Industry Corner

Member news & information, regulation changes, winemaker's forums, CCOVI events, etc.

Events and Presentations

VQAO/AGCO/LCBO SEMINAR PRESENTATIONS

In early 2017, VQA Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission and the LCBO joined together to offer a workshop on regulations that apply to wineries in Ontario. Presentations were given on the regulations and licensing that govern the manufacturing, sales, certification and labelling of wine and related requirements for record keeping and compliance audits. The following presentations were made at the seminars – questions on any of the topic areas can be directed to the appropriate agency.

AGCO regulations update

VQA approval rules and procedures

Winery audit presentation

Winery reporting forms presentation

2017 VQA Winemaker Forums

A notice will be sent when the next forum dates are scheduled.


VQA Newsletters

Member newsletters available for downloading:
September 2017 
  • Value of Membership
  • Harvest: Brix minimus and grape documentation summary
  • Using the "Branding" feature in the VQA wine database
  • Calling all winemakers - FIZZ Club
August 2017 
  • New Category: Skin Fermented White wine
  • Winemakers' forum - Prince Edward County
  • Exporting to Asia - new export certificate
  • Tips: Maintaining the integrity of local wine appellations; Varietal wines versus proprietary name
  • Brock University CCCOVI Research Study
Jun 2017 
  • 2016 Ontario Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study
  • LCBO Strike Contingency
  • Exporting to Asia - new export certificate
  • Tips: VQA logo on packaging
May 2017 
  • Laboratory Analysis fee increase
  • Exporting news and selling wine in other markets
  • Tips: Wine applications and monthly sales reports
April 2017 
  • New regulations for VQA Sparkling wines now in effect
  • Reminder - wine approvals based on tank samples must be bottled within 12 months
  • Tips: How to avoid wine approval delays
March 2017 
  • Membership renewal reminder
  • Tips: Preparing samples for unfiltered wine
February 2017 
  • Seminar Series – Wrap-up summary
  • New category for skin-fermented white wines recommended to government for approval
  • Tips: Defining varietal and proprietary name wines
January 2017 
  • Seminar Series – What you need to know about VQA, AGCO and LCBO rules
  • VQA Wine Research Project – sample request
  • Tips: Transfers of finished wines between wineries; VQA wine approvals expire after 12 months if the wine is not bottled
December 2016 
  • Ontario Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study – reminder
  • Seminar Series – What you need to know about VQA, AGCO and LCBO rules
  • Tips: Using VQA Service's new "Branding" feature
November 2016 
  • VQA Wine Research Project – sample request
  • Participation in VQA leverages the VQA Wines of Ontario promotion
  • Ontario Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study – active now
  • Tips:Account Management
October 2016 
  • Make sure your grapes remain VQA-Eligible
  • Second Annual Ontario Wine Industry Performance study coming soon
  • VQA participation supports your bottom line
  • Tips: Planning ahead for VQA applications
September 2016 
  • GGO requirements for all VQA wines
  • Benefits of VQA membership – Supports better brand profile and distribution
  • Ontario wine and grape industry performance study
  • Tips: Finding information you need on the VQA website
August 2016 
  • Changes to Wine Approval System – branding
  • Benefits of VQA membership – Better product promotion
  • AGM recap
  • Tips: Timing the approval process
July 2016 
  • 2016 AGM meeting and board nominations
  • Benefits of VQA membership – average price per bottle
  • Tips: Improving our email list; Maintaining the integrity of local wine appellations
June 2016 
  • Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study
  • Changes to VQA Services – "Wine Lookup" announcement
  • Regulation change – logo on wine closure; lower brix for Muscat grapes
  • Rack Card explanation
  • Tips: Transfers of finished wines; Varietal wines versus proprietary name
May 2016 
  • Keeping your VQA information current
  • Export considerations
  • VQA certification: A 3-step process
  • Field trip to the Tasting Panel - May 18, 2016
  • Exciting research opportunity
Apr 2016 
  • VQA Ontario: Supporting 15 years Of Ontario Wine Industry Growth
  • 12 months to bottle
  • VQA Progress and Priorities
  • Tips: Processing approval applications
Feb 2016 
  • Membership renewal reminder
  • Wine Approval tips
  • Expediting your wine to the Independant Tasting Panel
  • Winery audit preparation tips
Dec 2015 
  • Holiday Season Schedule
  • Late Harvest and Icewine grape registration
  • Ontario Wine Industry benchmarking survey
Oct 2015 
  • Making sure your grapes remain VQA-eligible
  • Ontario Wine Industry survey announcement
  • Planning ahead for December wine testing schedule
Jul 2015 
  • New Board Members announcement
  • South Islands declared new sub-appellation
  • More evidence appellation adds value
Dec 2014 
  • Status of pending regulation changes
  • 2015/2016 Generic VQA marketing program
Oct 2014 
  • Late Harvest and Icewine grape registration
  • Restrictions on the use of trademarks "vqa" and "icewine"
Jun 2014 
  • Changes to LCBO's product listing applications (NISS)
  • Update to "Rules for Approvals" procedures
  • Rule changes approved by Board, awaiting approval by Minister
  • VQA Stickers
Apr 2014 
  • Rule change for consultation - new sub-appellation South Islands and non-glass packaging amendment
  • New Online wine transfer system (WTS) now in effect
Mar 2014 
  • VQA Regulation changes - new icewine minimum residual sugar and new grape synomyms added
  • Rule changes feedback - new sub-appellation and appellation use on packaging
  • 2013 Winery Tasting Report and individual reports
Feb 2014 
  • VQA sales levies decreasing April 1, 2014
  • Changes to late harvest/icewine registration process for next vintage
  • Seminar on VQA labelling, approvals, audits and reporting
  • VQAO Research Survey
Aug 2013 
  • VQAO research survey information
  • VQA harvest requirements
  • Rules on appellation labelling take effect with the 2013 vintage
  • Mandatory sulphites labelling

