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Wines from Canada gather momentum in the UK

Published:  25 May, 2016

At Taste Canada UK 2016, 34 producers from different territories across Canada were showcasing more than 150 wines with many looking to find importers into the UK.

"There is increased interest in our wines and the tasting is similar to last year, but definitely has increased compared to four or fives years ago," said Maggie Anderson, marketing director for Wines of British Columbia.

The tasting was hosted by the Canadian High Commission and Global Affairs Canada at the Canada House in London.

Magdalena Kaiser director of public relations - marketing & tourism for Wine Marketing Association of Ontario (WMAO) agrees there is an increase in awareness of quality wines coming out of Canada. WMAO hosted one of the first tastings in the UK when a number of producers expressed interest in the market and since the tasting has evolved considerably.

"The Ontario tasting was a great grass roots effort and originally we just focused on Chardonnay and then we decided to add other red varietals like Cab Franc and Pinot Noir. There is so much momentum around wines from Canada right now, which is really exciting. I think people are starting to recognise what Canada can do. It has been supported by lots of high profile people in the trade, interest from sommeliers and in the media which all helps to shape trends," said Kaiser.

The UK is a key market that many of the producers are trying to get into as its a global window shop for the wine world.

"I have come to this tasting every year.  Our wines have done well in New York and Tokyo and in order to play on the world stage, you have to be in the UK and in London.  If you can make it in London, you can make it anywhere.  The international markets really help to build a brand's credibility. It helps to raise our profile and awareness around the styles of wines we are producing that may not be understood," said Norman Hardie from Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard. His wines are currently being imported through the Wine Society and Bibendum.

For Harald Thiel of Hidden Bench, he is just about to secure an importer in the UK but has been looking for the right partner for a long time.

"We are in several different European countries and coming to the UK is the next logical step.  The UK market is really competitive and we have had interest in the past but we were just looking for the right partner.  We are in the final stage of securing an importer now," said Thiel.

Both producers agree that it has taken time for people to understand wines coming out of Canada and for the quality of the wines to be ready to compete on the international wine stage.  Canada as a wine producing region is still very young.  

"I think we are still figuring out what works best in different regions and varieties that are winter hardy as well.  But we are also just starting to hit our stride.  We now have Pinot Noir vines that are just getting into their prime at 15 to 20 years old.  We are just starting to see what wines from Canada can do," said Thiel.

Hardie agreed and said: "There is a real excitement and a buzz around our wines at the moment.  We are producing old world wines in the new world. The right varieties are now being planted and are ripening regularly.  It has taken time for the industry to mature and make a style of our own."

Many of the producers are targeting the on-trade and independent merchants as there is a need for the wines to be hand sold to consumers.

"Most producers are looking to build international recognition and to find placement on high-end lists and outlets- which makes sense.  Canadian wines are a hand sell. It is important to understand what we are doing and to tell that story," said Anderson.

That story does seem to be coming across slowly to importers in the UK.

Kaiser said: "It is important for us to be in London as the world is here. We are starting to get international recognition and peers from around the world are excited about what we are doing.  Producers are seeing growth and we can see people are getting listings. What is happening right now is everything that we had hoped for and it is really just the beginning."