Do you know what you're drinking?
When you pick up a bottle of Ontario wine, do you know what’s in it? There are three categories of Ontario wines based on content and the Grape Growers of Ontario want you to know what’s in that bottle.
Contents: Made with 100% Ontario-grown grapes.
VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) is a symbol of quality and designation of origin for Ontario wines produced in three Viticultural Areas: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County.
The QC (Quality Certified) symbol on Fruit Wines of Ontario bottles means you are buying wine made with 100% Ontario-grown fruit. QC is modelled on the same quality standards as VQA.
Product of Canada
Contents: Made with a minimum of 75% Canadian-grown grapes.
May contain up to 25% imported wine.
International and Canadian Blend (ICB)
Contents: Ontario wineries must use a minimum of 25% Ontario grapes in an individual bottle of ICB wine.
May contain up to 75% imported wine.
Grape Growers of Ontario represent 500 proud grape growers who grow the right stuff. 100% Ontario grapes for 100% Ontario VQA wines. Are you buying the right stuff?
How did we get here?
Until 1972, Ontario wine was produced from 100% Ontario-grown grapes.
In 1972, the wine content regulations were changed to allow wineries to import the equivalent of 10% of their domestic purchases, and blend up to 25% imported product in any one bottle of wine. This was done to improve the industry, which was then mainly labrusca-based.
In 1980, the wine content regulations were changed to allow wineries to blend up to 30% imported product in any one bottle of wine. This amount was not tied to a percentage of domestic crop purchase, as before. This was done to supplement a perceived shortage of premium grapes.
In 1989, the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, and the wine content act was changed to allow a minimum of 30% Ontario-grown product from the previous minimum of 70% domestic product. Why was this done? Under the grape adjustment program, grape growers pulled out 8,200 acres of grapes (about half the wine grapes planted) so they could replace them with higher quality vinifera grapes demanded by wineries. The wineries, at that time, insisted there were not enough domestic grapes planted to fulfill market requirements, and they needed imports to satisfy those demands and make enough wine for consumers. This act was supposed to sunset on December 31, 2000.
Also in 1989, VQA was formed as a voluntary association to create an appellation system for Ontario wines and establish minimum quality standards. VQA wines, unlike other Ontario wines, had to contain 100% Ontario-grown product – this requirement stands today.
In 1993, the wine content act was changed to allow a minimum of 10% Ontario-grown product and up to 90% imported product. Why was this done? A severe crop failure in Ontario, due to bad weather, reduced the availability of grapes. This change was only to take affect for one year.
In 1994, the wine content act was changed to allow a minimum of 25% Ontario-grown product in wine.
In January 2001, the wine content act was changed to allow a minimum of 25% Ontario-grown product and a maximum of 75% imported product in the “Cellared in” or “Cellared by” category.
Wine packaged on or after September 1 2010 and before March 31, 2014 requires that wineries use a minimum of 40% Ontario-grown product, with a minimum of 25% Ontario grapes in an individual bottle of wine. Wine labels have changed from "Cellared in" to "Blends of International and Canadian Wine".
In 2014 the requirement for wineries to use a minimum of 40% Ontario - grown product was removed.
Ontario VQA wine continues to be made from 100% Ontario grapes. We want consumers to understand what they are buying, and support wineries that produce 100% Ontario wines.