In Niagara, Canada (10) Malivoire, now a Gamay specialist


Martin Malivoire’s background is in film special effects, so during his career he saw a lot of change, culminating in the cgi-heavy blockbusters of today. He brought the current property in 1995 after he decided he’d like to turn his hand to growing wine grapes. At the time the region had just 40 wineries. Gewürztraminer was already planted, and he added Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in 1996.

Martin Malivoire

In 1997 he decided he’d actually like to make wine himself, so he built a barrel cellar and bought a second property down the road where he built Canada’s first gravity flow winery. ‘He came from special effects and thinks out of the box,’ says Malivoire winemaker Shiraz Mottiar, ‘and he came up with this really cool gravity flow Quansett hut winery on the Beamsville Bench with a focus on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay.’ Altogether, Malivoire draws on 60 hectares of vines from a number of different vineyard sites, processes 400 tons annually, and produces 25 000 cases.

Looking down on the vineyard and the gravity flow winery

About 50% of the wines are from estate vineyards, but this is because a lot of the volume wines are from growers. Gamay has been a particular focus for a while: this is the only area where they are expanding the number of wines. Initially just two, and then they started doing more single vineyard wines. Now there are seven Gamays in the range. ‘We are really pushing Gamay and rosé from Pinot Noir as our identity,’ says Shiraz.

Vintage variation in Niagara is a fact of life, and something that winemakers here have to live with. ‘Each vintage is so different,’ says Shiraz. ‘The second you think you know everything you end up with a crazy vintage that slaps you.’ But this is one of the strengths of Gamay, in that it deals well with this variation. ‘You taste 2020 which was a very hot, dry vintage, compared with 2021 which was a lot cooler and wetter, and we still get the same kind of character,’ says Shiraz. ‘The fruit is pushed forward and the acidity doesn’t fade during ripening, even in a hot year.’

‘We are on the bench, and it is a glacial moraine so there is lots of rubble from the shale and limestone,’ he explains. ‘You would think that [for Gamay] you’d need granite, like Beaujolais. But the bench gives it a little extra structure. We have a similar climate to Beaujolais. We get some humid summers and some very cold winters, and Gamay does really well with both.’

‘On top of that, we get such lively, vibrant fruit here in Ontario. There’s a nice short, cool harvest that maintains acidity and keeps them really fresh.’

‘Gamay can be quite prolific in terms of yield. We manage this by thinning multiple times each year, so we get something really consistent every year which is nice.’

The winemaking with Gamay depends on the vineyard. Most vineyards work with about one-third whole cluster. Where they buy fruit most is machine picked, so they can’t do whole bunch. As for closures, DIAM is used for the higher-end wines, and it’s the Origine version, which has beeswax binder.


Demo Series Amaranth 2020 Niagara Escarpment
Pinot Noir and Gamay, with a bit of Pinot Gris, one year on lees. 8 g/l dosage. Traditional method. Sweet, pure and tart with vivid sour cherry fruit and some stewed raspberry. Very fruity and bright with keen acidity. So fruity. 89/100

Malivoire Genova Gamay 2021 Vinemount Ridge
11% alcohol. This is a vineyard they manage. It’s a cool site that is picked a couple of weeks later than the others. Lively and bright with keen raspberry fruit, some red cherry and red currant, and keen acidity. Very lively and egdy. Sappy, fine and detailed, and so vital and juicy with nice precision. 92/100

Malivoire Gamay Concrete 2021 Beamsville Bench
12% alcohol. Estate fruit: Shiraz liked this lot so bottled it separately. Fermented in concrete then aged in old barrels (all the Gamays are aged in older oak). Juicy and fresh with red cherry and plum fruit. Sappy, vital and alive with great purity and acidity. Such a rush of fresh fruit with nice raspberry character and great acidity, but there’s some harmony here. 93/100

Malivoire Gamay Le Coeur 2021 Beamsville Bench
12.5% alcohol. 100% whole cluster, 10 days undisturbed, then maybe a bucket over but it’s just left. Lovely red berry and cherry fruit aromatics with some nice juiciness. There’s a very bright character to this wine but also some nice texture. Fruity and vivid with some green hints, but also lovely red cherry and spice. This is so textural and fine. 94/100

Malivoire Gamay Wismer-Foxcroft 2021 Twenty Mile Bench
11.5% alcohol. Fine aromatics with some spicy green herbs and redcurrant. The palate is supple, linear and juicy with bright raspberry and cherry fruit. It’s so linear and expressive with nice acidity. So expressive and detailed with a nice acid line, and such a great integration of all the flavours. 94/100

Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2020 Beamsville Bench
12.5% alcohol. Estate grown fruit. This is the main licensee wine and it’s great value at $22. Juicy and focused with bright cherries and plums, and some raspberry crunch. Lots of energy to this wine with a nice sour cherry twist and keen acidity on the finish. Lovely stuff. 92/100

Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2020 Beamsville Bench
13.5% alcohol. This is a block within the estate. More airflow so the fruit can hang on a long time, and this stays in barrel for 16 months (10% new) and do a full destem. Supple and bright but with some depth and structure. This is grainy and intense with some wood spice and nice tannin, finishing with juicy acidity. Very fresh and expressive, but with potential for development. Sour cherry and raspberry juice on the finish. 94/100

