A lesson learned on Canada’s wine

HEAD SOMMELIER AND MANAGER OF LUTYENS RESTAURANT

As is typical in the London restaurant scene, we have a very international team at Lutyens. My assistant Andres is from Canada and, as he went home for Christmas, he brought in some Canadian wine for us to try. There is comparatively little Canadian wine in the UK market aside from Ice-wine from Ontario. This is a style that originates in Germany where the grapes are left to hang on the vines until well into winter. The grapes freeze and are picked and pressed while still frozen, this effectively extracts some of the water from the juice and so concentrates it giving a super sweet wine.

That’s not what he brought back however as he’s from British Columbia. These are wines that have a great deal in common with the wines of the Pacific North-West of the USA. It’s the usual story, as you move away from the equator the climate becomes cooler and the wines tend to higher acidity and lower alcohol. Certain grape varieties are more suitable for cooler climates and, to generalise wildly, as the growing season is longer they tend to be more aromatic as the flavours have longer to accumulate in the grapes.

The red is Black Hills Nota Bene 2008, shame on us for opening it as it’s just a baby, a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. There’s an elegance and freshness to it that mark it out as a cool climate wine but, in fact, it is from the southern end of the Okanaga valley, where the gravelly soils blend into the sandy desert of Osoyoos. Along with the crunchy Cabernet fruit (and Franc leafiness) there’s a Sage-like herbaceousness along with tarry liquorice, coffee and cocoa powder. Nice round mouth feel is counterpointed by fine tannins and brisk acidity. Delicious, but I’d like to see it in a few years time. I feel like I’ve learned something about Canadian wine today.