Understanding The Wines of Quebec, Canada

Quebec is a province in the country of Canada that is best known for its production of Ice Wine. The majority of wine produced in Quebec is consumed domestically, and the state controls all alcohol sales.

While dozens of different wine grapes are grown in the Quebec province, Vidal is by far the most sought after, as it is used for the high-quality dessert wines that the region is best known for.

The Wines of Quebec can be both difficult to find and fairly expensive, making it best suited for adventurous wine enthusiasts who enjoy searching for rare bottles.

Exploring the Wines of Quebec

Wine Production in Quebec

wine production in quebec

While Quebec is the largest province in all of Canada, wine production is generally limited to a small portion of the region.

The southernmost areas of Quebec that border the United States are the warmest areas that are best suited for the production of wine grapes.

The climate in most of Quebec is too cold for growing wine grapes, and the handful of suitable production regions are some of the coldest productive wine regions on earth.

While Ice Wine was likely produced in Quebec out of necessity at first, the region has worked to perfect the craft.

While Ice Wine using the Vidal grape is the most internationally recognizable style of wine from Quebec, the region is home to over three dozen different wine grapes, and many different styles are produced.

In fact, it is estimated that Ice Wine only makes up about 10 percent of all wine production in Quebec. The remaining 90 percent consists of mainly red and white table wines that are produced using a variety of primarily French and German wine grapes.

Ice Wine makes up the majority of wine exportation from the province of Quebec, and it is also the style of wine that draws the highest prices.

The majority of the remaining wine produced in Quebec is consumed locally and sold by the state at designated outlets throughout Quebec.

The Association des Vignerons du Québec was established in the late 1980s to unite the top wine producers throughout the province and uphold quality standards while helping the industry grow.

In 1995, the association began a professional partnership with growers in Bordeaux.

Ice Wine

ice wine

Ice Wine is a sweet dessert wine that is produced using a unique method only suited to cold weather regions.

While Riesling is the most commonly used grape used for making Ice Wine in Europe, the thick-skinned Vidal grape is the varietal of choice for Canadian Ice Wine.

While the majority of dessert wines worldwide are produced using late harvest methods or Botrytis affected grapes, Ice Wine is a bit different. Winemakers in Quebec allow grapes to freeze on the vine, which begins a natural process of juice concentration.

When wine grapes freeze on the vine, the water content inside the grape naturally separates from the fruit’s sugars and freezes.

This allows winemakers to later press the still frozen grapes, resulting in a very rich and sweet concentrated grape juice.

While the resulting wines are fairly high in residual sugar, the fresh acidity imparted from the cold weather white wine grapes works to balance out the sweetness resulting in a luscious and well-rounded dessert wine.

Ice Wine produced in Quebec, as well as the rest of Canada usually has a bit higher alcohol content compared with its European counterparts.

While still fairly low in alcohol compared to traditional wine, the 8 to 12 percent alcohol content by volume is high for Ice wine.

Today, Canada is the number one Ice Wine producing country in the entire world, with Germany being the second largest producer of this unique dessert wine.

Quebec’s neighboring province of Ontario is the largest Ice Wine producing province in all of Canada.

Wine Grapes of Quebec

wine grapes of quebec

There are over three dozen different wine grape varietals being grown in the province of Quebec today, many of them rare and exclusive to the region.

Many of the grapes grown here are hybrids between American and European wine grapes and are extremely rare.

Vidal

While a handful of different wine grape varietals are grown in the province of Quebec, none is more important than Vidal.

This resilient thick-skinned white wine grape has surpassed Riesling as the number one Ice Wine grape in the world in the past few decades.

The Vidal grape is both perfectly suited for enduring the harsh climate of Quebec and has all of the characteristics necessary to make high-quality dessert wine. The grape’s ability to maintain acidity after frost and freezing allow winemakers to produce complex and balanced Ice Wines.

Domaine des Salamandres Vin de Glace Ice Wine is an award-winning dessert wine produced in Quebec that has gained international acclaim for its high quality.

