Brock University toasts gift of 2,500 historically significant wines

Renowned wine expert Michael Vaughan has selected Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) as the new home of his impeccably preserved collection of award-winning Canadian wines.

The Michael Vaughan Wine Collection contains 2,500 bottles of historical wines from across the country, including a number of extremely rare bottles that date back decades. The collection has been personally curated and preserved by Vaughan and contains some of the last-remaining bottles of their kind that are still in mint condition and drinkable.

Vaughan, who earned his PhD in International Economics from the University of Toronto, was a Professor of Economics at Ryerson University before becoming an award-winning national wine writer and critic. He said his collection was curated with intellectual pursuits in mind. As an educator himself, Vaughan said he felt CCOVI’s state-of-the-art facilities and reputation for research and educational excellence made it an ideal partner for both housing and utilizing his unique collection.

“I wanted to make sure the wines I have accumulated went somewhere where they could be a useful learning experience,” he said. “I wanted to share them with an academic institution. The most important one for me was Brock, because it made sense that it went to a place where the students, the faculty and the winemakers could experience the evolution of these wines and see how good they still were and how they had changed over all of these years.”

Brock University has become a trusted steward for unique, historically significant collections, including the Alexander Hamilton collection that was donated to the Brock Library’s Archives and Special Collections last year.

Debbie Inglis, Director of Brock’s CCOVI, said the Michael Vaughan Wine Collection is a prime example of how gifts of this kind and ongoing partnerships with donors can serve students, researchers and the community for years to come.

“This generous donation, coupled with Michael’s expertise, will be a valuable asset to the Institute as we work to address the evolving research and outreach needs of our industry and educate future generations of grape growers and winemakers,” she said. “This collection serves as a living history of the evolution of Canadian wine, allowing us to learn from the past and bolster the sustainability and success of our industry in the future.”

The collection will be housed in CCOVI’s 44,000-bottle capacity wine cellar, where the wines will be climate-controlled, archived and preserved as part of the Institute’s Canadian Wine Library.

“This donation contains wines from some of Canada’s top wine vintages, including 1998 and 1999, and to have these coming through our doors is very exciting,” said Barb Tatarnic, CCOVI’s Manager of Continuing Education and Outreach. “It opens up a treasure trove of opportunities for CCOVI to take a deep dive into these wines and to offer tastings and research opportunities that look at things like ageability, the impact that good vineyard practices have on the quality of wines, climate, weather impacts on vintage variation and much, much more.”

Vaughan has been studying, collecting and writing about wine for more than 50 years, documenting the 1970s resurgence of the Canadian wine industry first-hand. He is the editor and creator of Vintage Assessments, a not-for-profit publication dedicated to professional buyers, sommeliers and wine lovers, and has personally tasted and critiqued tens of thousands of the world’s top wines.

The value of the collection he is gifting to Brock lies in the health of the wines themselves, which he preserved in a climate- and humidity-controlled environment and routinely evaluated for quality using a time-honoured technique to preserve their integrity.

“I keep my wine very cold because I don’t want it to evolve, so my secret of having wines that are still drinkable after 50 years is the temperature,” Vaughan said. “The wines that have been donated to CCOVI had never moved out of my climate-controlled storage.”

Vaughan will continue to offer his breadth of expertise and collaborate with CCOVI on various outreach, research and educational opportunities involving the presentation of these wines going forward.

“This is the fun part,” he said. “I really want to continue working with Brock, including on some interesting projects I have in mind.”

CCOVI, which is poised to celebrate its 25th anniversary in October, is developing plans for hosting these opportunities, as well as an event to celebrate the donation, in the near future.


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