Last year's drought was good for grapes, winemakers say

Last summer's drought, while bad for most of the province's agriculture sector, turned out to be a great thing for Ontario wine producers.

Grape Growers of Ontario say 2012 crop was biggest and best in more than 60 years

Last year's drought in Ontario turned out to be a great thing for wine producers. 2:29

It's shaping up to be a good year for Ontario and west Quebec wine producers.

Raymond Huneault says 2012 was the best year for producing wine he's ever had. (CBC)

Last summer's drought, while bad for most of the province's agriculture sector, turned out to be a great thing for grapes.

"2012 is the best wines we've ever produced," said Raymond Huneault, a winemaker in Aylmer, Que.

"For us it was perfect, it was good for us to have very dry weather because the vines, they love to grow grapes in dry weather and there was no diseases on our vines and apple trees."

Huneault is already busy bottling white wine from 2012.

"We just tasted it a few days ago," Huneault said. "It's a very good wine. … It was so hot last summer we had a real good quality of wine, and we're early too with the white because it was so sweet. The juice was of a really, really great quality."

Huneault said 2102's red wine and ice red wine, as well as cider, have also benefited from the dry conditions.

"I think it's the best year I ever had," he said.

Biggest, best crop in more than 60 years

And he's not alone. The Grape Growers of Ontario say they had the biggest and best crop in more than 60 years, thanks to the drought.

Natalie Maclean, a wine expert, says hot, dry conditions in 2012 made grape vines work hard. (CBC)

Wine expert Natalie MacLean said the conditions were a perfect storm.

"Wines are like people, a little bit of suffering builds character," she said. "[The conditions] made the vines really work hard, reach down into the soils, and as a result the wines that we're producing this year are fantastic."

Eric Belchamber, a sommelier at Ottawa's Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar, said the potential for 2012 Ontario red wines is exciting.

"In the past various red wines have had a bit of a greenness to them, they've been underripe. They haven't quite achieved the ripeness that we really seek, and with this drought now and the high temperatures, we think that that should really be possible," Belchamber said.

Huneault said he's planning on bringing a couple of bottles of his 2012 wines back to his family's farm in France, where his grandmother and grandfather passed on their love of winemaking to him.

"It's very emotional for me. I cannot express all the emotions about bringing back the bottles to my grandparents … that's something," he said.