Last year’s record $115 million farmgate receipts for Ontario grapes won’t be topped this year, however the hot, dry summer will result in concentrated flavours and quality. That’s the topline for 487 members of the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO), ready to celebrate the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival from September 12-30.
“It will be a lighter crop,” says Kevin Watson who contracts grapes to Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin Wines. “Last year was a heavy crop. Then winter damage weakened buds for a slower start. Without irrigation, grape clusters will be smaller. Winemakers are not magicians. Good wine all starts in the vineyard.”
By the numbers, the 2017 grape crop was tallied at 87,567 tonnes (including juice grapes). This year’s estimates are for 64,000 tonnes.
Grape growers are very optimistic moving forward.
“We have a lot of young growers entering the industry who get it on quality grapes,” says Watson. “We have support from suppliers. We have support from soil and tissue analysis labs. We have support in the community. We have the tools to handle Mother Nature.”
That optimism is borne out in the annual report of the Grape Growers of Ontario. Ontario wine sales have steadily increased from 38.8 per cent in 2013 to 42.49 per cent in 2017. It’s a tough slog against international competitors, but a testament to improving quality of Ontario wine at consumer-friendly price points.
For the GGO, the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival is the most important sponsorship of the year. Watch for more announcements during harvest month.