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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 of Ontario.

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.

 

 

 

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