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A taste of time: Brock University’s annual ‘Experts Tasting’

June 11, 2024
The Experts Tasting at Brock University’s CCOVI continues to be a beacon of excellence, education, and celebration in the world of cool-climate winemaking

On June 6, Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) hosted its highly anticipated annual Experts Tasting event, bringing together a select group of media professionals, product consultants, sommeliers, and wine educators. This invitation-only event, designed to promote VQA wines through education and promotion, has been a cornerstone of the Ontario region’s wine industry for over 30 years.

Established in 1996, CCOVI is internationally recognized for its cutting-edge research and its dedication to the Canadian grape and wine industry. The institute works closely with the Grape Growers of Ontario, Wine Growers Ontario, and Ontario Craft Wineries, making significant contributions to both research and education in the field.

Read Also: Celebrating Ontario’s wine industry stars at Cuvée’s big return

This year, the Experts Tasting took a retrospective approach, focusing on the evolution of Ontario wines over the years. The theme offered attendees a unique opportunity to taste and evaluate wines from past vintages, exploring how they have aged and whether they have withstood the test of time. It was, what could be described as, a vinous journey through a time capsule.

Highlights from the tasting

One of the standout vertical tastings featured Inniskillin’s Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir (with current Inniskillin winemaker Nick Gizuk presenting, and former winemaker Bruce Nicholson on hand to speak), comparing the 1999, 2013, and 2021 vintages. This session offered a fascinating glimpse into the wine’s development, highlighting how different years and conditions (not to mention different winemakers) have shaped its character and complexity. Previous interpretations of vineyard management and vinification practices, along with barrel treatments could also be identified through these tastings, proving that a lot can change in 25 (short) years.

Experts Tasting at Brock University

Experts Tasting 2024 (Photo courtesy of CCOVI at Brock University.)

Similarly, Cave Spring’s CSV Rieslings were showcased in a comparative tasting of the 2000, 2010, and 2020 vintages, with current winemaker Gabriel Demarco and past winemaker Angelo Pavan also in attendance to speak on the wines. The vertical tasting demonstrated the aging potential of riesling – from one of its most trustworthy winery and vineyard site combinations – with each vintage revealing its own unique story and evolution over the decades.

Then there’s chardonnay. Enthusiasts of this much celebrated variety were in for a treat with a special presentation by wine writer and critic Michael Godel, who featured seven chardonnays, six of which were from the Niagara region. Godel emphasized chardonnay’s versatility and its ability to reflect the wonders of nature and winemaking origins.

“Chardonnay is a great variety that celebrates nature and wonders of the world, speaking to the origins of winemaking in such ordinary tones,” Godel remarked. He further noted, “Chardonnay is great at the core and crux of our cool climate region.” Among the examples presented were the 2014 and 2021 Tawse Vinemount Ridge chardonnays, the 2013 and 2021 Hidden Bench expressions, and the 2016 and 2021 Two Sisters Vineyards bottlings.

Icewine is still cool

Another highlight of the event was the tasting of two iconic Icewines, aged 20 years apart – a testament to the virtues of being patient. Attendees had the rare opportunity to compare Inniskillin’s 2001 Vidal Gold Icewine with its 2021 counterpart, showcasing the luxurious depth and complexity that comes with age. In addition to showcasing a dark brown, almost maple syrup colour with a yellow gold rim to it, the 2001 presented deep and concentrated notes of honey and caramel that lasted long into the exquisite finish.

Experts Tasting

Experts Tasting 2024 (photo courtesy of CCOVI at Brock University).

The day also featured tastings of other standout varieties. The 2012 Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc was tasted alongside the 2018 vintage, providing a fascinating look at how this leading Ontario variety can gracefully mature. Similarly, the comparison of a 2013 Small Lot Pinot Noir from Malivoire with the 2021 vintage, and the 2008 Hidden Bench Pinot with its 2021 version, further highlighted the aging potential and diversity of Ontario wines. Furthermore, attendees compared mid-aged rieslings from Featherstone Estate Winery and Charles Baker (2013 and 2015 respectively) with their more recent expressions, offering insights into the evolution of this beloved grape that Ontario does so well with.

A celebration of Ontario winemaking

The Experts Tasting not only celebrated the history and evolution of Ontario wines but also provided a platform for industry professionals to share knowledge and foster connections. It was a reminder of the passion and dedication that define Ontario’s winemaking community, as well as the region’s growing reputation on the global stage.

Experts Tasting

Experts Tasting 2024: (photo courtesy of Brock University).

Without a doubt, attendees left with a deeper appreciation for the complexities and nuances of Ontario wines.

Looking ahead, next year’s Experts Tasting is scheduled for June 5th, promising yet another exceptional opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of Ontario wines. For those fortunate enough to receive an invitation, it will be a chance to once again delve into the stories and flavours that make this region so special.

 

– Carmelo Giardina is the principal editor at VineRoutes

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