The Baco Buyer’s Guide
– Summer ’22
The intention of this post is to outline the differences and intricacies of our pride and joy, the Baco Noir grape. For those who may be less familiar with Baco Noir, this red grape is not a singular vinifera, but rather a combination of Folle Blanche and Vitis Riparia, first created by François Baco – hence the name!
Although there are many varietals that currently call Niagara home, Baco Noir has proved to be quite resilient in historically cool climate, harsh winters and ultimately produce a consistently impressive yield, year over year in this climate. Henry of Pelham is the top producer of the Baco Noir in the world and has made the red wine a staple in households across the Region. From its unique combination of a fruit-forward profile combined with its ability to be aged, it is destined to leave the consumer with a ton of curiosity.
Baco Noir is one of many great wines created at Henry of Pelham, however it holds a special place in the hearts of the Speck Brothers – Paul, Matt and Daniel; owners of Henry of Pelham.
Now, without further ado, let’s talk about the Niagara Baco!
Classic Baco Noir – $15.95 CAD
The 2021 “Classic” Baco Noir is a deep, dark red wine. In your glass you will find ripe flavours of currant and blueberry, with hints of spice. This is a rich and smooth red, with a toasty oak finish from being aged in American oak for 6 months. The vines harvested for this wine range from some of the youngest, 2015, to some of the oldest, 1975. This niagara wine would be well paired with barbecued meat, or a variety of strong cheeses and cured meats rolled in black pepper. For your enjoyment, this wine can be found in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, USA and the United Kingdom.
“Old Vines” Baco Noir – $19.95 CAD
Much to the tune of the “classic”, our 2021 Old Vines Baco Noir also holds a similar profile in the notes of ripe flavours of currant and blueberry, spice and a toasty finish. Where this tier separates from the classic is in the vines, a minimum of 20-year-old vines are used with the oldest being from 1984 – shovel planted by the Speck Brothers. These old vines produce less fruit resulting in rich wines with black currant and spice flavours. This wine is aged in new and 1-2 year old American barriques, then partially finished in 5000L oak foudres for a combined 12 months. Our Old Vines Baco Noir is considered the most versatile food wine, with the ability to be paired with venison or lamb on the grill, tomato-based pasta dishes, or a vegetarian chili.
“Speck Family Reserve” Baco Noir – $27.95 CAD
The Speck Family Reserve (SFR) Baco Noir sets off on a bold new path compared to the above. Described as a dense wine, with a brambly fruit character and an intense core of minerality, this VQA wine hits the palette as a “big red”, as insisted by the mother of the Speck brothers. “As we planned our first vineyards in 1982, our mother, an Amarone-fan, was insistent that we must make a big red.” The Speck Family reserve, or “SFR” as known by enthusiasts, comes from crooked, shovel-planted rows that roll with the hills. This 1984 planting achieves full ripeness, colour, and richness without the need for drying but, like Amarone, benefits from ageing first in barrique for softening and flavour, then in 5000L foudres for further maturation. The brothers note: “We hope with this highest expression of our Baco Noir that we have made our mother proud.” This wine can be found in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, Denmark, Japan, USA and the Czech Republic.
“Bin 106 – ‘Lost Boys'” Baco Noir – $34.95 CAD
This limited edition Niagara Baco Noir again comes from the oldest vines, shovel planted by the Speck Brothers themselves as teenagers, however this particular wine is particularly special in the way it is processed. This barrel selection is made from the top vineyards. The grapes from these old vines is aged in a spicy North American oak and finished in subtle European oak. Through a three tier selection process, only the top performing barrels were selected, resulting in a 50% new oak allocation. This unique selection has a recommended pairing of smoked beef brisket, roasted vegetables with a balsamic glaze, and garlic parmesan fries.
In summary, Dan Speck says, “Baco Noir is distinctive and something we’re quite well known for. It’s what you would consider a heritage brand or grape variety. It was developed in France, but it has become famous in Niagara through Henry of Pelham. It’s very distinctive, but it can act in a traditional way.” He continues, “Baco Noir is so well-suited to our climate that it produces a juicy red with great consistency. And because it makes a wine that is accessible yet unique and complex, we have truly discovered a wine that mirrors Canada and Canadians. When we sell our wines abroad, it is this one that always gets the most attention. Baco is our international flag-bearer.”
Henry of Pelham “Tasting Sheets”