How gamay became an iconic grape in Ontario vineyards


The Malivoire Wine Company has helped bring attention to the star power of the Gamay in Niagara.


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Despite the production of a relatively small amount of wine, the fortune of the Gamay grape continues to grow in Ontario. The quality of what is produced has made it one of the flagship varieties in the industry.

Ontario wineries produced nearly 500,000 bottles of Gamay in the 2019 vintage. This represents 3 percent of the total volume produced, but the popularity of these wines with restaurateurs and collectors has elevated Gamay to grape variety. Lighthouse. (Another staple red grape in Ontario, Pinot Noir, accounts for 7 percent of production.)

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Pioneer wineries, such as Cave Spring and Château des Charmes, embraced gamay because it ripens relatively early, a big plus given the uncertainties of Ontario’s shorter growing season. The unpretentious, lively and refreshing style of these early wines, which suggested a blend of cherry and red berries with subtle peppery notes, made them charming pizza, pasta and burger wines.

A few years later, Malivoire Wine Company and 13th Street Winery helped bring attention to the star power of Gamay in Niagara. These wines have been treated more like Pinot Noir, with attention to detail in the vineyard and time to age in French oak barrels to gain complexity and character.

Ten years ago there were just over 20 different Gamay wines available to consumers. Today, more than 60 different red wines are offered, coming from more than 40 wineries.

Producers to watch include: 13th Street Winery; Adamo; Bachelor; Source of the cave; Castle of Charmes; Hidden bench; Leaning post; Malivoire; Ruisseau-Sud; and Stratus.

In the vineyard, the Gamay vines are vigorous. Producers must reduce the harvest to ensure the maturity of all grapes. More premium producers are reducing their yields in an effort to produce richer, more flavorful wine. The best Ontario-made examples are available in the $ 15 to $ 30 range, which is crazy for some wine drinkers, but represents good value for money.

Although Gamay tends to produce lighter and brighter styles of red wines, there are significant variations between wineries in Ontario. Fruity and juicy styles tend to be more affordable, while more serious and complex examples offer a more concentrated character and therefore sell for a higher price.

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