Wine

A Brief Brit’s Guide To Canadian Wine

It’s super-tricky to find Canadian wines in the UK. In fact, in all my years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Canadian bottle of dry wine on the shelf over here. Whisky, ice wine and beer, sure. But not the type of good old dry, still stuff I specialise in.

Yes, on these shores you’re more likely to find wines from China, Syria or Svalbard than Canada. Ok… maybe not Svalbard.

As a nation, I don’t think we’re unadventurous in our tastes. In the past we’ve had to rely on importing culinary ideas from across Europe, due to the poor quality of our home-grown produce. So why would we not want to try Canadian wines?

The obvious answer is that Canada’s climate is too cold to produce good wine. And, certainly, Canada has historically been chiefly known for producing the type of sweet ice wine that’s also popular in cooler parts of Germany.

But a nation so huge is bound to have some interesting terroir tucked away, especially on coastal regions and at lower altitudes. And this has proved to be the case, with Canadian wines starting to pick up awards internationally.

One reason you don’t find a lot of Canadian wine in the UK is due to economics. Strict laws regulating Canadian wine sales make it more profitable for wineries to sell their produce locally. And I know from experience that, in the UK, most people are reluctant to shell out upwards of £20 for a wine, unless they’re in a restaurant.

Canadian Wine Regions

The two primary grape-growing regions in Canada can be found, as you’d expect, in the southerly, coastal, low altitude areas, where the climate is milder. But there’s no room for the sort of local rivalry you’d find in, say, Burgundy. On the contrary, they’re separated by thousands of miles of rugged terrain. The Niagara Peninsula sits in southern Ontario in the east of the country, towards New York state, while the Okanagan Valley (pictured below) is way out west in southern British Columbia near the Pacific coast.

vineyard-okanagan-valley-canada

Types Of Canadian Wine

In terms of dry wines, Canada specialises in whites, with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling all popular varietals, as is the case in northern Europe. More surprisingly though, it also produces more than its fare share of quality red, including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux blends to rival some of the finest French wines.

Where To Buy Canadian Wine In The UK

In 2019, Oxford Street’s poshest department store Selfridges launched an extensive range from the Okanagan region. But if you’re not in London, the best place to grab a slurp of Canada’s finest is still online (especially in the current climate).

Ice wine and fizz are available at stores like greatwinesdirect.co.uk but dry wines are a bit tougher to source. Hard to Find Wines carry a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay and The Fine Wine Company carry two Chardonnays and a Riesling.

But the best range of Canadian wines I’ve found online is at European retailer 8wines.com. For further details about this, and for my thoughts on three excellent Okanagan Valley reds, see my article Three Outstanding Okanagan Valley Canadian Red Wines To Buy Online.

5 comments on “A Brief Brit’s Guide To Canadian Wine

  1. Jim Fraser

    I’m from British Columbia in Canada and there are very good reds, and whites coming out of some regions like the Okanagan Valley now. Like many regions, it mass produced cheap bulk wines through the 1970s and then a few wine-makers started making better wines. Now, poor wine is the exception rather than the rule (at least I think so). I spoke to a British wine merchant a couple of years ago about trying to find BC wines in the UK and he said that because each Canadian province has different rules for export, that the paperwork and effort just weren’t worth it. Also, for the few bottles I’ve seen in the UK, the price is much higher than what it is here in Canada. (It all seems rather similar to when I visited the Mosel Valley in Germany and could find lovely, dry and inexpensive rieslings, where here in Canada a good German riesling costs an arm and a leg.)

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  2. Check out Sorsi e Morsi in Tooting’s Broadway Market for a fine bottle of Henry of Pelham’s Reisling from the Niagara Region, Ontario or order online.

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  3. I am delighted to report that we can at least buy Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot at our local Tanners wine merchant in Chester. For a few years M&S stocked a Meyer Pinot Noir – which was astonishingly good – but sadly no longer. The wines we have sampled on our many visits to the Okanagan are very, very good. I particularly like Haywire Chardonnay and Pink Bub from the Crush Pad Winery where they use concrete tanks.
    I am sure many of the BC wineries don’t need to go through the pain and work that a previous poster stated in order to export, as their home market is so robust. You would struggle to find a Vancouver eating venue that doesn’t have an amazing range of BC Wines. Our loss.

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  4. You can purchase CheckMate Chardonnay and Merlot wines from Hedonism Wines, Mayfair,, London.

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  5. Pingback: Three Outstanding Okanagan Valley Canadian Red Wines To Buy Online – The Wine Ninjas

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