While a 750 ml bottle costs just under $100, a 200 ml bottle is also sold that usually carries a price tag of around $30.

Seyval Blanc

Seyval Blanc is a hybrid of French wine grapes developed in the mid-20th century that are known for their distinct green skin.

Hybrid wine grapes are not allowed in “quality wine” production under the wine laws of the European Union, so the grape is mainly produced abroad.

This French hybrid has gained traction in many cool climate wine regions. Northern wine regions in the USA account for roughly 80 percent of all Seyval Blanc available for purchase today, followed by England with about 15 percent market share.

While there is very little Seyval Blanc exported from Quebec on a yearly basis, it is still possible to find for those who know where to look. Union Libre UL Seyval Blanc – Vidal is a unique blend including this green-skinned French hybrid that has gained popularity for its punchy acidity.

L’Acadie Blanc

The L’Acadie Blanc wine grape is grown almost exclusively in Canada and is perfectly suited for the country’s cold climates and short growing season.

It is the most planted wine grape in the province of Nova Scotia, though it is fairly prevalent in Quebec as well.

L’Acadie Blanc is an early ripening wine grape, making it ideal for Quebec’s short growing season. The wines produced are often described as containing the thick body of a Chardonnay and the strong citrus aromas of Sauvignon Blanc.

While Domaine de Grand Pre L’Acadie Blanc is produced in Quebec’s neighboring region of Nova Scotia, it is one of the few bottles of single varietal L’Acadie Blanc wine available on the international market.

It is very similar in style and taste profile to those produced in Quebec.

Maréchal Foch

The grape is grown exclusively in North America, with the majority being produced in colder regions of the United States.

Canada accounts for about a quarter of all Maréchal Foch wine on the market today, with Ontario being the most productive province.

The heavy pigment from the skins of this red wine grape produces some of the most deeply colored red wines in the cold weather regions they are planted in.

This is also one of the most versatile wine grapes grown in Canada and can be used to make many styles of wine. Very little Maréchal Foch is available for sale outside of Quebec, although

Malivoire Old Vines Foch is a fairly suitable substitute from neighboring Ontario that demonstrates the same tasting notes and body as bottles from Quebec.

Frontenac

The Frontenac wine grape is a hybrid between French and American grape varietals that are primarily produced in Minnesota and Quebec. This bold red wine grape is sometimes used to make port due to its high levels of sugar and acidity.

Dry, sweet, and even rosé wines are produced using the Frontenac grape which thrives in cold weather regions.

The thick skin of Frontenac combined with its resistance to mold and mildew makes it a perfect candidate for Quebec’s cold and wet growing conditions.

Pinard et Filles ‘A Ciel Ouvert’ is one of the most popular bottles of wine from Quebec that is not made using the Vidal grape.

It has received high marks from wine critics and consumers alike and usually carries a price tag of just under $60 per bottle.

De Chaunac

De Chaunac is a red wine grape hybrid that was developed in response to the Phylloxera outbreak of the 1800s. It is an extremely resilient wine grape that is strong enough to stand up to the harsh climate and growing conditions of Quebec.

While there are a significant amount of De Chaunac wine grapes grown in the Quebec province, little to none of it make it out of the area. The vast majority of these grapes are used to make dry wines that are sold and consumed locally.

The only De Chaunac wine that is easily available for purchase on the international market today is produced in the northern regions of the United States. Osmote De Chaunac is a fantastic representation of this rare wine grape and is affordable for most wine enthusiasts.

Wines of Quebec – Conclusion

While growing conditions are cold and tough in the wine-growing regions in the south of Quebec, there are certain styles of wine that benefit from the environment.

Some of the best and most expensive Ice Wine in all of Canada is produced in Quebec, as well as over three dozen different rare wine grape varietals.

Wines from Quebec are known for their strong levels of acidity, which help to make some of the most memorable wines in the entire world.

Be sure to leave a comment below with some of your favorite bottles of wine from Quebec!

Further Reading