Tasty Tidbits: Raising a Glass to Ontario's Wine Industry | Ontario Culinary
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Raising a Glass to Ontario’s Wine Industry

Ontario’s wine industry continues to give us reasons to be thankful all year long.  Let us count the ways: the Niagara Wine Festival, the Niagara Icewine Festival, the i4c International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration, the Shores of Erie International Wine FestivalTerroirGraze the Bench, the recent SHINE {ON} promotion running at the LCBO in partnership with Wine Country Ontario…and the list goes on.

But seeing as this is Tasty Tidbits, let’s get down to the numbers.  We already know that that every litre of VQA wine generates $12.29 in added value (above sales and direct mark ups), but here are a few new stats we just can’t keep bottled up!

The Economic Impact of Drinking Ontario Wine

One organization helping to lead the charge for Ontario’s wine industry is the Wine Council of Ontario, and their excellent work to date has not gone unnoticed. They have received numerous accolades, including a Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence and a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. This year, they took home a coveted tourism marketing award for their Wine Country Ontario website at the Drinks International Wine Tourism Awards.

Also on the case is the Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario (WGAO) which works to increase the visibility and recognition of the Ontario wine industry through the promotion of both VQA and International Canadian Blends (ICB) wines, including establishing a minimum Ontario grape content requirement for ICB wines.

What Does VQA Mean?

We use this term a lot, but what are we referring to when we say VQA? When a wine is labeled with Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) , this is your assurance that 100% (aka ALL) of the grapes that were used for this wine were sourced from Ontario.  Each VQA wine must meet and exceed VQA standards for grape-growing and winemaking, as well as pass a taste test for quality (sign us up for that job!).

Established in 1999, VQA Ontario has recognized three primary viticultural areas in the province: the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shoe and Prince Edward County. Emerging regions such as Georgian Bay, the eastern Erie shore and the Oak Ridges Moraine are also producing some wonderful whites and reds now too!

Great Grapes and Great Escapes: Wine Tourism by the Numbers

  • >1.8M – the estimated number of visitors to Ontario wineries annually
  • 100,000 – spectators at the Niagara Wine Festival’s annual Grand Parade
  • 650,000 – the total distribution of the 2013 Wine Country Ontario Travel Guide in Food & Drink magazine, at LCBO stores and at wineries
  • 101 – the number of Ontario wineries profiled in the 2013 Wine Country Ontario Travel Guide (the highest number to date!)

Wine tourism in Ontario is booming – the number of tourists who visit Ontario wineries each year is nearly THREE times the number of visitors who attended the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver! The wine industry also generates $644M in tourism and tourism employment-related economic impact .

As more wineries are developed and retail operations and tourism experiences are expanded, there is every reason to get excited about the future of Ontario’s wine industry.  One day you may even be able to sip your VQA chardonnay while perusing your local farmers’ market. Sounds pretty good to us…and it appears Premier Wynne might agree here!

Until that moment arrives, we suggest showing your support by stocking your shelves with the very best of VQA and choosing restaurants that do the same.  Wine Country Ontario’s Restaurant Recognition program recognizes foodservice establishments that are committed to showcasing Ontario wines so be sure to take a look for the We Love Wine Country Ontario symbol at restaurants, bars, hotels and catered functions in the future.