Tony Aspler

Tony Aspler C.M.


Tony Aspler has been writing about wine for over 30 years. He was the wine columnist for The Toronto Star for 21 years and has authored eightteen books on wine and food, including ‘The Wine Atlas of Canada (2006),’ ‘Vintage Canada,’ The Wine Lover's Companion`, `The Wine Lover Cooks` and `Travels With My Corkscrew‘, and ‘Tony Aspler’s Cellar Book’. Tony’s latest book is ‘The Five Minute Wine Book.’


The Beginning

 Tony was born in London, England on May 12th,1939. During the war, I was on the last convoy out of Britain to Canada with my mother and sister in September 1940 (these convoys were stopped because of German U-boat activity). In 1947 he was sent back to London by plane to live with his father who immediately put Tony into boarding schools. In 1956 he returned to Montreal and attended McGill University (I was in the same fraternity as Leonard Cohen). Tony graduated with a BA in English & Philosophy in 1959 and went to Trinity College, Dublin, for postgraduate work. Returning to Montreal in 1961 and joined the CBC’s Press and Information Department. After a year he applied to the BBC in London and was taken as an editorial writer for Radio Times. In 1964 Tony became a freelance writer and broadcaster.

Living alone in London he taught myself to cook and decided to learn about wine. He took a course at Grant’s of St. James in March 1964 and started to visit the wineries in Europe. Tony began writing about wine in 1975 – my first article was published in Saturday Night Magazine - on champagne.

In 1976, as a staff member of the CBC, Tony was called back to Toronto to be the Executive Producer of The Eric Friesen Show on CBC FM. He continued to write about wine and was offered the Toronto Star wine column which he wrote for 21 years after leaving the CBC.

I sort of drifted into wine writing because, at the time, there weren’t many wine writers. I considered myself to a wine evangelist rather than a wine critic as I wanted to share my enthusiasm and sense of wonder about the fermented grape.
When I came back to Canada in 1976 there were only seven wineries in Ontario – the old established firms of Brights, Cartier, Chateau-Gai, Jordan Ste. Michelle and London; and two boutique wineries that that just been licensed – Inniskillin and Montravin Podamer Sparkling Wine Company.

My first taste of Ontario wine was in London, England, on Canada Day 1975. It was called Dominion Day then, and as an employee of the CBC I had been invited to a celebratory lunch at Macdonald House. This magnificent building in Grosvenor Square is part of the High Commission of Canada in the British capital. At the lunch I was seated next to an elderly British diplomat. For the loyal toast to the Queen, we were served Château-Gai Champagne. I asked my neighbour what he thought of it. He sniffed, took a sip and replied, “Fine, dear boy, for launching enemy submarines.”

"Those were the bad old days. When you consider how the wine industry in Ontario has developed in forty-odd years, it’s nothing short of miraculous. Today our vintners are making wines that can stand without a blush on the restaurant tables of the world alongside anything produced in the Old World or the New. "

 My first wine column for the Toronto Star appeared on September 5, 1981, two and a half years before the first Ontario Icewine appeared in the shops. It was Pelee Island Beerenauslese Eiswein 1983 and it cost $12.50 a half bottle.
We were all more innocent back then. Baby Duck was sold in quack packs; Brights was dukeing it out with Château-Gai, Jordan-Ste. Michelle and Andres for market share; Mateus Rosé, Black Tower and Blue Nun commanded LCBO shelves.

Twenty-one years ago Ontario boasted 13 wineries, most of whose labels no longer exist. Can you remember Barnes, Charal, London, Podamer, Rieder?  In 1981 if you wanted something better than Capistro or Alpenweiss you went to The Rare Wine Store, a small basement cellar next to St. Lawrence Market where the bottles were locked in glass cases like museum specimens. In order to sell Ontario wines the producers had to disguise them with European sounding names and put images of French châteaux and German castles on the their labels.

Vintage Canada was orginaly published in 1982 just 5 years after the founding of Inniskillin Wines and 10 years before the creation of Vincor. Note Author John Schreiner wrote  The World of Canadian Wines, published in 1984.

In 1994 Tony wrote The Wine Lover's Companion a book I treasure as our website was started in 1992. We used Tony's book to update and reorganize our website.

The ‘The Wine Atlas of Canada", was Canada’s first-ever wine atlas – the complete reference guide to the country’s vineyards and award-winning wines. From British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley to Nova Scotia’s Malagash Peninsula, this comprehensive guide allowed you to meet the winemakers. They made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. Tony explored every establishment from the cozy farm wineries that make a single bottling to the high-tech corporations shipping bottles around the world, Tony Aspler gives you his insight into the history of winemaking in Canada.

While Canadian ice wine is now an international icon, a gamut of other Canadian wine varieties have surprised the world with their quality. Tony Aspler explores the wine regions of Canada from coast to coast in this indispensable reference book offering guidance on where to go and why, what to taste, and how to make the most of the winery experience. Packed full of insider tips, detailed maps and lush photographs, never before has any book captured the excitement and drama of this burgeoning industry in Canada. 

In December 2007, Tony was awarded the Order of Canada.

In 2012 Tony was the first Canadian to be inducted into the New York Media Wine Writers Hall of Fame. In that year Tony was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.

In February 2001, Tony co-founded a charitable foundation with Arlene Willis. `Grapes for Humanity` that raises money through the wine community for the victims of landmines and children with disabilities .

Tony is an accomplished wine educator and lecturer. He averages 30 personal appearances a year at seminars and lectures.

Tony is the panel chair for Canadian wines at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards. He is the creator of the annual Ontario Wine Awards competition, an honorary governor of Cuvée and a director of the Independent Wine & Spirit Trust. He is also a director of The Canadian Wine Library. At the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival 2000, Tony was presented with the ‘Royal Bank Business Citizen of the Year’ Award.

Tony writes for a number of international wine magazines, including Wine Spectator, Decanter, Meininger’s Wine Business International, Quench, Post City Magazines, Lexpert, On the Go, Fine Wine & Liquor (China),
He was the Canadian contributor to Jancis Robinson’s ‘Oxford C0companion To Wine’, Tom Stevenson’s annual ‘Wine Report’ and to Oz Clarke’s annual ‘Pocket Wine Guide.’ You can hear Tony on 680News – Friday, Saturday and Sunday - talking about wine.

Tony also writes fiction.  He is the author of nine novels. His latest series is a collection of wine murder mysteries featuring the itinerant wine writer/detective Ezra Brant: `Blood Is Thicker Than Beaujolais`, `The Beast of Barbaresco`, and `Death On The Douro` (published by Warwick Publishing).  He is currently working on `Nightmare In Napa Valley.’


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Tony Aspler
Grapes for Humanity
Numerous news articles


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