News Releases

Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study

The second annual industry survey conducted by VQA Ontario and Deloitte on sector health and profitability is now available.

Download the 2016 Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study.

The Ontario Wine and Grape Strategy was renewed by the Ontario Government for five years commencing in 2015/16. In support of the strategy, VQA Ontario was asked to develop and implement the first annual Ontario Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study. The survey and report were developed by VQA Ontario and Deloitte in 2015 in consultation with representatives of the wine and grape industry and the Government of Ontario.

The study is aimed at providing benchmarking and performance data to support the reporting commitments of the Wine and Grape Strategy and to improve the industry's access to sector performance information. The report provides an overview of the financial state of the industry, including the impact of tourism and hospitality.

Download the 2015 Wine and Grape Industry Performance Study.

New Booklets and Brochures available

There are several new VQA-related items now available in our library regarding VQA's milestones and future goals. Feel free to browse our Library as an excellent source for learning about VQA Ontario.

VQA Regulation Changes

VQA Regulations can be viewed in detail at: (http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_000406_e.htm) or by contacting the VQA office.

July 1, 2017

New VQA rules creating a category for skin-fermented white wines take effect on July 1, 2017. The requirements are as follows:

  • The wine must be made entirely from grapes that are fermented with the skins present and on skins for at least 10 days
  • The wine must be made from white or pink grape varieties
  • In addition to the usual label requirements (vintage, variety if hybrid), the words "Skin Fermented White" must appear on the front label at least 2 mm in size adjacent to the variety name
  • If no varieties are shown on the front label, "Skin Fermented White" must be at least 3.2 mm in size
  • If the wine is bottled with lees and this is declared on the label, turbidity limits will not applied for the purpose of the chemical analysis

March 8, 2017

Changes were made to Sparkling Wine rules. These changes retain existing requirements for both Traditional Method and Cuve Close/Charmat wines and replace the Aromatic category with a more flexible category for basic Sparkling wines. In brief, the new Sparkling Wine category:

  • Must be carbonated exclusively through fermentation (no artificial carbonation)
  • Has no minimum time on lees or aging requirements
  • Can be made from any grape variety on the VQA list of approved varieties, subject to the mandatory label declaration for hybrid grapes
  • Can use the Ontario appellation only
  • Cannot reference the method of production unless it meets all requirements for either Traditional Method or Cuve Close/Charmat Method

July 1, 2016

Amendments to the VQA Regulation remove the prohibition on placing the VQA logo or letters on wine closures (e.g., corks), and lower the minimum brix level of all vitis vinifera Muscat grape varieties from more specific appellations than Ontario from 18.0° to 17.0° brix.

July 1, 2015

A new sub-appellation of Lake Erie North Shore has been created. South Islands are the nine islands in the western end of Lake Erie that comprise the municipality of the Town of Pelee Island. Within the Lake Erie North Shore region, South Islands is Canada's southernmost wine-growing region.

The minimum requirement for residual sugar in finished Icewine has been changed from 125 g/L to 100 g/L. This change allows wineries to produce slightly less sweet Icewine but all other elements of the production standards for Icewine will remain unchanged. Further information on the standards or technical information on Icewine production can be obtained from the following link
www.vqaontario.ca/Appellations/LakeErieNorthShore/SouthIslands

March 14, 2014

VQA Ontario has implemented the following amendment to the production standard for Icewine (VQA Regulation 406)

Revision of Minimum Residual Sugar for Icewine from 125 g/L to 100 g/L

The minimum requirement for residual sugar in finished Icewine has been changed from 125 g/L to 100 g/L. This change allows wineries to produce slightly less sweet Icewine but all other elements of the production standards for Icewine will remain unchanged.

This change harmonizes VQA standards with the recently adopted national guideline and with existing regulations in British Columbia. The change has no impact on Canada's trade agreements or the export of Icewine to foreign markets.

January 1, 2013

Under the old VQA rules, wines that blend content from different appellations had to "declassify" the wine to the next largest appellation that applies. For example, a blend of Lake Erie North Shore and Niagara Peninsula grapes could only refer to the appellation Ontario or a blend of Lincoln Lakeshore and Four Mile Creek could use only Niagara Peninsula or Ontario. The rules prohibited the use of multiple appellations to describe a wine.

