Rest of Americas

Grape growing and wine production has spread throughout the American continent, but is generally more concentrated on the more temperate regions of North and South America. Brought by families of emigrants from Europe, the grape varieties planted often reflect their geographic roots.

California, Chile and Argentina are of course the best known producers, but other countries are worthy of attention and some very good wines are produced in Canada and Mexico. Other South American countries such as Uruguay and Brazil are starting to make inroads into our market and we are watching developments.

Mexico

Those thirsty conquistadores weren’t going to go without wine so they kicked off wine production as early as 1521! This is the earliest of any country in the Americas. In truth however, Mexico’s modern wine industry only dates from the last 30 years or so, much of it the result of considerable investment from Spain. Baja California, just south of the US border, has the greatest area under vine, with temperatures tempered a little by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. The vine-covered Guadalupe Valley is only 1½ hours’ drive south from the high jinks border town of Tijuana, but there are other vineyards down towards Mexico City, but they need to be at higher, cooler elevations. The LA Cetto winery in the Guadalupe valley produces characterful reds from international grape varieties such as Italy’s Nebbiolo, as well as the lesser-known Petite Sirah.

Canada

Wine has been produced in Canada for over 200 years but it wasn’t until their free trade agreement with the USA in 1988 that it started to expand externally. Wine production is mainly in British Columbia and southern Ontario with smaller amounts produced in Quebec and Nova Scotia. The three largest wine regions are: the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia; the Niagara Peninsula and Essex County, both in Ontario. The Okanagan Valley is arguably the finest source in the country for dry whites and reds, and the Wyse family, producers of the Burrowing Owl wines, make excellent Chardonnay and Syrah from vineyards largely around Osoyoos Lake. Small owls burrow locally and bears are ‘discouraged from sharing the harvest but never harmed’!

Dry White

British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has a mild climate not unlike central France making it suitable for the production of elegant white wines from French grape varieties.

Red

About 300 miles inland from Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley has a warmer, drier climate than its northerly latitude would suggest making it also ideal for growing red grape varieties. Merlot and Cabernet Franc are doing extremely well, making wines with great character and personality.

Sweet

In the east of the country Canada has unlocked the secret of sweet Icewine (Eiswein) production, exploiting the fearsomely ‘dry cold’ conditions of Ontario. They make highly concentrated nectar, until recently the preserve of the cooler parts of Germany and Austria.

Uruguay

With more head of cattle than people populating this small country, which sits across the River Plate from Argentina, it may be surprising that they have not only a useful football team but also a successful wine industry! Much of the latter revolves around the red grape, Tannat, which originates in south-west France but enjoys the Uruguayan sunshine, and therefore ripens better in its new home. Blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Uruguayan red wines are capable of ageing well, and lay claim to being the most health-giving, due to a large proportion of anti-oxidants (resveratrol) in them.

Brazil

While one thinks of Brazil as being hot and tropical, much of the South is surprisingly temperate. Certain vineyards have been planted which are capable of three harvests a year, with the resulting wines being drinkable if not very memorable! Much more promising is the southernmost area that borders Uruguay, as you might expect, although cattle ranching still has prominence. Where wine is being made, it is generally decent with some character particularly in the wine regions of Serra Gaúcha and Campanha. In all, Brazil lays claim to 10,000 ha of Vitis vinifera vines.

Other South American Countries

Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia and Venezuela all have vineyard plantings of varying sizes largely supplying domestic demand. In some cases viticulture goes right back to the 16th century, in others it was 20th century immigrants from wine growing areas of Europe that brought the vine.

Producers within this collection