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Grapes, free trade and selling the farm

Think of the great wine-producing regions of the world... France, Italy, California... but what about Canada? Challenged by climate and perception, Canadian wines suffered from a bad reputation. But winemakers have worked hard to improve the quality of their product. International awards, improved standards and government intervention have transformed the industry. The result? Canadian wines are gaining acceptance throughout the world.

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Canadian grape growers have spent a century trying to develop a hybrid that is as flavourful as it is hearty. Though riskier to grow, European vinifera grapes make better tasting wine than native labrusca grapes. Free trade pushes the government to interfere. In an attempt to keep Canadian grape growers competitive, the government implements compensation schemes that encourage growers to pull out native and hybrid vines and replace them with European varieties.

Deborah Lamb of The National visits Beamsville, Ont. where she finds mixed reactions to the grape pullout.

The pullout program is designed to improve the quality of Canadian wines and allow vintners to compete globally. The labrusca grape is banned by the Ontario government and strongly discouraged in British Columbia. Half of the grape acreage in Canada is slated for removal. While forcing many grape growers out of business, the pullout scheme helps to focus the industry and secures a future for premium products.
• Grape research stations were established in Canada in the early 1900s to develop hearty new hybrids. The Summerland research station was built north of Penticton, B.C. in 1914. The Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario (HRIO), established at Vineland in 1906, began experimenting with hybrids in 1913. In the following 21 years, HRIO made 59,119 crosses, of which only one was released for commercial planting. The new cross was called Veeport and was designed for port and sherry production.

• British Columbia grape growers were given $28 million in aid from the federal and provincial governments in 1988.

• In Ontario, vinifera grapes represented 57% of the 2001 harvest for wine production. In British Columbia, most of the grapes grown for winemaking are now vinifera.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 21, 1989
Guest(s): Leonard Pennachetti, Art Smith, Dorothy Williams
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Deborah Lamb
Duration: 2:17

Last updated: May 14, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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