The Canadian Fruit Wine industry is a thriving one. There are over 150 fruit wineries operating now in Canada and most of them do quite well. Every Canadian province has fruit wineries and most wine stores will have a selection.
The modern fruit wine industry in Canada owes its popularity to commercial associations such as the Fruit Wines of Canada and Fruit Wines of Ontario who have done a tremendous job of promoting fruit wine consumption and the marketing of this kind of wine to the general wine drinker.
The following is a very general overview of the Canadian fruit wine industry. I will write further about the Canadian industry in detail and the individual players in future entries.
Overview of the Industry
The Canadian fruit wine industry is very new, yet there are wineries in all Canadian provinces. In most cases, fruit winery operators had previously established roots in the hard or soft fruit business, such as fruit and vegetable stands, bulk-fruit distributors, maintaining orchards or processing other fruit products. In Ontario, fruit wineries were introduced in the early 90’s, when a moratorium on issuing alcohol-manufacturing licenses was lifted to allow for the establishment of agriculturally based wineries. At the same time, global pricing, particularly for apples, began making orchard operations less profitable. This new license brought an exciting, value-added processing option to many farmers, offering a new source of income.
How Fruit Wine is Made
With fruit wine, the maturation period is much shorter than with grape wine (one to six months, as opposed to eight to twenty-four months). Fruit wine producers also have the added benefit of multiple harvest periods (cherries ripening in early July and apples in September), and can also use frozen product in many cases, without sacrificing quality. This extended harvest and short fermentation period allows producers to maximize use of equipment and facilities.
Fruit wines can be vinted in a number of ways and made from a variety of different fruits and berries. Putting a general label on the category is difficult. The wines range from dry, still table wines, to light fruity sparkling wines, to intense, sweet dessert style products.
Raw fruit material can also be much less costly than grapes. Substandard fruit (mal-formed, smaller sizes, cracked, split) can be used at significant savings. Fruit that would normally be earmarked for juice can now be processed into wine, a product that commands a significantly higher price. This translates into important value-added activity for fruit framers across the country.
The History of Fruit Wine Production
Fruit wine production in Canada dates back to the 1800’s, with commercial production commencing with the first winery license issued in the 1900’s, yet most consumers associate the product with home rather than commercial production.
Commercial fruit wine producers recognize that product image is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome and that consumer perception of the category needs to be altered dramatically. To that end they have developed a certification program, called QC, which is modeled on the successful VQA program.
Range of Fruits and Berries Used to Make Fruit Wine in Canada
Aronia Berries Bakeapple
Black Raspberries (Wild)
Plums & Prunes
Partridge Berries (Wild)
If you have a chance to get hold of excellent Canadian fruit wine where you live, I invite you to give them a try and support this exciting and fast growing industry.