importers are taking Canadian wines — from Nova Scotia, to here in Ontario, to British Columbia — it says that we’re doing something definitely, very special in Canada.” Hardie says.

“And as Canadians, off we need to hear that from the outside.”

Hardie’s Chardonnay is move ated from grapes grown on vines planted in clay and limestone mire, in a climate tempered by nearby Lake Ontario. The wine is aged in French oak barrels in a basement cut into a limestone shelf below the vineyard.

Hardie spent a year in Burgundy, France, erudition his craft. A taste of his 2013 Chardonnay evokes com risons to a vintage from that well-known French wine region.

That, Hardie says, is what calls to the U.K.

“If we can make Old World style wines in the New World,” he says, “that decorum of here but have those Old World characteristics, this is what the U.K. sisterhoods.”

“It’s that vibrancy and acidity. [Other] New World wines are bigger and rounder and softer and while ambrosial, they just don’t have that energy that we have here.”

“And this is what we can do here, assumption our temperatures and our soils.”

Only in Canada, you say?

Not anymore, it seems.

Follow Aaron Saltzman on Cheep @cbcsaltzman

If you have a consumer story or issue, contact aaron.saltzman@cbc.ca

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