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Wine Grape Production Outside Traditional Areas In Ontario

Time:2020-04-12 03:06wine - Red wine life health Click:

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Wine Grape Production Outside Traditional Areas in Ontario Table of Contents

Winter Freeze Damage & Spring Frost Ratings


Viticulture in Ontario is well established in Niagara and parts of southwestern Ontario. The success of this industry is tempting many in other areas to try grape growing as well. Niagara and SW Ontario are blessed with mild winters and hot summers. This allows growers and winemakers to grow the best French hybrid and traditional European varieties and produce world recognized high quality wines.

To be successful, an industry requires not only consistent annual production, but also continued excellence. The present Ontario wine industry has developed its own, self imposed quality standards through the Vintners' Quality Alliance. Its stringent application has brought recognition and praise in the highly competitive international world of wine marketing.

Outside Niagara and southwestern Ontario, many climatic risks have to be taken into account when growing grapes. Because winters will be more rigorous, compromises have to be made with variety selection, but good quality wines can be made with other than pure vinifera varieties. The key to success will be consistent wine quality drawing repeat customers. Good tourist traffic in the summer will pay some of the winter bills, but good local support with recurrent business will ultimately solidify the enterprise.

Four Point Plan

There are always many components to investigate for your business plan prior to entering any new enterprise or to planting any new crop. All four of the following are critical to success:

Marketing - Selling your crop is never guaranteed, but it is better to plant what is in demand rather than what you want to plant. Discussion with a buyer and even securing contracts before planting should be part of your plan.

Human Resources - Who is going to do the work in the vineyard? Will you be able to find skilled help? Can you predict your workload within the season and over the first few years and match this with the labour that is available? These are only a few questions that you will need to address prior to planting.

Financing - You will need to secure financing not only for the year of planting but the following years while waiting for the vine to bear full crops. Establishment and Production Costs for Grapes in Ontario - 2009 Economic Report is a good resource for beginning growers to project their cash flow needs.

Production - Grape production involves several components after the vineyard is established; training, trellises, pruning, tying, canopy and crop management, pest management and other cultural practices. Site Selection and Climate Factors

There are many potential sites for wine grapes but these sites must be chosen very carefully. A minor difference in geography may represent a major difference in the local climate and will affect the ultimate viability of the vineyard.


Look at the regional climate as well as local climate

Avoid extreme winter temperatures colder than -24°C

The frost free period should be 165 days minimum

Sunshine exceeding 1250 hours

Avoid frost pockets and low areas

Orient your rows N/S unless steep slopes require a different orientation Avoid:

High frequency of extreme winter cold and/or killing frosts in spring and fall

High rainfall during bloom or harvest period

Poor water drainage, both surface and within the soil

Poor air drainage to escape frosts and reduce disease incidence

Full southern exposure to prevent early spring budbreak and southwest injury Look for:

Good soil texture to ensure good soil water drainage

Good soil quality with organic matter and good nutrient availability

Good surface air and water drainage (3% slope desirable) Plan:

Proper field preparation

Good perennial weed control before planting

Proper installation of subsurface or tile drainage

Proper match of rootstock with soil/climate/vigour potential of vineyard

Proper vine spacing and trellis design for variety and vigour potential of the vineyard

Proper variety for average growing season and cold risk of the site Critical period for vines:

 Time Vine Stage Critical range Notes


dormant   below -20°C   avoid extreme cold or there will be damage to vines and/or buds  


starting to grow   +10°C to -10°C   wide swings in temperature that could prompt early growth and reduce hardiness  


growing & approaching bloom   -1°C to -5°C   fluctuating temperatures could result in spring frost damage to shoots and/or bloom  


preparing for winter acclimation   +5°C to -10°C   early winter freezes before full dormancy could result in severe bud/wood injury  
Land Preparation and Soils Steps in Preparation

Land levelling, underdrainage

Take soil test, nematode test

Know herbicide history, control perennial weeds

Grow cover crops and add organic matter

Add lime, fertilizer if necessary Drainage and Irrigation

Drainage Tile

Critical during heavy rainfalls in spring and fall

Every row for heavy soils

Every other row for loam soils

Cross tiling across a vineyard - not common, but possible


Critical for vineyard establishment

Critical for seed development in early July, and building of the hard green berry structure (same time as the next seasons bud development)

Critical for veraison in early August (sugar accumulation, colour change and rapid berry enlargement)

Beware - if irrigating, stop early enough for good fruit ripening for good wine quality and wood ripening for winter survival

About 2/3 of the annual rainfall occurs during the growing season (860mm) in most areas of Southern Ontario Soil Fertility

Soil fertility is not as critical as soil structure

Can be addressed through soil and petiole analysis interpretation and proper fertilizer application

Excess nitrogen causes excess vigour, disturbing the delicate balance between yield, berry maturity and ultimately wine quality

The great balancing act - (climate, soil , vigour, cultivar, drainage, labour, etc.) must all be balanced for good wine quality Soils

Ideal: Coarse textured soils, moderate slope, well aerated, no restrictive soil layers

Allows development of a large root system (150-300 cm) to fully explore for water

Allows greater regularity in the water supply to the plant

Allows heavy rains to percolate quickly

Grape vines will tolerate a wide range of soils (but avoid shallow, poorly drained heavy clay soils) Variety Selection

(Source: Mori Vines Inc and Gemmerich Nurseries)

 311 GM* (white) H  

 Riesling type flavour, ripens mid September

 322 GM* (white) H  

 Gewurztraminer flavour, ripens end of September

 Baco noir (red) H  

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