John Maxwell, owner of internationally renowned restaurant Allen's and the largest collection of VQA wines in the world, says Ontario wines are among the world's best.

Distinct flavour puts Ontario wines among best

Lack of tradition, experimentation and weather contributes to great bottles of vino

Interesting fact:

Did you know that Inniskillin 2003 Gold Oak aged Vidal Icewine at was served at the Nobel Peace Prize dinner when U.S. President Barack Obama received the award in 2009? The icewine was made by Inniskillin wines located in Ontario’s Niagra on the lake.

When we think of wine, we automatically turn our thoughts to France, Italy, Portugal — not Ontario.

According to John Maxwell, owner of Allen’s restaurant on Danforth Avenue and the largest assembled collection of VQA wines, wine enthusiasts not discovering the province’s offerings are missing out.

“Our ice wines are the best in the world, but you could expand that: our Chardonnay, our Riesling, our Cabernet Franc are among … the best in the world,” Maxwell said.

Ontario wines compete with the best, but what gives them their distinct flavour?

Maxwell seems to think it’s a multitude of factors all working together.

“We are on the same latitude as Bordeaux [in France], and as Piemonte (from) Italy. We are very well placed for wine growth,” Maxwell said.

“Most wine regions of the world are very established and one knows what to expect from them. There are certain traditions, tastes, styles of wine making that is associated with each region. Here, we are much more free to experiment and winemakers … are flocking to Ontario to make wine here because there are so few traditions, rules and practices to inhibit them.”

The weather dramatically effects grape production. In hot, dry weather the reds will flourish, but under cooler conditions the whites will be strong. Jamie Slingerland, directory of Viticulture for Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-lake predicts the reds will stand out this year — Merlot in particular.

“We had a lot of very good weather at the start of the season for the white grapes,” he said. “It was a bit of a cooler summer, so they developed along with a bit higher acidities.

“Then we had the heat just at the veraison of when the reds turn colour. We kind of had the advantage of high sugars in all grapes and balanced acidities and PH. It has turned out to be a pretty good white wine year and as far as the reds go there actually looking really good.”

Maxwell believes Ontario has only begun to make its mark on the international wine scene.

“Our local wine scene is one of the most promising, new frontiers in wine-making in the world today.” Maxwell said.