What is cool-climate wine?

You may have heard the term “cool climate” applied to Ontario wines. Predictably, this term refers to the temperature in which grapes are grown—which greatly affects the wine that ends up in the bottle. And, let’s face it, Ontario is pretty much as cool as it gets.

While grapes grown in the world’s warm regions ripen quickly and make for sweet, big wines that are low in acid and high in alcohol, the grapes grown in cooler regions (such as Ontario, Germany or northern France) ripen and accumulate their flavour slowly. The wines tend to be complex and balanced, with higher acidity and more mineral flavours—making them the most food-friendly wines in the world.

Why so food-friendly? It’s simple: Wines that have complex flavours and higher acidity help to accent the flavours in the food you’re eating.

Certain grape varieties built their centuries of history on being grown in cooler temperatures; these include Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. A cooler climate allows the particular character of each varietal to show through, in table wines, sparkling wines and dessert wines. Many of these varietals have already attracted a loyal following in Ontario.

Of course, even within a single winemaking region, climate is only one of the many factors at play. But it’s a good place to start when you’re discovering wine country, trying to put your finger on just what it is that makes our wines special.

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