Canadian Wine Trends 2021: Red and White Grape Varietal Wines

In 2021 we stayed at home mostly, with little travel, usually local, due to COVID.  I’ve read that sales of wine, beer and spirits had increased in 2021.  I wondered a bit more about the wines we were drinking across Canada.  For example, was Chardonnay the top white wine in BC or Nova Scotia?  Was Ontario the top consumer of Cabernet Franc?

Google Trends logoBut how could I figure this out? The answer, by proxy, is Google Trends.  If you have not heard of Google Trends, Wikipedia describes it as “…a website by Google that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. The website uses graphs to compare the search volume of different queries over time.” Google Trends does not give you the absolute number of say queries for Cabernet Franc in Ontario, but if it is the most across the country, it is given a value of 100.  Then all the other provinces are scaled by their volume.  For example, if BC was 87 that would mean that BC people queried 87% of the volume of Ontarians for Cabernet Franc.  It does not show if Canadians actually bought a bottle of wine, but does give us an idea of what we are interested in drinking.  I’d guess that many of us bought what we were searching for online.

Using Google Trends, I put together several graphs to cover Canadian interest in:

  1. Red and White Grape Varietal Wines
  2. Red, White, Rosé, Sparkling, and Ice Wine
  3. Wines from Ontario and BC
  4. Old World and New World Wines

In this article, I will cover Canadians interest in Red and White Grape Varietal wines, with the other topics coming in separate articles.

Canadians Interest in White Grape Varietal Wines

The white grapes I chose to compare are Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. I could have picked many others, but I thought these are more common ones across Canada.  The line graphs below show our interest across 2021 by Province in each of the grape varieties.  Plus there is a bar chart and coloured maps that shows which Province had the most queries about a grape variety and then the scaling of 3-4 other provinces with their level of interest.  The shapes of the line graphs are interesting as well.  Was there an overall upward slope (interest) in a varietal over the year? Was there a peak at a certain time of the year? Was there a downward slope (lack of interest) in a varietal over the year?  Were some provinces more heavily into looking for wine?

You can right-click on the charts below and open up them in a new tab at full size to make it easier to read.

Google Trends Canadian interest in white grape varietal wines
Google Trends Canadian interest in white grape varietal wines

The first thing that I noticed from the maps is that Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents had little to no queries for Pinot Gris or Viognier.  Their strongest interest was in Riesling wines.  The line graph shows a bump in January, then in the Spring (maybe related to Easter?) and overall greater volume in the summer, and again in December (Christmas holidays?).  BC has the largest interest in Riesling followed by Ontario.  Pinot Gris and Viognier are grown in the Okanagan, making BC’ers more familiar with these two grape varieties and is likely why we have the most queries about these two grapes.  

Riesling grapes
Riesling grapes

Chardonnay I think is the most popular white grape across Canada.  The Google Trends line chart shows a slight positive increase in queries for Chardonnay through the year.  Quebec is the province with the greatest volume of queries followed by Ontario.  In Quebec, there is a love of French wines and White Burgundy is made from Chardonnay, so I would guess that this is part of the reason for the large interest in this varietal.  We cannot tell though if Quebecers are also querying about more local, Ontario Chardonnay.  Ontario produced 9,552 tonnes of Chardonnay grapes in 2019, which is almost the same as their Riesling production, but way behind Vidal at 21,192 tonnes (used for ice wine) (Grape Growers of Ontario).  Ontario consumers had the second largest number of queries for Chardonnay.  

I mentioned Vidal being used for ice wine production.  Well, Riesling is also used to make ice wine, besides making table wine.  BC and Ontario are producers of Riesling for both styles of wine and show up as the number one and two provinces for queries about this grape.  Saskatchewan shows up with the third most queries for Riesling.  Riesling goes very well with pork and poultry which are produced on the prairies.  Just a guess. 

I was also surprised at the strong interest across Canada for Sauvignon Blanc wines.  In fact, Nova Scotians had the largest volume of queries for this grape in 2021!  I think that this in part could be because of their coastal cuisine.  Seafood and Sauvignon Blanc are a natural pairing.  It works well in BC too which shows up high in the bar chart for Sauvignon Blanc.  

Canadians Interest in Red Grape Varietal Wines

The red grapes I chose to compare are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.  That covers Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone grapes, which I think are overall popular in Canada.  

