East meets west in Great Chardo Swap

A dozen Niagara winemakers are creating some unique wines for a prestigious event.

Niagara has been named as the host for the prestigious International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS) in 2020, the event’s 10th anniversary. As part of the lead-up to the symposium, 12 Niagara winemakers are using grapes from two specific vineyards to produce an assortment of one-of-a-kind Chardonnays.

CCOVI Senior Oenologist Belinda Kemp, in Brock shirt, is pictured with the east side winemaking team including, from left, Fabien Reis, Ferox; Amelie Boury, Château des Charmes; J.L. Groux, Stratus Vineyards; Emma Garner (BSc, ’04), Thirty Bench Wine Makers; and Ann Sperling, Southbrook Vineyards.

The Great Chardo Swap will see six winemakers from east of the Welland Canal making wine from grapes grown on the west side of the canal, and six winemakers from the west side making wine from chardonnay grapes grown on the east side. Two of those winemakers, Emma Garner (BSc ’04) from Thirty Bench Wine Makers and Shiraz Mottiar (BSc ’00) from Malivoire Wine Company, are graduates of Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture program. All of the fruit to make the Chardonnays is being donated by Inniskillin Wines and Thirty Bench.

In total, 14 different Chardonnays will be developed during the initiative and unveiled at the ICCWS in 2020. Other than using the same closures and bottle type, the winemakers will have free rein to make their own distinct Chardonnay however they wish.

Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) collaborated with stakeholder organizations across the country to bring the ICCWS to Canada, and it was CCOVI Senior Oenologist Belinda Kemp who came up with the idea for the Great Chardo Swap after hearing about a similar initiative that took place in New Zealand.

CCOVI Senior Oenologist Belinda Kemp, centre, is pictured with the west side winemaking team including, from left: Bruce Nicholson, Inniskillin Wines; Emma Garner (BSc, ’04), Thirty Bench Wine Makers; Angelo Pavan, Cave Spring Cellars; Shiraz Mottiar (BSc, ’00), Malivoire Wine Company; Sandrine Bourcier, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery; and Arthur Harder, Westcott Vineyards; Not present is Thomas Bachelder, Bachelder Wines.

“The focus on terroir in wines is usually from a vineyard perspective that can sometimes neglect the influence of the winemaker and how their decisions and techniques impact the final wine,” Kemp said. “It will be interesting to see if specific traits and flavours follow through from one vineyard, regardless of who is making the wine, and whether we end up with very similar or very different wines from each vineyard.”

Craig McDonald, Vice-President of Winemaking at Andrew Peller Limited, said he was on board to donate fruit from Andrew Peller’s Thirty Bench from the start.

Thomas Bachelder of Bachelder Wines is also part of the west side team of winemakers.

He said the experiment will provide new insight into the differences between the Niagara-on-the-Lake and Beamsville bench areas.

“Likely, it will take some winemakers out of their comfort zone and challenge them with something new. In the end, it will be both a sensory and intellectual journey of discovery for all involved,” McDonald said.

Bruce Nicholson, winemaker from Inniskillin Wines, said the initiative will serve as a means to showcase the local wine industry on an international level.

“Niagara makes world-class wines, Chardonnay being right up there, and this really gives people a chance to see what we’re doing and how far we’ve come,” he explained. “We’re an industry in our infancy compared to other regions, but we’ve come such a long way. This will put a spotlight on our brilliant winemakers and really just be a lot of fun.”

All of the wines will be part of a grand tasting at the ICCWS, where attendees will have the chance to discuss the decisions made by the winemakers at each stage of the process.

East side winemaking team:
Fabian Reis, Ferox
J.L. Groux, Stratus Vineyards
Ann Sperling, Southbrook Vineyards
Amelie Boury, Château des Charmes
Bruce Nicholson, Inniskillin Wines
Craig McDonald, Trius Winery

West side winemaking team:
Arthur Harder, Westcott Vineyards
Emma Garner, Thirty Bench Wine Makers
Angelo Pavan, Cave Spring Cellars
Sandrine Bourcier, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery
Shiraz Mottiar, Malivoire Wine Company
Thomas Bachelder, Bachelder Wines

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