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Vintners Quality Alliance introduced for Canadian wine

The Story

Free trade has brought about changes in the Canadian wine business. Government assistance intended to help the industry adjust is coming to an end. Six-year contracts are about to run out and growers who helped carry the industry through the transition are wondering what the future will hold. Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) standards provide hope that wine makers will not turn to cheaper imported grapes. CBC Country Canada's Jim McQuarrie looks at what standardized quality assurance will do for the wine industry in British Columbia.

Medium: Television
Program: Country Canada
Broadcast Date: Nov. 14, 1994
Guests: George Heiss, Barry Irvins, Larry Martinek
Announcer: Jim MacQuarrie
Duration: 10:02

Did You know?

• The Vintners Quality Alliance was established to ensure quality and help Canadian wines build and maintain a good reputation. International and domestic consumers look for the VQA symbol to be certain they are buying a good Canadian wine.

• The VQA is an Appellation of Origin system, designed to set minimum standards and identify wines based on the origin of the grapes from which they are produced.

• Following Ontario's 1988 lead, British Columbia established a set of strict VQA standards in 1990 to ensure the quality of their premium wines. VQA Canada was established in 1999. Participation in the VQA program is voluntary but the standards became protected by law in Ontario in 2000.

• VQA wines must be made from vinifera grapes or preferred hybrids and cannot contain grapes from outside their viticultural region.

• A panel of professional tasters determines whether or not a wine is worthy of VQA designation. The most exceptional wines are given the gold VQA medallion.

• Appellation of Origin systems have existed in Europe for many years. France introduced its Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system in 1935. Italy introduced its Denominazione Origine Controllata designation in 1963. Germany implemented its Qualitatswein mit Predicat system in 1971.

• Accustomed to these standards, the European countries insisted upon the legislation of a similar body of standards for Canadian wines before they would allow imports.

• The VQA was established in an attempt to reduce European protectionism and encourage all consumers to recognize Canadian viticultural regions as legitimate. Andy Barrie of CBC Radio's Metro Morning talks to Paul Speck about the creation of VQA Canada and its role in opening up the European market.

• In September 2003 Canada and the European Union signed an agreement providing improved access to European markets. This agreement will give Canadian Icewine access to European markets and assure European acceptance of Canadian winemaking practices.

• The accord also states that Canadian vintners can no longer use geographical indications such as Port (Portugal), Chianti (Italy) and Champagne (France) on their labels. In exchange, rye whisky will be protected as a distinctive product of Canada.

• In the early 1980s, Canada's first wine bar, Vines, opened in Toronto. In 1983 Vines played host to a blind taste test to determine how Canadian wines held up against their European competitors. Host Tim Lovelock and his co-tasters Michael Vaughan, Tony Aspler, Jacques Marie, Ed Mason and Ruth MacDonald were surprised by what they found.



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