Ontario wine is Canadian wine produced in the province of Ontario that is certified by VQA Ontario. Wines made from 100% Ontario grapes can qualify for classification under Ontario’s appellation system, the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), and must be certified by the provincial wine authority to use the descriptor “Ontario wine” and other regulated labelling terms. VQA regulates production standards including grape varietals, wine-making techniques employed, and other requirements and ensures label integrity for consumers. This has raised some issues with certain wineries that do not meet the VQA standard or are not eligible because they use Ontario grown winter-hardy hybrid grapes that are not recognized by VQA despite lobbying attempts to update their list of acceptable grape varieties.
Not all wines produced in Ontario are classified as VQA. Many wineries produce both VQA wines and non-VQA wines depending on their business objectives. Wines which are not labelled VQA may not meet the VQA standards, certification or verification requirements, or may be wines that are blended with imported grape content. Certain producers (grandfathered under the 1988 Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement) are permitted to produce wines from a blend of foreign grapes or wine and domestic content to produce a wine labelled as Cellared in Canada or International/Canadian Blend. Some in the wine industry are concerned about this practice.
Wines made from Ontario grapes that are not VQA certified are typically wines made using grape varieties, techniques or blends that VQA Ontario does not recognize and are not eligible for certification. Some wineries may choose not to have eligible wines certified by VQA for economic reasons or wines may have failed to pass the certification process. Wines made from fruits other than grapes, including ciders, and wines made from raw materials other than fruit such as Sake and mead are not eligible for VQA certification. The Ontario government provides support to wineries producing VQA wines through mark-up relief for VQA wines sold to restaurants and other establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in Ontario.