Demo Series Analog Gamay Cabernet Franc 2021
This is more Gamay than Cabernet Franc, with most of the Gamay whole bunch then cofermented with Cabernet Franc, and then some destemmed Gamay was added to it. Supple, fresh, juicy and berryish, showing lovely brightness and appealing red cherry and plum fruit. Nice green hints weave in well into the fruit, and it has a lovely brightness on the finish. So expressive and joyful. 93/100

Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
Fresh and lively with nice citrus and a hint of green apple. Shows nice spiciness and there’s some freshness here. Bright and expressive. 92/100

Malivoire Moira Chardonnay 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
12.5% alcohol. This has nice breadth on the palate with soft, smooth pear and peach fruit. There’s some lovely depth to this wine, with meal, cream and fine spices. There’s depth, but there’s also freshness with a nice fine spicy finish. 93/100

Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2018 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
12% alcohol. 58% fermented in concrete, the rest in steel and large oak. 10% whole cluster in steel. Some earthy, spicy notes here, with supple cherry and plum fruit, and some silky raspberry detail. Nice freshness, finishing spicy. 92/100

Malivoire Gamay Le Coeur 2018 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
12% alcohol. Whole cluster ferment, six days of carbonic maceration followed by gentle foot treading and pouring over. Then to hogsheads (8 years old). Has a sappy green edge to the rich fruit. Lively with raspberry and cherry notes. Sappy and detailed with nice freshness. Lovely vibrant style. 93/100

Malivoire Small Lot Pinot Noir 2016 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Fine grained and quite elegant with fine, smooth-textured cherry and plum fruit, with a touch of subtle earthiness. Nice sweetly fruited wine with good structure. 93/100

Older notes from a July 2013 visit

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2012 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Ripe and textured with lively appley fruit and some grapey notes, as well as a bit of spice. Some warmth and richness here. 89/100

Malivoire Pinot Noir Mottiar 2010 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
This is from a vineyard owned by Shiraz Mottiar, winemaker, 40 metres above the bench and 70 metres above the plain, close to the escarpment, with clay/silt soils. The Pinot was planteed in 2005 using 6 clones. Supple, sweet and pure with fine cherry fruit and some minerality. Ripe but fresh with lovely balance and purity. 92/100

Malivoire Pinot Noir Mottiar 2009 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Sweet, pure, vivid black cherry and plum fruit. Nicely supple with some spice and mineral notes adding interest. Ripe but restrained, finishing spicy. 92/100

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2010 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Mealy, appley and nutty with some textured pear fruit and a bit of spice. Warm, rounded and full with soft texture. Very rounded. 90/100

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2008 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Nutty with nice depth of pear and spice fruit, with some apple pie notes and good depth. There’s still freshness, but it is quite a rounded wine. 91/100

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2008 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Nutty, broad and ripe with some apple and honey notes. Creamy and textured, finishing with some spiciness. Supple and interesting. 90/100

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Very ripe and sweet. Full, open pear and apple fruit with some honeyed characters, as well as a hint of apricot. A sweeter fruit profile here. 89/100

Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2012 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Lovely bright, pure, sappy cherry fruit here. Ripe and smooth with sweetness yet freshness. A lighter-style red but it shows complexity. 92/100

Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Canada
Fresh, supple, bright cherry fruit with lovely sappy notes. Very textured and fine with a hint of spice. Supple cherry fruit is the key signature, and it tastes quite natural. Light but quite profound. 93/100

Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Mineral and tar notes with some grip, a bit of spice and some herbs, as well as subtle earthy notes. Quite savoury in style with real interest. 91/100

Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2008 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Lovely cherries here: ripe and rich with a bit of spice. Warm and ripe with some minerality and a nice grainy texture. Great purity of fine cherry and berry fruit. 94/100

Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2010 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Lovely ripe, fine black cherry fruit. Sweet yet mineral with a nice grainy texture. Ripe and full yet so fine. 94/100

Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2912 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
This is Malivoire’s largest production wine, at 6500 cases. A blend of Cabernet France and Pinot Noir with 10 g/litre residual sugar. Supple, smooth and ripe with a hint of greenness. Nice texture with some sweet fruit. Very appealing. 88/100

Malivoire Melon 2012 VQA Beamsvill Bench, Canada
Melon de Bourgogne, the grape of Muscadet, which Shiraz Mottiar says is one of those rare grapes where you can taste the flavour of the wine in the grape. Supple, a bit nutty, and bright, with minerals and lemons, as well as apples and pears. So distinctive. 89/100

Malivoire Gewürztraminer 2011 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
Ripe and varietally true. Textured and grapey with lovely melon and turkish delight notes. Real richness here. Dry but richly fruited, and quite delicious. 92/100

Malivoire Stouck Merlot 2012 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Fresh vivid black fruits here with good structure and nice pure, ripe fruit. Good definition with nice acidity. Ripe but fresh, and really focused. 90/100

Malivoire Stouck Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Supple, ripe and pure with ice smooth black fruits. Notes of chalk, gravel and minerals, too. Lovely sweet fruit, but also stylish and pure. 92/100

Malivoire Stouck Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Lovely bold, concentrated blackcurrant fruit with some spice and tar notes. There’s some savoury blackcurrant bud character as well as nice texture. A lovely wine. 92/100