Easier Access to VQA Wines

with files from newswire.ca


Rosehall Run’s Dan Sullivan with Chef Jamie Kennedy


When it comes to acknowledging the good folks who have dedicated their lives to putting good food on our tables, we like to give credit where it is due, and spread the word. So it is with those involved in the wine industry as well. If something new and innovative is going on, whether it is a great local wine being produced in Ontario, or an innovative product associated with a vineyard, or whether laws are afoot that will change how we access the wines we are able to serve, we think our readers want to know about it. 


Pelee Island wines

People who have grown up in Ontario are used to having restricted access to wines and spirits.  The Ontario Government controls the sale and distribution of wines through the LCBO Stores, which in turn have limited locations and hours of operation.  And most Ontario consumers prefer to have their wine and spirits distributed in this manner than, say, having a number of  shady liquor stores popping up here and there and selling hooch at all hours. Recently, the subject has come up again, with  Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak proposing a plan that would end the LCBO and Beer Store monopolies.

While his plan is being met with a good measure of resistance, a recent *poll indicates that a majority (54%) of Ontarians support the creation of privately owned wine shops to complement the LCBO stores rather than do away with them altogether, with 76% of respondents supporting the proposal that the new wine shops would follow the same strict licensing rules in place already for bars and restaurants, as proposed by the Wine Council of Ontario at www.mywineshop.ca

“The Wine Council of Ontario (WCO) is the champion of Ontario’s high quality, authentically local Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) wines and of promoting wine country as a destination. As a non-profit trade association, WCO represents 80-plus wineries from across the designated viticulture areas of the province: Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island. Our members are grape growers, manufacturers and leaders in tourism in their communities. We are the future of Ontario’s wine industry, which is a source of new investment, jobs and award-winning wines. The Wine Council of Ontario’s role is to promote Ontario VQA wines and vintners, support the production of excellent local wines valued at home and abroad, and build on the substantial economic benefits that the VQA wine industry brings to the province. Authentically local VQA wine is made without imported grapes. The Wine Council of Ontario promotes the unique qualities of Ontario’s locally grown wines through its consumer facing brand Wine Country Ontario.”

These wine shops would respond to consumer demand for increased convenience and expanded choice based on the successful models already in operation in provinces such as British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

“Ontario lags other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world in allowing the mywineshop.ca model,” said Hillary Dawson, President of the Wine Council of Ontario. “In British Columbia, for example, we saw these stores boost consumer choice, economic return and helped expand sales of high quality local VQA wines. Working alongside the LCBO, we can create exactly the same results here in Ontario.”

This seems to fit with a typical Ontario taste for compromise. “These findings confirm that Ontarians support privately-owned wine shops as the Goldilocks solution – we’re not too hot, we’re not cold, like a great glass of wine we’re just right,” explained Dawson. “Consumers want expanded choice and increased convenience but they don’t want to risk the uncontrolled sale of beer and wine to minors in corner stores.”

The same poll also finds that a majority of Ontarians (52%) oppose the sale of alcohol to corner and grocery stores with more than one third of Ontarians (35%) strongly opposed to the idea.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • 76% of Ontarians agree with the idea of privately-owned wine shops provided they’re licensed by government and follow the same rules as bars and restaurants when it comes to sale of alcohol.
  • 65% of Ontarians agree that it’s time for Ontario to follow the lead of other provinces who allow privately-owned wine shops that offer consumers additional wines not provided by their liquor board.
  • 63% of Ontarians agree that privately-owned wine shops that would operate as a complement to the LCBO would provide greater selection and convenience.
  • 61% of Ontarians like that privately-owned wine shops would see investment risk and finance shouldered by the private sector.
  • 52% of Ontarians oppose expanding the sale of beer, wine and spirits to grocery and corner stores only.

Let’s face it, we are not all naturally born sommeliers, and sometimes getting to the LCBO can be tricky, and even a little intimidating. I for one support initiatives like this, those that simplify the process of procuring good wine while educating the general public, support those dedicated to the craft of wine making, and encouraging the fine art and cultural traditions of cooking and dining at home with friends and family.

*Conducted by Innovative Research Group by telephone among 605 randomly selected Ontario residents aged 18 years or older between December 13th and 29th 2012. The results are considered accurate to within ±4.0% 19 times out of 20.

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