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Friday, December 02, 2005

VQA Unveils 10 Sub-Appellations!

Yo Yo Yo! Merry Christmas!

This just in from Ultra-lurch, John Szabo...

The rapidly growing wine industry in Ontario, Canada, took a big step forward recently in establishing its reputation as a premium wine growing area. During a long awaited information seminar for press and members of the wine trade on November the 30th, the Vintner’s Quality Alliance, Ontario’s wine regulatory authority, revealed the details of Ontario’s 10 newest sub-appellations. All ten are located in the Niagara Peninsula Viticultural Area, the province’s largest winegrowing region. Members of the trade agreed that, while it will take some time to educate consumers about the uniqueness of these newly-defined areas, it adds a layer of credibility and prestige to the region and encourages positive associations with other premium New World regions that have taken steps to identify unique sub areas, such as California’s Napa Valley, Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Argentina’s Mendoza.

The geographical boundaries of the 10 new regions were based partly on local winegrowers’ experience, but principally on the detailed work of Dr. Tony Shaw, a climatologist by training at Brock University in the heart of the Niagara growing region. Dr. Shaw compiled detailed information on local climate, topographic features and soil types throughout the Peninsula, digitizing the information on maps of the region. The various maps were then superimposed on one another to identify areas with unique and distinguishable features based on these parameters. “The differences that emerged were quite striking”, said Laurie MacDonald, head of the VQA and presenter of the information seminar. Among the major factors cited for the differences were the regions’ relative position along the Niagara Escarpment, a stretch of raised land forming the backbone of the region and offering well-drained slopes of varying degrees, and the proximity to Lake Ontario and the Niagara River and their important moderating effects on localized climate.

Wine growers in the region have long known about significant differences between vineyards up on the “bench’ of the Niagara Escarpment, and those located on the warmer, flatter land down by the Lake. “It was just a question of codifying this knowledge in a measurable way and deciding on the regulatory parameters,” one winegrower was quoted as saying. When questioned about the issue of wine character, Laurie Macdonald admitted that there were simply not enough samples of distinctive wine from the various sub-regions to use wine character as a determining factor in setting the boundaries. “We have identified growing areas with unique growing characteristics. It is now up the wine makers to produce wines that reflect the distinctive features of the sub-appellations”. “Yes”, agreed Paul Speck of long-established winery Henry of Pelham in the Short Hills Bench sub-appellation, “this is where Europe has a few centuries’ head start. This is day one for us, really. Perhaps in 30 years we’ll be able to match up sub-regions and grape varieties, and be able to speak of a distinctive style, as we are already beginning to do with grapes like Riesling and Chardonnay.”

In an unusual move, the new VQA regulations require that 100% of the wine come from the named area, compared to just 85% for most geographical designations in the New World. According to insiders, this was the main sticking point in the negotiations, with the ones pushing for absolute label integrity winning out in the end. The announcement is retroactive, and any wines from previous vintages that can be proved to originate from one of the 10 distinct sub-regions will be permitted to put the name of the region on the label.

For more information, contact:
Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario
1 Yonge Street, Suite 1601
Toronto, ON, M5E 1E5
T 416.367.2002
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