Effective January 1, 2013, multiple appellations may be listed on a wine label as part of a truthful, accurate description of content for most wines under the following conditions:

  • The official appellation for which the wine qualifies must appear on the principal display panel (existing rules)
  • The component appellations of the wine may be listed on the label (or in any off-label description) if all components are included in descending order and accurate percentages are listed
  • No other reference to an appellation for which the wine does not qualify may be made on the label, signage, advertising, descriptions or other use that is associated with a specific wine

Wines that are declassified to "Ontario" for reasons of brix, hybrid content or method of production are not be eligible to use more specific appellation terms or multi-appellation labelling to declare the content of the wine.

For example, a blend of Lake Erie North Shore and Niagara Peninsula grapes may now state 60% Lake Erie North Shore, 40% Niagara Peninsula in addition to the declaration VQA Ontario VQA. A blend of 10% Lincoln Lakeshore and 90% Four Mile Creek may declare this in addition to the declaration "VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA". Statements such as "this wine contains 50% Prince Edward County grapes and 50% Niagara Peninsula grapes" will be allowed.

The VQA Act and regulations prohibit all use of appellation terms in association with a wine that does not qualify for the stated term. In conjunction with this regulation change, VQA Ontario will be strictly enforcing this requirement to reduce the potentially misleading use of protected appellation terms. Beginning with the 2013 vintage, any and all use of appellation terms on the label or directly associated with a wine that does not qualify for the term will be prohibited. This will require the removal of all descriptive text such as "visit our winery in Beamsville Bench" or "our winemaker hails from Prince Edward County" for wines that do not qualify for the stated appellation. Terms used in recognized postal addresses will continue to be exempt.

July 1, 2012

Alternative packaging

VQA wines that use the appellation of origin "Ontario" may be packaged in containers other than glass bottles. The change does not apply to wines that use more specific claims of origin regulated by VQA Ontario such as Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville Bench, Lake Erie North Shore or Prince Edward County. These wines will continue to be packaged in glass bottles.

The alternative containers include stainless steel kegs and containers made of aluminum, plastic (PET), or multi layer containers such as TetraPak or bag-in-box. These containers may be used under the following conditions:

  • The geographical indication on the container must be "Ontario"
  • The date on which the container was filled must appear on the container in plain language format
  • The packaging must comply with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (Canada)
  • The wine shall be packaged in accordance with good manufacturing practices appropriate to the container used
  • The container must be closed with a tamper evident seal that preserves the quality of the wine
  • Reasonable efforts must be made to monitor the shelf life of the wine and manage inventory to ensure that quality is maintained up to the point of sale
VQA logo now optional on package

Wineries now have the option to label VQA wine bottles (or containers) without the VQA logo on the package if they increase the declared appellation size, including the VQA letters, to a size of 3.2 mm or larger. The appellation declaration must appear on the principal display panel.

Authorized Grape Varieties

Sauvignon Blanc has been added to list of approved varieties for Aromatic Sparkling wines.

For more information please see the full text of Regulation 406.

If you have any questions regarding implementation of these changes, please contact the VQA Ontario office at 416-367-2002 or email us at info@vqaontario.ca.

Allergen Labelling

New federal rules in effect August 4, 2012

Health Canada has issued further information on the implementation of new allergen labelling regulations which take effect August 4, 2012. Wines that contain allergens such as sulphites, milk, fish, egg or wheat must carry an allergen warning.

It will not be required to list egg, fish and milk allergens used as fining agents if the wine is filtered in accordance with good manufacturing practices. Unfiltered wines treated with these agents will have to list eggs, fish or milk, unless it can be shown that there is no residual protein remaining in the final wine product.

Health Canada has advised that wines carrying a vintage date of 2011 or earlier will be exempt from sulphite or egg, fish and milk allergen labelling. All wines with a vintage date of 2012 or later will have to meet the new labelling rules. Please review the letter from Health Canada (click here)  and the related regulations posted on the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

For more information read the GUIDANCE FOR THE FINING OF WINE AND THE LABELLING OF FINED WINES (July 2012) document from the Canadian Vintners Association

Notice from LCBO Quality Assurance Laboratory

Independent Analytical Services
LCBO logo

The LCBO Laboratory offers analytical services directly to VQA wineries for purposes outside of the VQA approval process. This might include additional testing for VQA wines that is not covered in the VQA process or testing at stages before or after the wine is in the approval phase. LCBO provides a full analytical service as well as sensory analysis and label review services.

For those using this service, or who may use it in future, please note that LCBO now requires samples be accompanied by a submission form that specifies the client needs for analysis. More information is available at the LCBO Trade webpage.

A special note on Total Acidity tests for the purpose of completing the VI-1 form (export certification for European destinations)

TA tests to be used for export certification should be requested through VQA Ontario so that the test results can be linked to the appropriate VQA wine ID. VI-1 certificates are issued by VQA Ontario and the process requires testing data to be drawn from the VQA Wine Approvals database. Ideally, wineries should request Total Acidity testing at the time of the approval application if the wine is intended for export to Europe. Online requests can also be made after the approval is completed by logging into the general information page for the particular wine.