Haskap berries at the forefront of new winery

Members of local organizations were on hand to announce the opening of the first haskap berry winery in southern Alberta.

Lethbridge media got a sneak peek of the Little Gem Winery on Friday morning.

Joel Mans, the owner of the winery talked a little about these special berries, which help make the wine so tasty.

“Haskap berries is a fruit that’s oblong a shape, the color of a blueberry, but from anywhere from three to five times higher antioxidants than blueberries. So they’re classified as superfruit in Canada, they originate from Russia and Japan. And with that, we started growing them, so now what can we do with the product? So that’s where Little Gem Winery was born. So we start applying and that’s five years ago, and three years go, we started making our first wines. And here we are today with the grand opening of our tasting rooms. That’s kind of the final step into launching so people can come, enjoy some wines, try some local Dutch foods, have a tour of the winery, and at certain times of year, tours of the orchard.”

Trevor Lewington, the CEO of Economic Development Lethbridge also discussed how this new winery will benefit the local economy.

“Southern Alberta, Canada’s premier food corridor. We have about 65 specialty crops in our region, so haskap berries is one of them. Many people have never seen this oversized superfood. It looks like a big blueberry, basically. It’s pretty tasty. But to actually make wine from it, I think is exciting for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, haskap berry growers now have another use for their product. There’s another thing that we can do with it which gives them more options, hopefully adds more value beyond the sort of the basic crop itself. And the second component is it’s pretty exciting to see, actually, wine being made in Southern Alberta. There aren’t any vineyards that I’m aware of. Winemaking is not other than the home brew sort of self kit kind of thing. There’s not a commercial operation like this anywhere in our region. So this is an entirely new industry, an entirely new opportunity, and it’ll be interesting to see how they can grow it and who else might be able to enter into that same space.”

According to Stats Canada, wine sales decreased by 4 per cent to 516 million litres in 2021/2022. That is the equivalent to 2.4 standard glasses of wine per week per person.

Micah Quinn

After graduating from Mount Royal University in Calgary with a Broadcasting Diploma, Micah made the trek down to Lethbridge to work for Bridge City News. He has previously worked at City TV Calgary on the Breakfast Television morning show. He looks forward to connecting with this community, and reaching a new audience. Micah has a passion for interviewing and finding out why people think the way they do. You’ll often find him pursuing local feature stories and hard news.

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