Grape Growers of Ontario CEO Debbie Zimmerman believes the severe winter cold that’s caused short crops in recent years is a wake-up call to Ontario grape growers.
"There are some varieties that we just should not be growing," Zimmerman said. Zimmerman doesn’t believe Ontario wineries and growers should compete with the latest wines from Australia if the Ontario climate isn’t suited to their wine grape varieties.
"There’s consumer demand, but if we can’t produce, we’re all going to be in trouble," she said, noting that all segments of the industry, from growers to retailers, have to cooperate to address the issue.
The financial challenges growers face from the recent years of short crops is a sign of the dangers facing the Ontario wine industry as a whole unless there’s an emphasis on viable varieties.
Grower Ray Duc, chair of the growers’ organization, identifies two varieties in particular that have served growers well, even during the harsh winters of 2003 and 2005.
"Riesling does very well in Ontario, and it makes a very unique, good wine. And I think it’s something we can really promote in the future," he said. "In the reds, Cabernet Franc has come through reasonably well."
The top-grown red grapes in Ontario, by tonnage, include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay. The top white varietals are Chardonnay, Johannisberg Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.