Niagara vs Napa

Have you paused to think why the taste of one wine is distinct from that of the other?
This happens on account of:
  • Region of Origin
  • Terroir
  • Type of Grape
  • Wine Making Techniques
  • Vintage and
  • Other Factors


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Each wine region in the world has a uniqueness and this is on account of the soil and the climate of the area. If we take a case of Niagara Region wine and a case of the Napa Valley Region, there are a few similarities in wine production but some differences as well. As a result, each Region’s range of wines has something different to offer to the consumer.


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History and Number of Wineries

Napa is one of the leading wine regions in the world and a popular destination on the wine route. It currently has more than 450 wineries. Wine growing in Napa goes back to the 1850s and 60s. In only a few decades, many more wineries have sprung up. Today, Napa Valley is not only one of the premier wine producing Regions in the US, it also has a major global standing.
In comparison, the Niagara Region has a more recent history of licensed wine production, although grapes were grown as far back as the early 1800s. Currently, the Niagara region has over 100 wineries with several producing high quality VQA wines. The Niagara Peninsula has 2 regional appellations–Niagara Escarpment and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Sub-appellations include Twenty Mile Bench, Beamsville Bench, St. David’s Bench and others.

Where Does Niagara Score Over Napa?

Cool climate wines

Napa has produced a range of amazing wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. The climate in Napa is warm throughout the year, which is good for producing warm-climate wines. Grapes ripen quickly, are sweeter and have a strong fruity flavour. Since it is a warm region, it cannot produce cool climate wines that have higher natural acidity and balanced flavours.

In contrast, one of the major reasons that the Niagara Region is making its presence felt is due to the unique environmental conditions of this Region. It is ideal for cool climate winemaking as a result of its warm summers and cool winters. Avoided, are extreme temperatures, due to the presence of the Great Lakes situated in the area.
The Niagara Escarpment, that is a limestone ridge, contributes to the terroir of the Region. Warm days & cool nights result in wines that are perfectly balanced, since the grapes are a great blend of ripeness and acidity. While several grape varietals are cultivated in the Region, Chardonnay & Riesling for white wines, and Pinot Noir & Cabernet Franc for red wines are especially suited to the cooler climes of Niagara. Cabernet Sauvignon, Vidal, Gamay Noir and other varieties that are popular in the Region.


Napa has a vast range of red & white wines but if you wish to savour fantastic icewines, you will have to do so in the Niagara Region. The warm climate of Napa does not allow the production of icewines. Cold temperatures such as that of Niagara during winter are essential to make icewines. Today, Canada is one of the largest producers of icewine in the world, and the Niagara Region and other areas in Ontario are key contributors.
To produce icewines, grapes ripened over summer are left on the vine to freeze during winter at temperatures of -8°C or lower. This results in a concentrated juice in the grapes that are then picked and crushed to produce flavoursome icewines. Sweetness is balanced with acidity resulting in intense flavours. The Niagara Region wineries have perfected the art of making the best icewines since the time it was first produced here in 1984.

Vidal Blanc grapes are most commonly used to produce the best quality icewines. Other varietals are also used including:
  • Riesling
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Gewürztraminer
Besides an excellent range of red & white wines, the Niagara Region has a unique product in its icewines.

Awards and Accolades

In Niagara, there are many wineries producing a range of wonderful wines. Quality of these wines has been validated by numerous awards both Canadian and Internationally. The Region’s icewines especially, have garnered many awards for its outstanding quality.
In the last decade, the some of the wineries of the Niagara Region’s that have won international awards for their icewines include:
  • Inniskillin
  • Jackson-Triggs
  • Pillitteri Estates

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