Brock University: CCOVI partners with industry event to highlight Ontario Chardonnay

The School of Cool is now out for the summer, but not before first providing valuable insight from Brock experts into cool climate winemaking and viticulture.

Returning last week as a popular component of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C), the School of Cool was informed in part by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). As the education partner, CCOVI worked alongside the i4C and industry partners to develop educational sessions that explored various aspects of winemaking and viticulture.

The event featured the Great Chardo Swap — an initiative developed and organized by CCOVI Senior Scientist Belinda Kemp that saw a dozen winemakers from east and west of the Welland Canal swap grapes to make Chardonnay.

Kemp worked with 12 Niagara winemakers to bring the idea to fruition, including three graduates of Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) program: Emma Garner (BSc ’04), Gabriel Demarco (BSc ’13) and Shiraz Mottiar (BSc ’00).

There was no funding or budget for the project, Kemp said.

“Not $1 exchanged hands – it has been donations every step of the way over five years,” she said. “This would not have been possible without the incredible industry support of this CCOVI initiative.”

The School of Cool’s rendition of the Great Chardo Swap, moderated by CCOVI Continuing Education Instructor and Globe and Mail wine writer Christopher Waters, highlighted six winemakers per session — three from the east of the canal and three from the west. The wines were tasted blind and included the 2017 vintage of the Great Chardo Swap wines, plus a wine selected by the winemakers from their own portfolio.

The format provided attendees with the opportunity to compare and contrast wines crafted by each winemaker from two different vineyard sites, which aided in the examination of terroir (also known as sense of place) versus winemaking style.

Waters said it was great to be a part of this year’s School of Cool and he was honoured to be called upon to host the two-part session.

“The chance to gather, taste and contemplate what makes cool climate chardonnay so distinctive and enjoyable is always a highlight of the weekend celebration,” said Waters. “Winemakers, marketers, educators, influencers and consumers all learn so much from the poignant presentations and pointed questions and come away with a newfound appreciation of the wines being made in Ontario today and tremendous anticipation for what’s yet to come.”

The Great Chardo Swap wines are available to purchase online from BarBea Wine Shop. Proceeds will be donated to the Karl J. Kaiser Memorial Fund to establish scholarships for students studying Oenology and Viticulture at Brock. The fund honours Kaiser’s love of learning and sharing his knowledge.

Kaiser, who graduated from Brock’s chemistry program in 1974, was an industry pioneer and the co-founder of Inniskillin Winery. His impact on the Niagara and Canadian wine industry is unmatched, and it was through his guidance and drive that Brock created CCOVI and the OEVI undergraduate program in the 1990s.

In addition to the School of Cool, CCOVI also hosted a blind tasting at the Chardonnay in the Vineyard World Tour and Tasting Dinner as part of i4C. The ‘What Kind of Cool Are You?’ tasting focused on helping guests to determine their preferred style of Chardonnay.

“The unique sensory tasting experience is designed to help guests discover their own Chardonnay profile,” said CCOVI Outreach Manager Barb Tatarnic. “We poured four different styles of cool climate Chardonnay, so guests could find their favourite style: crisp, fruity, rich or smooth. Once they uncovered their preferred style, it helped them to navigate through the cool climate Chardonnays from regions around the world available at the tasting and gave them a better understanding of their own palates.”