DEFYING several conventions about growing grapes, Canada has a number of wineries significantly further to the north than other wine producing areas on the continent.
But I wonder, will daring to be different be at the expense of quality? To find out, I’m taking a closer look at wines from Canada and the Finger Lakes of New York State.
Predictably, first up is a chardonnay, and my question is almost immediately answered by the astonishingly successful 2009 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay (£21.93 at Exel Wines in Perth) from Canada’s Niagara Peninsula. The smooth, elegant and beautifully integrated fruit compares well with similarly priced white burgundy, delivering, as it does, textured orange flavours and a fresh, lemon edge with a buttery, vanilla backdrop to provide extra complexity.
Making a virtue of a geographic necessity, Canada also produces fantastic icewine. This involves gathering grapes while they are frozen and using them to create luscious dessert wine that is acclaimed the world over. Because of the extreme temperature – and the way that the water content of the grape freezes while its sugars do not – the result is an exceptional concentration and purity. Production, however, is labour intensive and very time sensitive – hence prices are unavoidably high. For an excellent example, seek out 2008 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine (£50.90 for a half bottle, also at Exel Wines in Perth). Its flavour range combines sweet apple, honeysuckle, clover and toffee apple touched off by gentle broom blossom aromas, but then the whole thing is given a palate-refreshing burst of clean, lime-centred acidity. By avoiding the overpowering cloyingness of many dessert wines, the balanced freshness here offers, to me, the potential high spot of any Christmas lunch table.
Riesling is also an important grape variety over the border in the Finger Lakes, but 2010 Fox Run Finger Lakes Dry Riesling (£21 at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh), is a dry and versatile (rather than a dessert) wine. It is delightfully different, however, offering appealing opening savoury, herbal influences to complement – and contrast with – the vibrant tangerine and green apple flavours that are all set off by a characteristic concluding twist of lime.
The same growers also produce a red. 2008 Fox Run Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc (the same price at Harvey Nichols) is significantly lighter than versions of this grape variety from elsewhere, with gentle but clear raspberry and cherry flavours and subtle touches of acidity. Its spice and earthy beetroot components put me in mind of gamay, but there is a surprising sturdiness that helps the wine work really well even with food such as haggis.
Further east, at the Sheldrake Point Vineyard, they have created an unusual blend in 2010 Luckystone White (£17 at Harvey Nichols). Chardonnay and gewürztraminer join riesling and pinot gris to produce a wine that, unexpectedly, puts mellow, nutty, vanilla and cinnamon spices centre stage and then fires them up with acidity and suggestions of peach and banana fruit. Rather like ginger, it works really well with prawn dishes.
However, if all those air miles stir ethical misgivings, I am joining local-sourcing enthusiasts, the Edinburgh Larder from Alva Street for a food and wine evening on 5 November to celebrate more local fare. Tickets will be £42 for four courses with matched wines (to apply visit www.edinburghlarder.co.uk or email email@example.com).
2013 Parra Alta Chardonnay
Mendoza, Argentina, 13 per cent
Not one for those seeking rich and textured chardonnay, but the myriad lovers of light, fruity, drink-anytime versions will adore the pear, peach and lime flavours on display here and the fresh, minty and crisp acidity that is wrapped around them.
£5.49 until 12 November – from a list price of £10.99 – at Tesco
2011 Puy de Dome Pinot Noir
Auvergne, France, 13.5 per cent
This is cracking pinot from a somewhat unfashionable part of France but with all the earthy depth that can make the grape variety memorable, nicely embellished with vanilla, mint and some sweeter spices to round out its bright blackcurrant and black cherry fruit.
£7.50 at The Wine Society