Monday, March 16, 2009

Cellared in Canada wine - a follow up

About a month and a half ago I created a blog entry (see "Enough is Enough") about the deplorable and unforgivable situation the Government of Canada and the LCBO has created for our 160 wineries currently operating within the borders of Ontario. Just to refresh everyone's memories, here is a definition of Cellared in Canada wine and the issues surrounding this that affect our wineries.

"Cellared in Canada is a term used to designate Canadian wine which is produced with varying quantities of Canadian and foreign bulk wine. Other allowed terms are "Product of Canada" and "Vinted in Canada". In British Columbia, Cellared in Canada wine is produced from 100 percent foreign content (although industry websites make no mention of the practice, which is not regulated by the British Columbia Wine Authority). In Ontario, Cellared in Canada wine is allowed to be produced from a blend of no more than 70 percent foreign-sourced content and a minority percentage of Ontario wine. The only indication of origin is found on the back of the bottle."

The Issues:

1. Only the larger wineries in the province can afford to purchase wines from foreign countries so there is an incredible power differential at play here.

2. The LCBO actively puts Cellared in Canada wine on THE EXACT SAME SHELVES as VQA Ontario wines in the local stores. This creates confusion because when the general public purchases a bottle of wine, they are looking at the price, looking at the name above the shelf and are assuming that the wine is all from Ontario. As the definition indicates above, "the only indication of origin is found on the back of the bottle".

3. Education - This encompasses both the general public and the staff in the local LCBO stores. The average employee in a LCBO store is operating under a major misconception - either "Cellared in Canada" equates to the same thing as VQA Ontario wine (which is required to be made from 100% Ontario grapes) or "Cellared in Canada" wines means the wines contain 70% Ontario grapes, which is actually the amount of maximum foreign content allowed.

So, where do we stand now with this issue? Well, if you do a Google Search for "Cellared in Canada", the second entry in the results is a link to the Boycott "Cellared in Canada" wines group on Facebook ( and from there you will find over 600 people - with the numbers growing daily - who want to learn more about the issue and who are passionate about the issue. The links section to the group is growing on a weekly basis with links to news articles and websites who are writing about this article. Here is a short list of the current link entries:

St. Catharines Standard

Ottawa Citizen

Sudbury Star

Jancis Robinson

Ottawa Sun

So, what can you do to help? A lot of this is about education - when you buy wine, and you are wanting a wine from Ontario, are you actually buying something that was made in Ontario? As I mentioned, the only way to find a "Cellared in Canada" wine is to look at the origin on the back label of a bottle. When you are in an LCBO store, flip the bottle around to the back so that you educate yourself as to where this wine was actually made.

Actually, I challenge you to take it one step further - if you want to buy Ontario wine, DO NOT buy it from the LCBO. Of the 160 wineries currently operating in the province of Ontario, only 31 wineries currently can be found on the shelves of LCBO stores. That equates to less than 20% representation of Ontario wines by the LCBO which means they are not promoting their own industry. This is despite a major marketing campaign entitled "Meet the Makers, Savour the Flavours" - talk about hypocritical.

So, how do you get your hands on Ontario wine without going to the LCBO? Are you aware that EVERY winery in the province is willing to ship wine directly to your front door - or your office? Better yet, spring is definitely right around the corner - we can feel it in the weather this week - so why not take a weekend road trip to the many wineries available throughout the province? If you are in the Greater Toronto Area this coming weekend (March 20th-22nd), why not stop by the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show and visit the booths of the Ontario wineries who will be there to pour their wines? That way, you have a chance to sample some great wines before actually buying a full bottle of it. I am positive that you will find at least one wine from Ontario - which is NOT a Cellared in Canada wine - that you love and will want more of.
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