Last week, we quizzed Dan Speck, Vice President at Henry of Pelham; the Canadian winery that we’ve not been able to stop talking about.

We chatted to Dan about keeping business in the family, winemaking in Canada as a whole, sustainability and …cougars. The poor boy must have thought he’d finally got us off of his back, but there was just one more

thing we had to ask about.

When we took the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir wine to London Wine Fair, people were already intrigued by that mysterious little varietal on the label. And then when they tried it…

Let’s just say even the most reluctant were ready to convert to Bacolicism.

Here’s what Dan had to say about the history, the treatment and the qualities of Baco Noir…

 “Regional and autochthonic grape varieties are making something of a comeback. In our market California Zinfandel became the rage in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. Then Australian Shiraz. Then Argentinean Malbec. For us Baco Noir was our answer to the aforementioned woolly reds and was equally loved for its uniqueness and regionality. Like those other wines, historically Baco was treated as a filler or blender. But we always treated it as a fine wine, by developing a unique trellis for it, limiting yields, experimenting with styles, giving it appropriate 

oak treatments (always American — French oak on Baco is like perfume on John Wayne — there’s no point) and so forth. We have really become quite expert in growing and making this unique varietal and 

continue to plant more of it. 


Its history dates back to the South of France in the 1890’s I believe and is named after a Francois Baco who first cultivated it. It was widely planted due to its resistance to phylloxera, the fact that it ripened early but kept its acidity, was very disease resistant, had great colour (it’s a teinturier) and because it crops so heavy (this needs to be controlled). It came to Canada in the 1950’s and thrived due to its winter hardiness (especially important in those days when the winters were that much colder).


Then it slipped into obscurity and was mostly pulled out after the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the US. When we were planning out our vineyards in the early 1980’s, my mother who was an Amarone fan at the time, wanted us to pursue reds in the style of Quintarelli. I’m not sure that she appreciated the task she set out, but perhaps she was also a bit prescient as our region does bear some similarities to the Veneto in terms of growing season, and we did some early experimentation with appasimento winemaking on Baco. When choosing what to grow we settled on Baco along with Riesling. The Baco in particular was a massive hit and we have never looked back, with new plantings coming on (though we do sell a lot of Riesling and expanded long ago into Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet-Merlot based blends).


Baco Noir is one of our main varietals and our best selling export.”

That’s not the only ace up their sleeve, mind. We’ve tried all the above wines and can assure all you Rascals of their unique quality.

Keep your eyes peeled for some amazing ice wines from these guys too, which we’ll be adding to our brochure very soon…