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Ziraldo's Zap

Think of the great wine-producing regions of the world... France, Italy, California... but what about Canada? Challenged by climate and perception, Canadian wines suffered from a bad reputation. But winemakers have worked hard to improve the quality of their product. International awards, improved standards and government intervention have transformed the industry. The result? Canadian wines are gaining acceptance throughout the world.

It's 1978 and Donald Ziraldo is the driven young president of Inniskillin Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. A recent graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, he has strong ideas about the potential of the Canadian wine industry. Despite the higher costs, Ziraldo and his partner, wine maker Karl Kaiser, are dedicated to producing high-quality Canadian wines from vinifera grapes.

In this clip from CBCs Country Canada, Ziraldo talks about their attempt to upgrade Ontario's image by providing wines made from the "noble" varieties.
• Canada is a cool-climate wine producing region. Most of the wine made in Canada comes from grapes grown in the southern parts of Ontario and British Columbia. Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also make small amounts of wine. New Brunswick and Newfoundland produce small amounts of fruit wines.

• The Canadian Vintners Association is the national body representing the wine industry in Canada. Provincial associations are the British Columbia Wine Institute, the Wine Council of Ontario and the Winery Association of Nova Scotia.

• There are seven designated viticultural areas in Canada: Fraser Valley, Similkameen Valley, Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island, Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island. Unique microclimates distinguish each of these areas.

• The Niagara region, situated between 41 and 44 degrees N latitude, is on the same latitude as northern California and further south than Burgundy.

• British Columbia's Okanagan Valley is on the same latitude as the Champagne region in France and the Rheingau region in Germany.

• European vinifera varieties include Chardonnay, Cabernet, Gamay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Riesling. While these varieties make the best wine, they can be quite risky to grow.

• Labrusca varieties native to eastern North America include Concord, Delaware, Catawba and Niagara -- good for juices, jams and jellies, but rarely used for winemaking in Canada.

• European-native hybrids include Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc and Vidal and are often used for winemaking in Ontario.

• In 1946 Adhemar de Chaunac of Brights Wines imported French viniferas, producing the first 100% Canadian Chardonnay in 1955. De Chaunac, a French microbiologist, was hired by Brights in 1933. In exchange for $600,000 and twenty years to do research, he promised to develop good table wines. De Chaunac was instrumental in proving that vinifera grapes could be grown in Canada.

• In 1979 Canada's largest wine club, the Opimian Society, first offered a Canadian vintage for sale.
Medium: Television
Program: Country Canada
Broadcast Date: Jan. 1, 1978
Guest(s): Karl Kaiser, Keith Wiley, Donald Ziraldo, Rita Ziraldo
Announcer: Sandy Cushon
Duration: 14:08

Last updated: May 14, 2013

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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