The Wine List: The Latest Greatest Canadian Vintages

We asked Air Canada’s sommelier Véronique Rivest – who selects the wines exclusively for our International Business Class – to share some of her favourite Canadian bottles for 2018.

Ancienne pinot noir 2014
Lightfoot & Wolfville, Nova Scotia

“Nova Scotia is really coming on strong in Canadian wines, and Lightfoot & Wolfville in the Annapolis Valley grow everything organically with great respect for the environment, which makes wines that really speak of their terroir. This one is made with a hybrid grape called L’Acadie that’s particularly suited to their cold climate. It’s a bright, crunchy red, full of cherry fruit flavours and a few herbal notes that add to its freshness and incredibly drinkable character. It’s elegant with good minerality, which makes it fantastic with a fatty fish like salmon, or a fleshier fish like halibut – or even something like a mushroom risotto. There’s a great affinity between pinot noir and mushrooms.”

L’Orpailleur Blanc 2016
Vignoble de l’Orpailleur, Quebec

“One of the pioneers of Quebec winemaking, located in Dunham in the Eastern Townships, L’Orpailleur brings 40 years of experience making wines in one of the country’s most marginal climates to the game. This signature white is a blend of half vidal and half seyval grapes, which expresses the classic Quebec white-wine character to a T. It’s light at 11.5-percent alcohol, as well as dry, fresh and very delicate, with notes of green apple, white flowers and citrus. It’s a beautiful aperitif on its own, or with any fish and seafood prepared with citrus or fresh herbs, with briny, light and bright flavours. Try it with oysters.”

Cabernet franc 2016
Pozza Vineyard, Orofino, British Columbia

“When people think of B.C. wines they think of the Okanagan, but there’s this little valley off to the southwest called the Similkameen Valley that produces very different wines. It’s cooler and has a unique soil that gives the regional wines a signature all their own, full of minerality and tension. Cabernet franc is a grape that does particularly well here, and this particular wine is organically produced, so it truly speaks of terroir. It showcases the more savoury side of cabernet franc, a kind of herbal tone with a hit of red currant and a touch of rhubarb. It’s very light, a bit fuller than a pinot noir but not as big as a cabernet sauvignon, with some tannin but really elegant, slightly floral notes. It would be delicious with roast chicken or a pork roast with braised red cabbage.”

Quarry Road chardonnay 2013
Tawse Winery, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

“Tawse is a biodynamic winery that’s been making wonderful terroir-driven wines for years, and they’re able to do that while producing at large volumes. Quarry Road is one of their estate vineyards, which makes wines rich in flavour from a soil that’s a mix of limestone and clay. This chardonnay is made from 18-year-old vines, so you’re starting to get great depth of flavour: a nice richness, with partial oak aging, but a lot of tension, minerality, ripe pear and peach notes. It’s also very crisp, with nice acidity and freshness, which makes it able to stand up to a little bit of richness – it’s spectacular with seafood pasta with a touch of cream, or seared scallops with beurre blanc.”

Cuvée Sputnik riesling 2016
Pearl Morissette, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

“This niche winery is one of the most natural winemakers on the peninsula. Riesling is a wine that does extremely well in the region, but this one is in a class of its own. Made without added sulfites or yeast, it’s macerated with the skins, which adds a texture you might not expect from a white wine. It’s also aged on its leaves, which brings a richer mouthfeel that’s common for chardonnay but very unusual for riesling. The result is beautifully exotic, with a bit of citrusy lime and a bit of spice, and almost a saline character to it. It’s brimming with life and really savoury, so throw together some appetizers, like vegetable-based tapas or mezze, and get talking! It’s a great conversation wine.”

 

You can enjoy Véronique Rivest’s wine program in Air Canada’s International Business Class, a perfect complement to chef David Hawksworth’s signature dishes.

If you’re in the Ottawa–Gatineau region, be sure to drop by her wine bar, Soif, which placed 10th on Air Canada enRoute magazine’s 2015 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants.