JOINING THE VQA PROGRAM
If you are making wine from 100% Ontario grown grapes and care about quality and authenticity, you will want to make VQA-certified wines.
THINKING ABOUT MAKING VQA WINES?
THINKING ABOUT MAKING VQA WINES?
The VQA Act and regulation governs Ontario’s wine appellation system and restricts the use of certain terminology on wine labels.
VQA regulation prohibits the use of the following terms, descriptions and designations (or any variation of these terms) in association with a wine unless the wine is approved. This includes any use on labels, containers, signage, brochures, websites or other media. If in doubt, please contact the Appellation Authority for clarification.
No person shall use the following terms, descriptions and designations unless the wine is approved and the conditions set out in the regulation are satisfied:
- Vintners Quality Alliance
- Niagara Peninsula
- Niagara River
- Niagara Lakeshore
- Four Mile Creek
- St. David’s Bench
- Niagara Escarpment
- Lincoln Lakeshore
- Creek Shores
- Beamsville Bench
- Twenty Mile Bench
- Short Hills Bench
- Vinemount Ridge
- Lake Erie North Shore
- South Islands
- Prince Edward County
- Estate Bottled
- Botrytis Affected
- Totally Botrytized
- Totally Botrytis Affected
- Late Harvest Wine
- Select Late Harvest Wine
- Special Select Late Harvest Wine
- Vin de Curé
- Blanc de Noirs
- Icewine Dosage
- Dosage of Icewine
- Sparkling Icewine
The Wine Appellation Authority certifies wines, not wineries, under the VQA brand. By registering as a member winery, you will be able to submit wines for evaluation and approval. Only VQA certified wines are permitted to use specific,regulated label terms, including Ontario, designated appellation names and other terms such as Icewine and Late Harvest.
BENEFITS OF CERTIFICATION
BENEFITS OF CERTIFICATION
Organic. Free range. BPA Free. Ocean Wise.
Consumers today are presented with an unprecedented range of decisions as they navigate their way through food and beverage purchases.
As the farm-to-table movement continues to flourish, an increasing number of consumers want to go beyond knowing the province where a wine is from and really zero in on its hometown roots. Land, climate, soil and geology create unique conditions that impact the grapes and wines of specific areas.
It’s why the wines of Burgundy differ from their counterparts from Chianti and Napa. Today, Ontario’s VQA appellation of origin system is helping develop a similar appreciation for the unique taste of place that differentiates the province’s wine producing regions.
Region. Vintage. Varietal. Price. For many consumers, purchasing a bottle of wine can feel like a challenging decision. While there are many factors and individual preferences to consider, all wine drinkers want the assurance of knowing that the bottle they choose will be of excellent quality.
For consumers wanting to ensure that the wine they are purchasing has been sourced from 100% Ontario grapes, is free from concentrates, and has passed independent quality standards testing, it’s as easy as looking for the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) Ontario logo or letters on the bottle.
“VQA takes the risk out of purchase for consumers and mirrors our wineries’ commitment to provide high quality wines for Ontario consumers. To know that our whole region is held to a set of independent standards makes it easier for people to try a new VQA wine. For new wineries and new regions, this is a significant factor in getting started in the marketplace and becoming recognized at provincial, national and international levels.”
Burning Kiln Winery
“To grow as a winery, you’ve got to think far beyond the cellar door. VQA certification gets our product into more hands, provincially, nationally and internationally, and that’s a critical factor in continued growth for us.”
Pelee Island Winery
“Being a VQA member provides Hidden Bench with tangible benefits that make a significant impact on our bottom line, but that’s just the beginning. Our business is focused exclusively on wines from the Beamsville Bench Appellation and VQA takes us beyond the quality mark and guarantees the origin and authenticity of our wines. Appellation gives our brand a true sense of place, and that’s something that matters to our clients who seek out our premium quality terroir driven wines for this reason.”
Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery
“The VQA designation sparks a wine conversation that is nearest and dearest to wine lovers and winemakers alike; ‘provenance.’ Nobody else has our appellation story and it is a story worth telling.”
National Director of Estate Wineries
Andrew Peller Limited
HOW TO JOIN THE VQA PROGRAM
HOW TO JOIN THE VQA PROGRAM
If you are a winery based in Ontario and hold a Manufacturer’s Licence from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario [link to www.agco.on.ca], you can register with the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority. Once registered, you may submit wines for VQA approval. The Appellation Authority does not certify wineries, only individual wines.
To register, contact us for a secure login to our web-based application.
The basics - be prepared.
If you are planning to make a wine that will be eligible for VQA status, you should first review the VQA requirements for record keeping, wine composition and labelling. Find them under Wine Standards.
A winery does not need to join the Appellation Authority until they are ready to submit a wine for approval. The journey from planting grapes to finishing a wine is long and often takes many years. Here are some things to consider when planning your journey:
- Contact us early to discuss your plans and timeline.
- Keep meticulous records.
- Register your vineyard and each harvest with Grape Growers Ontario and ensure all grapes are independently tested by GGO.
- If you are making wine before you obtain a Manufacturer’s Licence, and you want this wine to be eligible for VQA certification, you must contact us before August 31 of the year after the grapes were grown. We cannot authenticate grapes beyond the immediate past vintage.
