The Canadian wine industry continues to grow and thrive in the 21st century, with production concentrated in two provinces: British Columbia and Ontario. Because of the harsh Canadian winters, vineyards are planted near the southern border, almost exclusively adjacent to large bodies of water that moderate the climate and prevent winter freeze and spring frosts. In British Columbia, the most venerated wine region is the Okanagan Valley, one of the world's most northerly viticulture areas. From spectacularly scenic vineyards, the Okanagan Valley produces dazzling wines made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Canada's largest wine region is the Niagara Peninsula. Climatically, this region is similar to Burgundy, which explains its success in growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Niagara also produces outstanding Riesling and noteworthy Gamay (the grape responsible for Beaujolais). Further east is Prince Edward County, a relatively new wine region that emerged in the early 2000s, which is now seeing tremendous growth. Though young, the region produces remarkable Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in part because of its unique limestone-based subsoil.
The Ontario wine region can be divided into three general areas: Lake Erie North Shore; Niagara; and Prince Edward County. Of these, Niagara is most important from a volume standpoint. Over the past ten to fifteen years, Ontario has made significant advances in terms of quantity, and more importantly, quality. The climate in Ontario is continental, with hot, humid summers and harsh, cold winters. The conditions are moderated somewhat by Lakes Ontario and Erie, as well as by the wind-breaking and air-circulating effect of the Niagara Escarpment. Most Ontario vineyards are planted on lakeside slopes in soils ranging from sandy loam to gravel, clay, and limestone. Generally speaking, Ontario vintners have high levels of technology at their disposal, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. WIth its northerly location, Ontario's wineries tend to excel in cooler climate varietals such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. It is an exciting time for Ontario wines and its wine consumers, as wineries are beginning to really focus on the notion of terroir and identifying the right varietals for the right sites.
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