Henry of Pelham, Baco Noir, Old Vines, Ontario 2019 | Canada

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – Baco Noir | August 23, 2021

The introduction of grape vines and the making of wine in Ontario, Canada, dates back to 1811, when a German-born man named Johann Schiller transplanted Pennsylvania-native Vitis Labrusca and hybrids on 20 acres on the banks of the Credit River in Cooksville, approximately 20 km west of Toronto.

The modern era of winemaking in Ontario began in 1974 when Inniskillin was granted the first new winery license since 1916 Prohibition. Within a few short years, more wineries opened and were integral in establishing a new-born industry through their pioneering efforts. Committed to quality, Ontario wineries created the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) program to set out geographic appellations and introduce strict production standards.

While one might think Ontario is too far north for growing grapes, Ontario’s wine regions actually share the same latitude with other well-known wine regions, including Tuscany and Oregon. Ontario’s angle to the sun allows it to absorb every ray of sunshine needed to ripen classic grape varietals. The fluctuations in daily temperature over the course of the growing season create conditions critical to achieving a fine balance between acidity, alcohol and fruit expression. Wines from cooler climates are more aromatic, lighter in body and higher in acidity than those from hotter areas, providing refreshment, harmony with food and good aging potential.

Baco Noir is a French-American hybrid grape varietal with origins dating back to the late 1800s. Created by French grape grower François Baco, it’s a cross between Folle Blanche and an unknown grape varietal of the New World Vitis Riparia family. It eventually made its way over to North America and can now be found in Canada and the United States. Since it does well in cool climates, one can find Baco Noir across Ontario, New York, Michigan and Oregon.

Baco Noir has an attractive, deep color. Its aromas are rather rustic with notes of plum, cherry, spice and smoke. Often aged because of its juicy acidity, it has a refreshing and persistent finish. It quickly became one of North America’s most successful hybrids. Introduced in 1955, it is now one of Ontario’s most grown grapes. Its ability to survive harsh winters makes it the perfect fit for Ontario’s unpredictable climate.

Henry of Pelham Winery is family owned and located in the Short Hills Bench of the Niagara Peninsula. Henry Smith, son of the original Canadian ancestor (Nicholas Smith ca. 1778, fifer in the Revolutionary War) took his name from the toll-road which ran across his property. He built an inn and tavern, and planted the first vineyards.

They produce both still and sparkling wines and their most famous regional specialty, icewine. Besides Baco Noir, Henry of Pelham produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet-Merlot and smaller batches of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Gamay.

Henry of Pelham, Baco Noir, Old Vines, Ontario 2019

Origin: Ontario, Canada
Varietals: Baco Noir
Sustainability: certified sustainable practices
Suggested Retail Price: $19.95
ABV: 13.5%

The wine has a deep, dark color. Baco Noir’s wild berry, plum and smoky notes are present in the nose. The palate shows ripe flavors of currant, blueberry, prune, chocolate and finishes medium-bodied with a hint of smoke.

Suggested food pairings: charcuterie, tomato-based pasta dishes, vegetarian chili, grilled lamb, cheeses.

> For more information, visit the Henry of Pelham official website