Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I come to the world of wine from the world of writing and publishing, and to work in writing and publishing in Canada is to understand at a visceral level the limitations of the Canadian marketplace. I've written elsewhere that the 44% market share Canadian wine 'enjoys' in its own country is actually an impressive figure seen through the lens of Canada's cultural industries. Our most successful domestic cultural product -- magazines -- currently struggles to maintain 45% of the real estate on Canadian newsstands (and those are the better newsstands), while Canadian films are regularly shown on less than 5% of Canadian movie screens.

Living and working in this reality quickly turns a person into a booster, or 'homer' in sports phraseology. Even while researching my very first wine article from last year, I could feel my inner homer awakening. Why shouldn't Canadian wines be considered as good, if not better than all that foreign product crowding my liquor store shelves? At one point during my recent friendly weekend tasting (see previous posting), one of my gang used the word Ontario as a negative and I felt the burn of injustice. Another taster wrote Ontari-ari-ario as a note, recalling the slightly embarassing place to stand, place to grow days of Ontario pride. I've no doubt this is an unconscious prejudice in my friends, built on early cheap wine experiences from twenty years ago, and a palate now trained by a somewhat homogenized mass market. Unconcscious or not, it persists, despite a revolutionized Canadian industry producing excellent wines.

The Henry of Pelham Reserve Riesling (2003) we tried on the weekend was clearly not to everyone's taste, yet it was the bottle to which I returned most often because its complexity revealed something new to me with every sip. It was also popular, perhaps not surprisingly, with the only citizen of Switzerland in the farmhouse.

Here are my notes on the Pelham:

Henry of Pelham Reserve Riesling (2003 -- $13.95 LCBO)

A deep straw colour. Surprisingly strong evergreen with some lime. More pine on the tongue with grapefruit. Medium body with a satisfyingly crisp finish.

I took a glass of the Riesling with me when I walked the dog around the yard and the crisp fresh air made it even better.

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