Ontario Faces Grape Shortage (October 10, 2003)
The severe winter of 2002/2003 decimated the Ontario wine grape crop.
A late winter freeze in early March virtually destroyed the Merlot and
Sauvignon Blanc. The overall crop is estimated to be down by 40 to 50
per cent. In order for the Ontario wineries to maintain their market position,
a deal has been worked out between the Ontario wine industry, the local
grape growers, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the government
To ensure that all wineries can remain viable through this difficult
year, an amendment has been made to the Wine Content and Labelling Act
that will allow Ontario wineries to blend up to 90 per cent of off-shore
wine into their domestic content. This change in the regulations will
remain in force until January 31, 2005.
Under VQA regulations all wines bearing this appellation must be made
from 100 per cent Ontario grapes. Ontario wines that have off-shore material
blended in are labeled as cellared in Canada from imported and domestic
grapes and cannot use the VQA symbol. However, the LCBO will be
placing these off-shore blends on shelves next to VQA wines, which makes
it confusing for the consumer who must distinguish between a locally grown
product and one that contains up to 90 per cent of imported wine.
In addition, the amendment to the regulations stipulates that wineries
can substitute their off-shore blends for VQA wines that they sell directly
to restaurants a situation that does not sit well with the wine
importers of European and new World wines.