Canada's first commercial winery was established in 1866, namely - Vin Villa - which was located in the very south of Pelee island on lake Erie. Initially the plantings consisted mostly of native Vitis labrusca grapes hardy to the extreme weather conditions (temperatures ranging from 35 degrees to minus 8 ) for extended periods of time. By the late 20th century there were as many as 45 operating wineries. Production was further expanded by the introduction of Prohibition in 1916, which fortunately excluded wine production. During the 11 years that Prohibition lasted, the number of wineries rapidly grew. However, it was not until 1974 that commercial licenses could be applied for; the first winery to be granted one was Inniskillin near Niagara Falls. During this period there was also a shift towards Vitis Vinifera which helped to modernize and market Canadian wine to other export markets.
Ontario is the largest wine producing area in Canada, with regions such Niagara and Pelee Island within its designated areas. British Columbia in the far west is one of the coldest areas, but still has almost a hundred producers playing host to more than sixty different varieties and some of the very best wines. The smallest area is Quebec, where a large proportion of the outlet is for the tourist trade situated along the Canadian/American border. Finally there is Nova Scotia, which has the shortest growing season with far fewer sunlight hours and as such must be planted with early ripening varieties such as Vidal and Seyval Blanc.
We cannot describe Canadian wine production without mentioning Icewine, produced by picking the grapes when they are frozen. They are then quickly crushed so as to extract only the concentrated sugars. These wines can be made in all regions, but the very best come from the Okanagan Valley.