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Canadian harvest begins

Canadian wineries picked the first fruit of the 2008 vintage this week and winemakers appear more than satisfied with quality.

Matthew Speck, viticulturalist at Henry of Pelham Winery on the Niagara Escarpment, said they were slightly behind normal harvest but the grapes looked ‘fantastic.’

More rain than average fell during summer in the Niagara region, prompting growers to thin fruit, and delaying harvest by a week or so.

Other than that, the season has been favourable with a mild winter; a hot, dry spring with good fruit set, a warm summer and a dry, sunny autumn.

Winemakers from Jackson-Triggs Niagara and Inniskillin Wines told decanter.com Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are among the best white varieties this year, with good flavour profiles and sugar levels.

While it’s too early to judge later ripening varieties, outstanding Pinot Noir is being harvested now.

‘The Pinot Noir picked today was 21° Brix, which will produce about 12% alcohol. The grapes are tasty with good depth of flavour,’ Speck said.

In the Okanagan Valley cool summer temperatures with average rainfall helped grapes achieve balance.

‘The flavours have responded to the coolness of the summer,’ John Simes, winemaker at Mission Hill Winery said. ‘There’s no rot and the fruit is in excellent condition. Whites are as good as I’ve seen.’

As in Niagara, the reds are still ripening.

Crop size in the Okanagan will be up 10% this year due to fruit from new vineyards.

In Niagara production levels are expected to be average: slightly higher than 2007, which were lower than usual.

Written by Carolyn Evans-Hammond in Toronto

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