Ontario wines will be for sale at farmers' markets starting this weekend as part of a pilot program the province hopes will lead to a rise in the demand for VQA wines. Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) sets a framework by which standards for quality wine production made from Ontario grapes and appellations for wine regions are established. From quality standards for grape growing and winemaking, to comprehensive testing and truth in labeling and consumer safety standards, all stages of the regulation are stringent and intensive.
To qualify for the VQA, wineries must use only grapes grown in the three designated viticulture areas. Non-grape wines or wines that do not meet this geographical criterion don’t qualify and in addition to giving up the majority of the revenue they generate outside their own vineyards, those who are not in a VQA-designated area for grapes; or fail to qualify for VQA status cannot put “Made in Ontario” on their labels.
On May 1, homegrown wines, crafted entirely from Ontario-grown grapes and following local winemaking standards, can be bought at approved farmers' markets. Locally, Quai du Vin Estate Winery has applied to set up shop at nine markets in the region including: Covent Garden Market, Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market and the Horton Farmers' Market in St. Thomas.
For purposes of the Liquor Licence Act (LLA) and Regulations, “Farmers’ Market” means: a central location at which a group of persons who operate stalls or other food premises meet to sell or offer for sale to consumers products that include, without being restricted to, farm products, baked goods and preserved foods, and at which a substantial number of the persons operating the stalls or other food premises are producers of farm products who are primarily selling or offering for sale their own products. VQA wine may be sold during Farmer’s Markets’ hours of operation.
Many are hoping that this will pave the way for expanding additional product offerings in the future to include a wider range sales of local craft beer, wine and artisanal spirits at Farmers’ Markets and beyond.