It started with grape-guzzling bears.

I used to be on trip in British Columbia’s pristinely stunning Okanagan winemaking area this summer time once I requested Severine Pinte, a French winemaker, to explain her greatest tradition shock since arriving in Canada a decade in the past.

Her reply? The menacing black bears that climbed down from the mountains each September, round harvest time, and devoured rows of her valuable grapes, forcing native wineries to make use of electrified fences, pepper bombs or hunters.

I instantly knew I used to be on to a narrative. The settlement of French winemakers within the space additionally appeared an encouraging signal of its potential.

[Read: Canada’s Napa Valley Seeks Elusive Audience: Canadian Wine Drinkers].

May the nation that gave the world such delicacies as seal flipper pie, shmoo cake and poutine grow to be the land of pinot noir, and enter the pantheon of famed winemaking areas like Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Tuscany?

I’ve to admit, I approached the query with snobbery and skepticism. I equated nice wine with the nation of Voltaire. In any case, my oenophilia had taken root whereas I used to be a Paris correspondent for The Times. Exterior of labor, I inhaled glasses of full-bodied Bordeaux wines in crowded Parisien bistros and relished touring to French wine nation.

After I moved again to Montreal following almost three a long time in Europe, the sterile effectivity of my neighborhood’s state-run liquor retailer made me lonesome for my native Parisien wine service provider. There, I had been greeted with a hearty “Daniel!” The wine attendant knew my favourite vintages by coronary heart and lovingly offered me bottles of St.-Joseph or Pomorol as if handing over his youngsters.

Nonetheless, in August, I traveled to the Okanagan Valley with an open thoughts. Like different Canadians, I had been determined for a pandemic escape and had braved an almost six-hour, masked flight to Vancouver, adopted by an almost five-hour drive to the area.

And even with out my wine-induced buzz, the informality of jovial Canadian wine pilgrims in shorts and flip flops made the tastings much less stodgy than some I had skilled in France.

Possessed by the zeal of a brand new convert, I used to be dismayed to find that almost all Okanagan wines weren’t simply out there in the remainder of Canada, together with my native Montreal. I wanted to seek out out: Why?

The reply dumbfounded me — Prohibition period regulations continued to carry sway and most provinces nonetheless forbade particular person shoppers to order shipments of wine from different provinces.

This being Canada, regionalism was additionally at play. At upmarket eating places in food-obsessed Montreal, sommeliers had been extra prone to counsel a plucky Quebec wine or a French classic than wine from faraway British Columbia (Some Quebecers like to make use of the acronym “ROC” to seek advice from the remainder of Canada, as if citing a noxious overseas planet).

Once I requested the Okanagan wineries if I might order wine to Montreal, they defined, usually in hushed whispers, that they acquired across the guidelines through the use of a medical provides firm and never labeling shipments as wine. I couldn’t assist questioning if this frisson of subterfuge made the wine extra pleasing, like getting access to an atmospheric speakeasy in New York City in the 1920s.

As we gazed over the winery of Osoyoos Larose Estate winery, its chief winemaker, Caroline Schaller, defined to me that it was additionally difficult for Okanagan wines to realize traction nationwide, when low volumes of manufacturing saved costs comparatively excessive.

“You’ll find a drinkable bottle of Bordeaux wine in a Paris wine store for $5,” she noticed. In distinction, a glass of her Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin, can price as a lot as $16 in an upmarket Vancouver restaurant.

Nonetheless, the Okanagan Valley is step by step gaining a worldwide following in maybe unlikely locations.

Raphaël Merlaut is a part of the household that based France’s Groupe Taillan, which owns, amongst different issues, Osoyoos Larose Property vineyard and 21 châteaux in France. He informed me that the creativity he noticed within the Okanagan Valley made him really feel like he was being transported in a time machine to Bordeaux within the 18th century.

“For my household, B.C. wine is a love affair, like assembly a girl and falling in love,” he informed me. “It’s a brand new frontier.”

Ms. Pinte of Le Vieux Pin defined that the liberty of the Okanagan Valley had attracted her. Whereas the sorts of grapes winemakers are allowed to make use of is circumscribed in Bordeaux, with the ability to draw on almost 60 varieties within the Okanagan Valley made her really feel like an expressionist painter.

But the area nonetheless faces prejudices. “French folks suppose Canada is an arctic place with canine sleighs and snow,” she defined. “They don’t understand there are desert situations within the Okanagan Valley, that are optimum for rising grapes.”

After my journey, I hosted a socially-distanced blind wine tasting with a gaggle of fellow cork dorks, by which we hid our bottles’ labels with aluminum foil.

The wines within the contest included a venerable Château Pédesclaux 2012 from Pauillac within the Bordeaux area and a Savigny-lès-Beaune, 1er cru, 2012, a Pinot Noir from France’s Bourgogne.

And guess what? My providing, a 2018 Nota Bene from Okanagan’s Black Hills Property vineyard got here in first place, trouncing its French rivals.

Like a grape-guzzling Canadian bear.

  • This week, I wrote on the latest “lobster wars” in Nova Scotia, throughout which offended mobs of economic fishermen attacked lobster storage amenities utilized by Indigenous fishermen. The battle follows a collection of abuses of Indigenous folks in Canada.

  • Residents of Asbestos, Quebec, have voted to shed the town’s name. Being named after a carcinogen was hindering the native economic system.

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