Tuesday, February 23, 2016

History of Canada's Wines

Canada has a rich and wonderful history part of which is that of our wine industry. It dates back to the Vikings who landed in Newfoundland calling it Vineland. The wine industry began to surge in the late 1800s only to be crushed by prohibition in 1919.

For those wineries that made it through prohibition most names are gone some lost forever, others remembered only because their names are on labels used by new companies like Vincor. Lost names are London Winery, Bright, Cartier Wines, Jordan, Ste. Michell, Niagara Falls Wine, Domestic Wines, Growers Wines, Ridout Wines and Chateau Gai.

In 1964 John Labatt a major brewer in Manitoba plunged into the wine business by acquiring Chateau-Gai in Ontario and Casabello Winery in BC. In 1965, Labatt's acquired control of the Parkdale Wines Limited and, a year later, Grimsby Wines Limited to establish a position in the growing Canadian wine market Later they purchased Lamont Cellars in California and sent a young man by the name of Don Triggs to manage the winery. It became a profitable winery. Also involved was Allan Jackson who managed Rideout Wines for Labatts.

Subsequently, Don Triggs became responsible for managing John Labatt's wine businesses in Canada and the US. In the 1980s, he ran the North American and then global horticultural business of Fisons PLC. However, his most important career move came in 1989, when he joined forces with his friend, Allan Jackson, to negotiate the management buyout of Labatt's Canadian wine interests.

Allan Jackson joined John Labatt's to initiate a wine research program in association with the National Research Council to improve the quality of Canadian table wines. Soon he was responsible for research and quality control for the company's Canadian and American wine divisions. Labatt market their wines under the name .Cartier Wines.

When Labatt decided to opt out of the wine business in 1989, Allan Jackson and Don Triggs undertook a buy-out of Labatt's Canadian wine interests known as Rideout Wines. This was the begining of Jackson-Triggs and Vincor.

I received the following letter recently

My father-in-law has a bottle of Chateau Gai Champagne that was given to his mother by his father when he was born. He is now 81 so I am assuming the champagne was a couple of years old when it was given.
We are having a family reunion in June and he wants to open it.

I have 2 concerns........ one that it will be bad and should not be consumed
and the other that.......... it may actually be worth something if it is not opened.

What do you think? Who should I ask?

I asked wine expert John Schreiner about the wine, this was his response:

I would suggest that the wine is long gone and may be best left in the bottle while you toast your grandfather with a current sparkling wine from Jackson-Triggs (successor to Chateau Gai) or from Chateau des Charmes, whose founder began his Canadian career with Chateau Gai in 1964. His name is Paul Bosc. He is still around but the winery is run by his son, Paul Bosc Jr.

The value of this bottle resides in its place in Canadian wine history.
Canadian Wineries – which I believe had the Chateau Gai label and then later changed its name to Chateau Gai – was the result of winery mergers just after the end of prohibition in Ontario in 1927. In 1928, it was the first winery in North America to secure (for 25 years) the rights to the Charmat method of making sparkling wine (fermenting it in a pressure tank, not in individual bottles). You may have the only remaining bottle from that era.

I once tasted a true Champagne of a similar age that had spent most of its years at the bottle of the ocean off Sweden . The cold and stable environment preserved the wine but the wine had almost no bubbles left and tasted, pleasantly, of hazelnuts.
I would expect the bubbles are gone as well in your wine. As to the flavours, Canadian wines in those days were being made with exceedingly poor wine grapes.

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