Chardonnay celebrated at ‘coolest’ summer school

Winemakers, grape growers and sommeliers went back to school this past weekend during the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C).

The educational session, titled ‘School of Cool’, gave participants an opportunity to learn more about the impact various viticulture and winemaking practices have on Chardonnay.

It’s part of the i4C’s annual celebration that highlights the diversity of Chardonnay from Canada and around the world through a variety of food and wine events. Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) is the education partner.

CCOVI continuing education instructor Christopher Water, of Vines Magazine, sat on an expert panel that examined how consumers’ tastes and perceptions are changing around Chardonnay. (Photo courtesy of Steven Elphick for i4C)

The School of Cool, held at White Oaks Resort, featured three expert panels that examined cool climate winemaking and viticulture, climate change and weather volatility, and how consumer’s tastes and perceptions are changing around Chardonnay. The discussions featured grape growers, winemakers and industry professionals from across the globe. 

CCOVI Viticulturist Jim Willwerth moderated one of the sessions — ‘It’s not just the heat, it’s the volatility’ — and discussed how changing climates can impact Chardonnay grapes and the style of wine produced from them.

“It is a product that has a distinct characteristic from where it is grown and even subtle changes in climate can result in differences in the glass of wine itself,” said Willwerth. “So, it really is a big indicator in terms of how climate change may have an impact on not only viticulture in our wine regions, but also agriculture as a whole.”

Keynote speaker Julia Harding, a prominent wine writer and Master of Wine, was excited to learn about and taste Canadian wines, as it was her first visit to Canada.

“You may think all cool-climate Chardonnays are going to taste the same, but they are so different, even within one region if you are looking at wines from Ontario,” Harding said. “Then you are getting the contrast with wines from around the world. The vast range of flavours and styles is really impressive.”

CCOVI also hosted a blind tasting called ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ at the i4C Cool World Tour Tasting, with a focus on helping guests discover their favourite style of Chardonnay. 

“We poured four different styles so guests could decide if they preferred a Chardonnay that fell in the category of crisp, fruity, smooth or rich,” said CCOVI Outreach Manager Barb Tatarnic. “The blind tasting is designed to be a fun and interactive self-discovery type of session. Once people knew which style they preferred, it helped them to understand their own palate and, with that knowledge, to navigate through the Chardonnays from around the globe available at the tasting.”

Next year’s School of Cool will coincide with the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS). The prestigious wine conference is being held at Brock University July 12 to 16, 2020.

Learn more about the conference at

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