Wining about local food

This area of Ontario around Niagara has traditionally been a fruit-growing region. It has chalky soils, warm summers and less harsh winters in comparison to the rest of Canada because the lake, so it’s perfect for growing things like cherries, peaches and blueberries (or ‘bloobs’, as us in the know like to call them).

However, over the past few years farming in the region has had a bit of a revolution – farmers have discovered they can make a packet out of growing grapes and making wine and have diversified by the shed-load.

Niagara is now home to hundreds of vineyards, most of which have visitor centres where you can be plied with samples and get so sozzled you end up buying a few cases of the stuff. I don’t normally like wine but ended up getting out the credit card more times than I care to think about, though I think that was probably because I was so scared by the sommelier (he had a real-life twirly moustache and only started being civil when I asked about the soil structure of the farm) that I didn’t dare tell him I only usually drink tipples made from grain.

Anyway, one of the professors I spoke to at the University of Guelph earlier this week said Canada had a big issue with promoting regional produce and getting consumers onside with the local food thang, but I reckon farmers in the rest of the country could take a leaf out of these guys’ books. I’ll concede their success if probably mostly because they are lucky enough to have the tourist hot-spot of Niagara on the Lake and the falls nearby (think Windermere but with more sun, a Christmas bauble shop and a bunch of forts), but the diversifications are targeted incredibly well to the local population too.

The suburbs are mostly made up wealthy retirees and professionals who commute to Toronto and the farms have been turned into ‘Destinations’ for these people to go and spend their hard-earned cash. The farm buildings, tracks and crops are immaculate, the wineries are tastefully built and decorated and the majority of them have a restaurant attached to them so you get drawn in to eat and drink even more of their plonk over dinner. While most of the wine is shipped around the rest of the country and overseas to be sold, the farmers here do a bloomin’ good job of looking after their local markets (after all, the tourists are only around during the summer months), and they seem to be raking in the profits accordingly.

Enough writing for now, I’m off to crack open the case of ice wine. What do you mean, it’s only breakfast time?  It goes great on cornflakes, hic….

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