Google Trends Canadian interest in red grape varietal wines
Google Trends Canadian interest in red grape varietal wines

There are several interesting things I see in these line charts and bar graphs.  The first one that really jumped out at me was the lower, consistent interest in Cabernet Sauvignon for most of the year and then a huge peak in December.  Ontario, BC, and Alberta were the top three provinces showing interest in Cabernet Sauvignon, but overall all provinces were querying for this grape variety.  The December holidays likely had people looking for a big red wine to celebrate with family. But why the lower interest in the rest of the year? Could it be that Canadians have their favourite Cab Sauv so no need to search for anything different?

Merlot, which is typically blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to make a Bordeaux blend, also showed up as having wide interest across Canada.  Canadian wineries do produce single varietal Merlot wines as well as blends, so I cannot tell if the interest is more on the varietal or blend side.  BC, Ontario and Alberta are again the top three provinces showing interest in Merlot.  The line graph for Merlot also has an upward trend so as the year progressed more people were interested in Merlot.  Merlot is a popular grape grown in BC.  It has the largest acreage as of 2019 with 1618 acres compared to Cabernet Sauvignon at 853 acres ( Cabernet Franc is the top red grape in production terms in Ontario, followed by Merlot then Cabernet Sauvignon (Grape Growers of Ontario).  

Quebec comes in with fourth-largest interest in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which was curious to me, considering these are French Bordeaux wine grapes.  Maybe Quebec consumers have their favourite Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and Bordeaux blends, so no need to do much research online? Or possibly, Quebecers go to their local wine shop or SAQ store and ask for recommendations more than research online.

I was surprised by the line graph and bar chart for Cabernet Franc.  The interest for this grape variety seems to come in waves across Canada.  There is no defined pattern.  Cabernet Franc is the top red grape produced in Ontario and shows up as the second-highest provincial query behind BC.  BC does have a love for Cabernet Franc.  It grows very well in the Okanagan and is used for both red table wine and rosé wine. The amount of Cabernet Franc grown in BC comes in at #4 in volume according to the BC 2019 grape acreage report.  BC and Ontario show the largest interest in Cabernet Franc with much less, or no, interest in other provinces.  We need to let more Canadians know how good Cabernet Franc wine is.

Ripe Pinot Noir grapes at Privato Vineyard and Winery in Kamloops
Ripe Pinot Noir grapes at Privato Vineyard and Winery in Kamloops

I love Pinot Noir and was very glad to see it has widespread interest across Canada.  And had Nova Scotia producing the greatest number of queries for this grape variety in 2021, followed by BC and Quebec.  The line graph overall shows a strong interest with a big peak for the December holidays.  Pinot Noir goes very well with poultry, pork, ham, and lamb. I don’t know if the Pinot Noir queries were primarily for Canadian wines, Burgundy, or New Zealand for example, but happy to see the interest in this grape.  It is a very finicky grape to grow, but if it thrives in a region you can get very special wines.  It can have a heady perfume, silky texture, red fruit flavours, and sometimes earthiness. Generally, the wines are light to medium-bodied, with softer lighter tannins. Try it if you haven’t yet.

The last red grape variety I selected was Syrah, a grape that needs a hotter climate to properly ripen.  This grape does very well in the south Okanagan of BC.  I did not see Syrah show up in their chart for top grape production in 2019 for the Grape Growers of Ontario.  In BC, coverage is still small, at 553 acres in 2019, but BC Syrah has received praise from local and foreign press.  BC shows up as the top province querying about Syrah and that is likely because of all the coverage we have been getting for this grape in our media, plus word of mouth and tasting the wines at the wineries.  The remaining top provinces in the bar chart are Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, but their interest is less than half of BC.  Syrah produces a full-bodied wine, a bit more round, and not quite as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon, and is very food-friendly.  It could be that single varietal Syrah is not yet as well-known in Canada, but maybe Rhone blends, containing Grenach, Syrah, and Mourvedre, is more popular. I did not query for Rhone or GSM blends.

I hope you enjoyed viewing these Google Trends charts and reading my commentary.  If you have any ideas why certain grape varieties are popular or not popular, please post your comment below.  Cheers.  And stay tuned for my upcoming articles where I will cover Canadian interest in:

  • Red, White, Rosé, Sparkling, and Ice Wine
  • Wines from Ontario and BC
  • Old World and New World Wines
Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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