Glacial Influence is crucial, yet often overlooked in the shaping of Canadian wine.

Written by VJ Gandhi, Kascadia Wine Merchants 

While the rolling hills and lush vineyards of Canada's wine regions may appear naturally idyllic, the true shaping force behind these picturesque landscapes is often overlooked - the powerful influence of glaciers.

Formed over millennia by the slow, relentless movement of immense sheets of ice, the glacial legacy is etched into the very soil and terrain that gives Canadian wines their unique character. As these ancient glaciers advanced and retreated, they carved out the valleys and sculpted the gently sloping hillsides that are now home to thriving vineyards.

This glacial influence has shaped the exceptional growing conditions for vines in many of Canada's premier wine producing areas, including the rocky escarpments of the Niagara Peninsula to the undulating benchlands of the Okanagan Valley. In fact, the entire Okanagan Valley, a premier grape-growing region in British Columbia, was extensively glaciated during the Pleistocene epoch, the geological period spanning from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

As the massive glaciers that once blanketed the region gradually receded, they left behind a treasure trove of nutrient-rich soils for vintners to cultivate. Extensive surficial moraines - accumulations of rock, soil and other glacial debris - were deposited across the Okanagan as the glaciers melted, creating a complex patchwork of soil types that lend unique expressions to the wines produced here. Moreover, the glacial meltwater that feeds the lakes, rivers and streams is a vital resource, sustaining the delicate balance of the viticultural ecosystem.

Similarly, the nearby Similkameen Valley, just west of the Southern Okanagan, shows an incredibly intricate and diverse array of glacial soils, the product of the valley's complex glacial history. The diverse array of wind-blown soils, alluvial fans, and coarse rocky material has been gradually broken down from the surrounding mountains. This geologic legacy has imbued the soils of the Similkameen with high levels of calcium carbonate, as well as a mineral composition derived from the underlying limestone, schist, and granite that is characteristic of the region. For many wine enthusiasts, it is this distinctive minerality that makes the wines of the Similkameen so captivating and complex. 

While the sun, the soil, and the careful hand of the vintner all play crucial roles - it is the enduring influence of these ancient ice sheets that also shapes the inimitable character of Canadian viticulture.