Viticulture in Ontario, Canada is intrinsically connected and related to its terroir - to its sense of place. The physical features of the diverse landscapes and climate - influence the choice of viticultural practices across Ontario and create unique conditions for the production of grapes and quality wine.
Ontario has three primary viticultural areas or appellations of origin: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, and Prince Edward County. Within the Niagara Peninsula appellation, decades of grape growing experience and extensive geographical research has identified ten distinct growing areas. These sub-appellations include areas on the plains close to Lake Ontario and the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment.
Ontario wine is made from 100% Ontario grapes that qualify for classification under Ontario's appellation system, the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), depending on the varietal, the winemaking techniques employed and other restrictions.
Ontario is fortunate to be able to grow many recognized wine grapes, with widespread plantings of Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. The local conditions support great strength in varieties that are traditionally grown in moderate climates and set the stage for balanced, complex and elegant wines. The majority of all wines produced in Ontario are dry table wines, made from over 40 grape varieties. As a cool climate region, the wines present a fruit character that is expressive of the particular grape variety but also show an elegance in structure that comes from the balanced acidity and minerality that shows through.
Wine production is approximately 60% white wine varieties and 40% red. Other white grape varieties of note are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Vidal Blanc while reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Noir, Syrah and Baco Noir. Baco Noir and Vidal Blanc are unique varieties, developed in North America and two of only eight such hybrid varieties allowed for production within the Ontario appellation system. Both have proven to produce fine wines, and in the case of Vidal Blanc, exceptional Ice-wine.
Ontario Ice-wine are iconic sweet wines - beginning in 1989, when an Ontario Ice-wine won top honours at a prestigious French wine competition, Ontario rapidly became a world leader in Ice-wine. Dry Sparkling Wines, made in the traditional method with fermentation in the bottle, have emerged as a significant strength for Ontario. The cool climate conditions are extremely suitable to produce ideal characters in the traditional varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which thrive in all of the appellations.