CCOVI’s Great Chardo Swap pits east vs. west

A dozen Niagara winemakers are making one-of-a-kind wines to showcase the local industry at an international event.

The project, called The Great Chardo Swap, has six winemakers from east of the Welland Canal making wine from Chardonnay grapes grown on the west side of the canal, and six winemakers from the west side making wine from grapes grown on the east side.

Organized by Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) Oenologist Belinda Kemp, the project showcases terroir and winemaker ingenuity through Niagara Chardonnay. Other than using the same juice, closures and bottles, winemakers have free rein to craft their wines however they like.

“We wanted to do something that was uniquely Canadian, and we have such distinctive terroir here between the east side and the west side of the canal,” Kemp said at a recent event that brought winemakers together to sample the wine. “It is interesting to see if specific traits and flavours follow through from one vineyard, regardless of who is making the wine.”

The wines will be part of a grand tasting at the prestigious International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS) next summer, hosted at Brock University. The winemakers will discuss how the decisions they made during the winemaking process impacted the product.

“These wines are already starting to show the stamp of the vintage and the vineyards that they have come from,” said Ann Sperling, winemaker at Southbrook Vineyards. “It is really interesting and exciting to see the variation from winemaker to winemaker. While these things are subtle, it is already becoming obvious.”

“There are a lot of similarities from the vineyard, so we are seeing the terroir come through and I am excited to see them evolve,” said Casey Kulczyk, winemaker at Westcott Vineyards. “I am a big believer in terroir, so I am quite impressed that through so many different winemakers and techniques that it shined the way it did.”

All of the fruit to make the Chardonnays was donated by Inniskillin Wines and Thirty Bench. Two of the 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.

The Great Chardo Swap initiative will also be featured at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C) during its ‘School of Cool’ Education Day on Friday, July 17, 2020. The wines will be auctioned off, with the proceeds donated to the Karl J. Kaiser Memorial Fund to establish scholarships for students studying oenology and viticulture at Brock.

The International Cool Climate Wine Symposium takes place July 12-16, 2020. Learn more about the conference at

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:

Casey Kulczyk, 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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