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ACTS & REGULATIONS
VQA ACT &
Ontario wines labelled with VQA appellations of origin and other regulated terms meet comprehensive standards. These requirements are set out in regulation under the Vintners Quality Alliance Act, 1999 and have the force of law. The legislative framework can be found at the Province of Ontario e-laws website at www.e-laws.gov.on.ca
Links to Act, regulations and ancillary rules:
- VQA Act
- Definition of regulated terms, winemaking and labelling rules (Regulation 406)
- Designation of Wine Authority (Regulation 405)
- Procedural Rules for Wine Approvals
What is REGULATED?
Regulations set out basic standards for grapes and wines. They cover:
- Appellation names and boundaries
- Grape varieties and ripeness
- Compositional standards
- Winemaking techniques
- Labelling requirements
- Sensory and chemical criteria for the finished wine
What is NOT REGULATED?
VQA regulations have been developed to form the basis for a trusted and recognized appellation system and ensure label integrity for consumers, while not being so restrictive as to stifle innovation. The regulatory framework recognizes that consumer preferences and expectations are continuously evolving and authentic wine is a delicate balance of natural conditions, traditional practices and modern technology. Some example of things that are not regulated by VQA Ontario:
- Vine density or grape yield in the vineyard
- Yeast types or fermentation temperatures
- Ageing required (with some exceptions)
- Regional typicity - no standards are in place restricting grape varieties or “typicity” of wine styles within individual appellations
ORIGIN AND COMPOSITION
Regulations require that wineries demonstrate the origin of all grapes used in VQA wines and this is strictly verified through an audit program.
Compositional requirements are set out in detail in the regulation, including basic requirements and specific requirements ties to vintage, variety, wine category and specific label terms. All VQA wines must meet minimum quality standards set out in the regulations and associated rules, including testing of each finished wine.
The Appellation Authority runs several programs for participating wineries that promote education and collaboration with a view to encouraging the pursuit of excellence in winemaking:
- Winemakers forum to encourage sharing best practices
- Confidential reports and analysis on winery performance at the VQA taste panel
- Seminars on labelling compliance
What is BRIX?
The Brix scale is a system used to measure the sugar content of grapes and is typically used as a simplified measure of ripeness. The Brix of juice from crushed grapes is determined using a Hydrometer, which measures specific gravity (the density of a liquid in relation to that of water). Each degree Brix is equivalent to 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of grape juice. The grapes for most table wines will have a Brix reading of between 17 and 24 Brix at harvest, depending on the grape variety and with an average of about 21 or 22 degrees. Most of the sugar in the grapes will be converted into alcohol during fermentation. Grape ripeness and flavour is also impacted by acidity and complex phenolic character and winemakers often rely on tasting the grapes for their final decision about when to harvest.
› Download and print this Brix reference chart
If rosé and blanc de noirs wines carry a viticultural area designation, each grape variety used in the making of these blended wines is required to meet only the minimum average Brix level for the Ontario Provincial designation for each grape variety, as set out in the Column 2. Wines approved under this rule must declare Rosé or Blanc de Noirs on the label.
Vin de Curé wines are required to meet the minimum average Brix level for the grape variety at harvest as set out in Column 2 or 3 according to the geographical indication that appears on its label. After the grapes are dried, the resulting must shall achieve a brix of at least 27 degrees as tested by VQA Ontario's independent agent.
The minimum Brix for all component grapes used in VQA wines shall be 17.0 º Brix after each pressing when measured after transfer to the fermentation vessel, except for grapes used in Sparkling Wines.
The minimum brix requirements listed above for wines designated with the provincial designation "Ontario" apply to all grapes and wine content harvested in the vintage 2011 or later. A minimum brix of 17 degrees applies for all varieties for grapes harvested in 2010 or earlier used in Ontario designated wines.
All VQA wines are subject to a full chemical analysis. The analysis includes health and safety components and wine chemistry and is performed to confirm that the wine meets standards set by VQA Ontario, the LCBO and the federal government. The Ontario Wine Appellation Authority also uses this analysis as a benchmark to verify through random testing whether the wine released for sale is of the same provenance as the wine submitted for approval.
PESTICIDE RESIDUES AND TRACE HEAVY METALS
Wines are tested for a range of contaminants. Any wine that exceeds limits for identified contaminants are rejected by the Wine Authority.
All samples are analysed for basic wine chemistry, including sulphites, volatile acidity, alcohol content and residual sugar. Sulphite levels and volatile acidity are subject to limits for quality assurance purposes and, in the case of sulphites, for health reasons. Alcohol and residual sugar are used to assess the wine character and ensure accurate labelling.
The term "Cabernet" may be used as a synonym for Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon, or any blend of the two. "Cabernet" shall be considered as a single-varietal component when determining the minimum content for the other varieties in a dual-varietal or triple-varietal.
The term "Muscat" may be used as a synonym for all or any combination of Muscat grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera. "Muscat" shall be considered as a single-varietal component when determining the minimum content for the other varieties in a dual-varietal or triple-varietal.
Shall be Riesling x Traminer 25/4.
New Grape Varieties - Guidelines for Evaluation
Specifications for origin, grapes, blending, winemaking procedures for specific categories of wine
GRAPE VARIETIES ON THE LABEL
The grape variety on the label often helps consumers choose a wine. It can be an indication of the flavour, weight and body of a wine.
Varietal labelling rules ensure that when grape varieties appear on the label, the wine is predominantly made up of those varieties. Wines labelled with varieties are also assessed for typicity when tasted by the tasting panel to ensure that the character of the wine is within the range of character expected for that varietal. It should be noted that these ranges can be quite broad and encompass winemaking styles, such as oaked or not oaked