Winemakers a happy bunch due to drought

Winemakers are expecting to produce some intense flavours from better grapes this year, thanks to the drought conditions plaguing the National Capital Region.

The result is expected to be a sweeter product rivalling the taste of wines that come from Southern Europe.

Although Ottawa's lawns may be suffering from the hot and arid weather, some of the best wines will come from vines that get punished by the long dry spell, explained Aylmer winemaker Raymond Huneault.

"Look here, you see they're already ripening," Huneault said, surveying the purple crops in his vineyard.

Wine production this year is already three weeks ahead of schedule, he said.

The conditions are ideal for wine production because vines spiral deep into the ground in search of water, while rain actually rots the grapes out. The heat will affect the sugars.

"It's like wall to wall, seven days a week, so the vines are going crazy," Huneault said.

"We love the dry conditions … if you go in Southern Europe, you produce very sweet, very good grapes because of the dry weather, and here that's the kind of weather we have this year — it's perfect. I never saw this in all my life."

Enrico DeFrancesco, who runs the sommelier program at Algonquin College, is among those anticipating good things from the harvest.

"This year, because it's a longer growing season, plus it's a dryer growing season, you're going to get more intense flavours, better character, which will make better wine," he said.

That's a welcome change for Huneault, who found rotten grapes in July due to wet weather.

"We had so many problems in the past with the rain and the humidity, it was impossible," he said. "But this year, it's perfect."

This year's banner wine will start hitting the market in the spring of 2013.

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