I taste-tested a trio of Canadian wines. And was pretty amazed by the results.
Finding Canadian wines where I live, in the UK, can be an extreme challenge. Ok, it’s not exactly free-climbing the Matterhorn or base jumping off the Burj Khalifa, but if you’ve read my article A Brief Guide To Canadian Wines, you’ll get the picture. However, since the pandemic, online wine has moved from niche to normality, and consumers now feel far less restricted by what’s on the shelves in their local store.
I recently took delivery of three Canadian wines from European retailer 8wines.com, and I can honestly say I was blown away by their quality.
In the past I’d assumed that Canada, because of its climate, mostly produced sharp, acidic whites and sweet dessert wines. Red wines, I suspected were probably limited to lean Pinot Noirs, like the ones you’d find in parts of Germany.
But the three reds I’m going to talk about today completely flipped my expectations. Rich, heady, dark, robust, strong and complex: they could easily be confused with wines from warmer climes with much bigger reputations (yeah, Bordeaux, I’m talking about you). So let’s zoom in for a closer look…
See Ya Later Ranch Shiraz/Viognier Blend, 2017
This was the first of the three I popped open and… wow. What an introduction.
I love the North American approach to winemaking and branding, and See Ya Later Ranch’s amiable-sounding name pairs neatly with the warm hug you receive from their wine. Apparently, the winery’s name was inspired by a pioneer called Hugh, who planted vines in the region back in the 1920s. Before I learnt this, I assumed it was because if you take one sip, it’s “see ya later” to the rest of the bottle.
This blend of Shiraz with a touch of Viognier hails from the Okanagan Valley, out west in southern British Columbia near the Pacific coast. It bursts with intoxicating, peppery, sweet cherry and plum, liquorice, oak and spice aromas, with a long, smooth finish.
The sunny, sloped vineyard that gave birth to this wine, I’m told, has a unique terroir and a long ripening season, and this wine does remind me of some of the high-quality reds I tasted on a press trip to southern Germany.
It’s a clever, elegant mix: the Shiraz lends body and up-front fruitiness, while the Viognier adds freshness and zip. Top marks for this one.
14.5% volume, £18.48 or €21.51 from 8wines.com at the time of writing.
Black Sage Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
The Black Sage sounds like a character from Game of Thrones, and I’m sure Tyrion Lannister would approve of this hearty red, also from the Okanagan Valley.
Just like the See Ya Later offering, this is rich and intense straight from uncorking. Velvety plum flavours pour through, with spicy liquorice and mocha notes and a lick of leathery vanilla sweetness from 16 months maturation in French and American oak barrels.
It paired beautifully with a beef burger and, as you can see from the picture at the top of this page, it also looked the part surrounded by nature. Another highly recommended Canadian red wine that easily competes with quality Bordeaux within the same price range.
13.7% volume, £22.23 or €25.88 from 8wines.com at the time of writing.
And Finally… The Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2017
Well… despite its name, this wine is no joke. It arrives from the wild west of the Okanagan Valley with a big price on its head, ready to shoot down any rival gunslingers from south-western France. In other words: this is a heavyweight Bordeaux blend with a point to prove for anyone who had any lingering doubts about the quality of Canadian red wines.
A modern take on a classic recipe, this is a mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with smaller hits of Malbec and Petit Verdot. It’s bright and juicy with fine oak and toasted nutmeg
This one bursts with dark-fruit notes of cassis, blackberry, cherry and plum, as well as secondary flavours of chocolate and spice. Smooth on the tongue and with a long finish, its 21-month maturation in new and used French oak barrels gives it a sophisticated, old-world character. Of course, red meat is the ideal pairing, although I did have a vegan steak recently that was pretty damn good.
14% volume, £39.64 or €35.05 from 8wines.com at the time of writing.
So, three, fantastic wines here. Thanks very much to 8wines for sending them over. If I was forced to pick just one I’d go for the See Ya Later Ranch, but I guarantee none of these Canadian red wines will disappoint.
For more information about Canadian wines, see my article A Brief Brits’ Guide To Canadian Wines.