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Ontario Wine: Beamsville vs. Niagara

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Matthew Sullivan Jun 24, 2008 08:27 PM

I've been writing/drinking/thinking a lot about Beamsville, Ontario lately:

http://www.lawandstyle.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=318&Itemid=90

A friend of mine responded to one of my columns with the question of whether Beamsville is edging out Niagara in terms of quality. While I am hesitant about generalities, I believe the answer must be "yes".

NIagara is cursed with fertile soil and big plots of land - the perfect ingredients for large wineries that spend most of their time and energy producing cheap, unremarkable wines for a voracious but undemanding market in southern Ontario (especially Toronto). Not that all Niagara wineries are huge (or that all of the huge wineries make bad wine - Henry of Pelham's Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is splendid, for example) - but this commercial focus on mass producing wine is the trend in Niagara.

Beamsville, on the other hand, does not have particularly rich soil. This is wonderful. It keeps the vineyard yields low. Fewer grapes on the vine. Every winemaker I have ever met in Beamsville repeats "low yields" like a mantra. Most take great pains to ensure that their vines produce less rather than more fruit. This concentrates the flavours in fewer grapes, and gives the wines complexity and depth.

This has the side effect of preventing any of the wineries from getting too big, forcing them to rely on quality instead of quantity. The result: Le Clos Jordanne, Hidden Bench, Daniel Lenko, Thirty Bench. All are raising Ontario wines to a new level.

That's my two cents. I wonder how others see it. Have I been drinking too much?

Matthew Sullivan
The Short Cellar
www.lawandstyle.ca/shortcellar
matthew@lawandstyle.ca

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