Ontario's Short-fall Harvest (September 29, 2005)
For the Ontario wine industry it is the best of times and the worst of times. The 2005 harvest, thanks to the hottest, driest growing season on record, has produced the best fruit the wineries have ever seen. But because of the horrendously cold winter and early spring that preceded it, killing off buds and splitting vines, the quantities are down drastically. A usual Ontario harvest will produce an average of 50,000 tonnes of grapes. This year the growers are lucky if that figure will reach 20,000 tonnes.
According to the Wine Council of Ontario, the crop shortfall will result in the loss of $100 million to the province's 100 wineries. To maintain their shelf space on Liquor Control Board of Ontario shelves, the wineries will be allowed to blend up to 99 per cent of off-shore wines with locally-grown wines and label them "Cellared in Ontario." The current legislation for "Cellared in Ontario" wines allows the wineries to blend up to 70 per cent imported wines. This will not affect Ontario wines that bear the VQA seal (Vintners Quality Alliance, Canada's appellation system) which must be made from 100 per cent of grapes grown in designated viticultural areas.
I'm concerned that these blended wines will end up on the same LCBO shelves as VQA wines and confuse consumers who do not read back labels carefully. So scrutinize the labels, and if you want to buy Ontario wines, reach for bottles that carry the VQA seal.