The stamp of VQA on a bottle of wine is very important not only in British Columbia, but in Canada. When choosing which bottle of wine to purchase online or in-store, having a VQA symbol implies the winery followed important standards to guarantee that the bottle you will be sipping from is 100% grown and produced in Canada.
In BC the wines have a BC VQA wine label, while Ontario wine is shown similar to a VQA Ontario wine label. As Canadian consumers, understanding what the VQA logo stands for ensures that your next wine purchase is supporting local wines.
When purchasing a bottle of wine on one of our Kelowna Wine Tours, that wine contains grapes grown right here in our backyard, with label integrity and standards to ensure the origin is in fact Canadian wine.
VQA is abbreviated, standing for Vintners Quality Alliance. It is a regulatory and appellation system that as mentioned, ensures the highest quality, standards, and authenticity of both British Columbia and Ontario produced wines.
How to read VQA wine label
All certified VQA wines in BC have four indistinguishable things on their label. First, the name of the winery. It must be clearly printed and visible. Secondly, the vintage or year in which the grapes were picked for that particular bottle. Third, the name or varietal of the grape, distinguishing the type of wine contained in the bottle. Lastly and arguably most importantly, an assurance of quality and which region the grapes were grown.
This standard and criteria are required for all wines in BC that have a VQA label.
VQA Wines in British Columbia
BC VQA vintners quality alliance is the quality standard for wine in BC since 1990. Certified wines must meet the standards with respect to their origin, vintage, and varietals. Each wine is assessed by a panel qualified to elect that the grapes and origin meet characteristics and quality before designating it BC VQA.
BC VQA wines have established 9 “geographical indications” or provincial wine territories. They include Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Fraser Valley, the Similkameen Valley, the Okanagan Valley, the Kootenays, Lillooet, the Thompson Valley, and the Shuswaps. VQA requires that at least 95% of the grapes come from the specific region when it is printed on the label.
VQA Wines in Ontario
VQA Ontario has a very similar standard to BC in regards to appellation wines. When reading an Ontario VQA wine as a consumer the label requires almost identical information. It is essential to display the producer, vintage, varietal, and VQA Ontario information on every label. Ontario VQA however takes their labeling one step further.
They require mandatory product information including the alcohol content, net quantity, country of origin, dealer’s address, and common name declaration.
Consumers should also understand that Ontario is divided into “geographical indications”, or provincial wine territories. Ontario appellations include Lake Erie, Prince Edward County, and Niagara Peninsula.
What is a wine appellation?
Wine Appellation is a term that is used to describe a legally defined and protected area. As we mentioned above BC offers 9 geographical wine regions. In winemaking terminology, these regions are referred to as British Columbia appellation of origin regions. The same can be said for the 3 regions in Ontario.
What are sub-appellations?
These are regions chosen because of their extremely specific geographical locations, offering different soils and climate than the rest of the overall region. Each of these regions offers uniqueness in grape content, producing wines and varietals often found only in these select regions.
Out of the 9 regions in BC, there is one sub-appellation. In 2015, VGA announced “The Golden Mile”, it is divided into 4-Sub Geographical regions – Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Falls, Skaha Bench, and Naramata Bench.
Out of the 3 regions in Ontario, there are 10 sub-appellations. These regions have again been chosen because of climate, soil, and grape variety content found often in only these select regions.