Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vancouver, the Olympic Winter Games and Canada’s Wine

Picture: Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games on February 12, 2010

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games opened yesterday in Vancouver, Canada. 300.000 visitors are expected to come to Vancouver on the Pacific Coast, just above Seattle and Washington State.

Canada is an emerging wine country. Like other New World wine producing countries, Canada's wine making history dates back 200 years when early settlers came from Europe. They initially tried to grow the European vitis vinifera grapes, but without success. Until a few years ago, only American grapes and hybrid grapes were grown. Canada also went through a period of prohibition, like the US, which greatly hindered the wine industry. This changed only in the last quarter of the last century, when wine making started to take off, leading to a phenomenal growth of the wine industry.

There are now two booming wine regions in Canada, British Columbia in the west and southern Ontario in the east. The Okanagan Valley wine boom is part of the larger North West American wine story that has been unfolding in the past 30 years, starting with Oregon in the US, and then moving up to Washington State and now to British Columbia in Canada.

The Niagara Peninsula wine story is largely one of ice wines, that have gained worldwide reputation, with Illiskin being the leading producer. Canada’s cool climatic conditions enable it to be the largest ice wine producer in the world. Although both Germany and Austria are large ice wine producers, their climates are not as consistently cold as is Canada’s to guarantee ice wine production every year. Canada produces over 2 million 375ml bottles of ice wine annually. An Illiskin icewine was served in December 2009 at the occasion of the Nobel Prize Banquet in Stockholm. See here.

Picture: Ice wine from Canada

The story of Canadian wine is said to have began with Johann Schiller, a German who served with the 29th Regiment of Foot in Quebec in 1784. By 1811 he had moved to Ontario Niagara region obtaining 400 acres. Having worked at wine making in the Rhine valley, he began growing grapes and producing his own wine. Schiller died in 1816. See here.

If you have the luck to be in Vancouver during the Olympic Games, benefit from this opportunity and try out the excellent Canadian wines served in the wine bars and restaurants in Vancouver. You may even be able to visit the Okanagan Valley. Here is an excellent introduction to the wines of Vancouver by Anthony Gismondi that was published in the Vancouver Sun a couple of days ago.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

German Winemakers in the World: Johann Schiller - the father of Canada's wine industry

Eiswein in Germany and Ice Wine in Canada

Wine Ratings: Two American/German Wines - Eroica and Poet's Leap - on Top 100 List of Washington States Wines in 2009

Wine Event: The Wines served in honor of President Obama at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Banquet in Oslo

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