MAKING A VQA WINE
MAKING A VQA WINE
How to make a wine that will be eligible for VQA approval:
If you are planning to make a wine that will be eligible for VQA status, you should be familiar with VQA winemaking and labelling standards set out in legislation and various administrative requirements. The following documents can be accessed through this website:
- VQA Act & Regulations
- Authorized grape varieties
- BRIX requirements
- Permissible limits for chemical analysis
- Packaging and labelling Guidelines
- VQA logo graphics and Standards
- Process to obtain a wine approval
- Wine Authority Handbook for Wineries with detailed procedures, guidelines and requirements
It is recommended that you contact the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority with your questions and for more information early in the winery planning stage. Please call or email us ([email protected]). You may also want to contact other licensing and regulatory authorities including the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the LCBO and municipal licensing agencies. Grape growing, winemaking, storage, transport, marketing and sales of wines are governed by many federal, provincial and municipal rules that you will need to familiarize yourself with.
All grapes used in VQA wines must be tested and registered at the time of harvest by the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO). Detailed records of the grapes, must and wine must then be kept and made available for audit throughout its life until it is sold. These include exact details of the volumes and origin of all grapes used in any given wine and wine-making practices and treatments used.
All VQA wines are required to have their production tracked and verified on an ongoing basis beginning with the grape harvest. This is accomplished by requiring that certain records be kept and that an on-site audit be conducted twice a year to monitor production and sales.
In order to verify the origin, vintage and varietal content of wines, the wine resulting from each vintage crush is inspected and matched to appropriate records. All inventories are tracked from harvest to finished bottled wine. Wines that are made before a winery joins the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority will not normally be eligible for VQA certification because this production will not have been audited. For start up wineries, it is possible to retain VQA eligibility for wines made from the vintage immediately preceding their application for an AGCO manufacturer’s licence. Within 6 months of the harvest date, the winery should contact the Wine Authority with the appropriate GGO records and advise the auditor that the wines on premise are intended for VQA certification. Audit records will be created at that time and used to determine eligibility if the winery joins the VQA program in future and applies for VQA approval.
Audit records can only be created for a wine if the content is from grapes harvested in the most recent vintage. Records will not be created for wine that originates from older vintages. For example, if a new winery makes wine from the 2020 vintage, that wine will only be eligible for future VQA status if an application is made for a manufacturer’s licence in time for an initial inspection to occur before the 2021 vintage begins. In practice, this means the application should be made in June/July of 2021. In this example, wines made from 2019 grapes, would not be eligible for VQA status or to blend into wines that may seek VQA status.
When the wine is finished and ready to bottle, samples are submitted to the Ontario Wine Appellation Authority for evaluation. The wine is tasted by a panel of tasters, analysed for pesticide residues, heavy metals and basic wine chemistry and the proposed label is reviewed. Each wine must successfully complete all parts of this process before it can be released for sale or advertised using any regulated label terms.
It is strongly recommended that wineries do not finalize or print labels using regulated terms until they have received official approval for the wine and the labels. Label approval is granted only at the time the wine is tested and approved.
For wineries interested in making VQA Ontario certified wines
The VQA Act created a wine appellation system for Ontario and restricts the use of certain terminology on wine labels. Only VQA-certified wines can use the terms listed at right as a description on labels, signs, advertising and promotion. Wineries are free to produce wines that are not VQA certified but these must be labelled and sold without reference to the restricted appellation terminology.
Restricted Label Terms
Only member wineries may apply to use VQA terms, descriptors and designations to describe wine produced in Ontario.
VQA regulations prohibit the use of the following terms, descriptions and designations (or any variation of these terms) in association with a wine unless the wine is approved. This includes any use on labels, containers, signage, brochures, websites or other media. If in doubt, please contact us for clarification.
GROWING GRAPES FOR ICEWINE
GROWING GRAPES FOR ICEWINE
For non-winery growers:
Independent growers or non-VQA wineries must register with the Authority to receive an online account to register their grapes and complete the required forms and reports.
Icewine juice that remains in the possession of a non-VQA member for more than 7 days after pressing will be subject to VQA audit if the owner wishes to maintain its VQA eligibility. Growers – if you retain extra juice from a winery contract, you must make arrangements to transfer it to an audited winery facility or arrange for an audit by the Authority. Wineries – if you are buying such juice, please confirm that this has been done.
Growers retaining juice beyond 7 days for speculation must notify the Authority and an audited letter of transfer will be required to verify and document the sale and transfer of juice after that time. No transfer form is needed for processors who are delivering juice pressed from grapes owned by the receiving winery.
If you do not notify us the juice will lose its status as Icewine!
Wines will not be eligible for VQA status if the documentation is not available, not complete, not correctly filled in or does not match independent test results.
You will be invoiced for monitoring services on a cost-recovery basis, in direct proportion to the number of brix tests conducted for you. All invoices will be sent to the grower or winery who registered the grapes. The Authority will not re-invoice third party purchasers. Growers and wineries with outstanding accounts will not be permitted to register grapes the following season unless their account is paid in full. Interest charges will apply beginning 30 days after the invoice is issued.
Plan ahead to ensure compliance!