Festivals: Lovers of Wines in Ontario
by Aurélie Goudal
Each year, the French Chamber of Commerce in Canada (Toronto chapter) organizes the Festival Beaujolais Toronto, the largest festival of Beaujolais wines in the world.
This festival, organized by the French Chamber of Commerce, comes from a popular French tradition that takes place every third Thursday in November. Originally, the event marked the end of harvest and the release of Beaujolais Nouveau. However, this Canadian event is not just about the Beaujolais Nouveau. It is also an opportunity to enjoy ten other French wines from the same region, together with fi ne French cuisine.
As Gaï de Ropraz, of the French Chamber of Commerce and President of the Festival explains to us, “They are all different wines, ranging from South to North of the region called Beaujolais. It is a small region which is 50 km long by 15 km wide. We offer here, at this occasion, all the wines of this area, which is quite rare in the world. It is ten vintages at the same moment.
A unique event
That makes this festival, which is the largest in the world, unique. “Japan is a bit bigger,” explains de Ropraz, “but it lasts about six months. For us it takes an evening.ˮ The food is as good as the wine, with Beaujolais dishes such as Coq-au-Vin and ‘canapés’ offered throughout the magnificent Dominion Club’s Grand Banking Hall.
The 2008 Beaujolais Festival took place on November 21st and as Violaine Tourny, member of the Executive Committee of the Association France-Canada in Toronto tells us, it brought together French from France and francophones from around the world (including Ontario, Africa, Quebec) as well as a growing number of English participants.
The Beaujolais Festival brought together between 600 and 800 people, about same number as the year before. Come join the next Beaujolais Festival in 2009! As their website says: “This festival is an occasion to celebrate among friends and colleagues while enjoying wonderful Beaujolais wines and delicious French cuisine.”
Canada has an area equal to 20 times that of France, and the size of its vineyards approach one and a half times that of the Bourgogne vineyards. This country has two major wine regions, the first being in Ontario and the second in the province of British Columbia. Southern Ontario is at the same latitude as Bordeaux, and some valleys of British Columbia are also hot in summer. Thus, the summer temperatures in these regions can produce red and white wines of good quality, the best of which are governed by regulations known as V.Q.A. (Vintners Quality Alliance), standards which are similar to French AOC standards.
Ontario is Canada’s second largest province with its 1.1 million sq. km bordered at the North by the Hudson Bay and at the South by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
There are four wine regions in Ontario:
- Lake Erie North Shore (North-East of Lake Erie)
- Niagara Peninsula (Niagara Peninsula, near The Falls)
- Pelee Island
- Prince Edward County (East of Toronto on Lake Ontario)
Most vineyards are located near the historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, the oldest wine community of Ontario.
The world’s largest producer of Icewine
Canada is now known particularly for its production of “Icewine”. The first crop was marketed by Hainle Vineyards in 1978.
The conditions needed for a successful harvest explain why Canada is the perfect place to produce it. Indeed, for this wonderful wine, we must wait until the cold comes (after November 15 and especially in January). Often, producers have to wait two nights at -10 degrees to start harvesting, grape by grape. It also requires a lot of patience and discipline to get the finished product.
Many of the grapes used for the production of icewine are hybrids of Vidal and a traditional grape variety, Riesling. Other varieties can also be used, such as Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
The European Union started importing icewine in April 2001. Nowadays, Canada is the world’s largest producer of icewine.