All VQA wines are crafted within guidelines and standards.
ACTS & REGULATIONS
ACT & REGULATIONS
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?
At its core, the appellation system is about origin. All VQA wines start with 100% Ontario grown grapes and may have a more specific regional or appellation of origin.
Each wine is closely tracked to verify origin from harvest to bottle. Wineries are subject to ongoing audits and inspections to confirm what is in the bottle matches the label claims, VQA standards are met and origin substantiated by their grape harvests.
A quality baseline is built into the system through standards that set minimum criteria for grapes, define processes tied to label claims and prohibit certain practices such as adding water or grape concentrate. Every finished wine is tested, including chemical analysis and tasting to assess whether it meets the applicable standards for its category and is free of unacceptable faults.
Most VQA wines far exceed the minimum quality standards and wineries are encouraged to continue to explore the exceptional terroir Ontario has to offer.
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?
The regulatory framework is designed to protect consumers with truth-in-labelling while providing a flexible framework for wineries to innovate and continue to develop winemaking techniques best suited for Ontario. The VQA standards provide the foundation for wineries to make a wide variety of wines of origin, ensuring fundamental quality standards and label integrity. Within the VQA regulations, wineries may:
- Grow grapes anywhere in Ontario
- Grow all permitted grape varieties in all appellations
- Make a wide variety of wine types and styles (typicity or styles are not limited within appellations)
- Use a wine range of generally accepted vineyard and winemaking practices within the parameters of fermenting 100% fresh grapes
Ontario wineries are always free to make wines outside the VQA program but may not use protected terms. Many wineries make both VQA-certified wines and non-VQA wines.
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
The Ontario wine industry has grown and flourished over the past two decades, reflecting evolving consumer preferences and viticulture and winemaking experience. VQA regulations continue to evolve to remain relevant and appropriate.
From the proclamation of the VQA Act in 2000, over 30 regulation changes have been approved.
Regulation changes can be requested by wineries or industry stakeholders through a formal process.