Thursday, March 7, 2013

little Lake Erie and the Ontario style

2011 Cooper's Hawk Riesling | VQA Lake Erie North Shore

Lake Erie North Shore is, as the name suggests, in the southwestern part of Ontario, along Lake Erie. The growing season here is generally the warmest out of the 3 viticultural areas of Ontario (Niagara and Prince Edward County being the other 2), with soils mainly consisting of sandy loam and gravel deposits on top of shale limestone bedrock.

We could go on and on about the specifics of this terroir (see VQA website), but this isn't the way to present the wines. Even living in Toronto, we rarely hear about this region and these wineries, so the question isn't so much about climate, soil, and geography, but rather on how these wines can be successfully marketed. And it's not about the vineyards. Because despite what the VQA and the producers would like to think, these minor areas are not necessarily special.

Canadian wine starts and ends with Niagara and the Okanagan Valley. Period. All these other smaller regions may produce interesting, even good wines, but in the larger Canadian wine industry, their contributions are insignificant. I'm not trying to disparage Lake Erie North Shore by any means ... I'm just certain that trying to convince consumers that the wines coming out of here are at all unique or more profound is not a successful strategy. As someone who constantly rails against homogeneity, I can't believe I'm about to say this ... but these smaller regions need to create a distinct, unified style of wine that is easily recognizable to consumers.

Take this riesling, for example. It fits into that mold of Ontario riesling - clean fruit, slight sweetness, low(ish) alcohol. Relative to a Niagara riesling, you're not getting that extract or minerality, but it's a pleasant enough drink. Consumers want reliability - that's why Yellowtail is such a success. People know that it's shit, just like they know McDonald's isn't real food. But they're also getting exactly what they expect, and really, people aren't all that adventurous when it comes to wine. So when they're looking for a white wine that hovers around $15, this should be the type of wine they're reaching for. When they look at a Lake Erie North Shore riesling, there should be a style associated with it, regardless of which winery it is. It's essentially branding the entire region, and associating it with a certain style of wine. And that's how you're going to move those bottles.

As a wino, I want to be an idealist and be all romantic about wine, but as someone who wants to get into the industry - you've got to find a way to make that money.


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