Wine Standards

Specifications for grapes and wine making

VQA Act & Regulations

Ontario wines labelled with VQA appellations and other regulated terms are made to exacting standards. These standards are created under the Vintners Quality Alliance Act, 1999 and have the force of law.

Tips on using the e-laws website

  • From the English home page of the e-laws site
  • Select “Search Consolidated Law" in the left navigation
  • Choose "V" from the alphabetical list provided
  • Click the plus sign beside Vintners Quality Alliance Act
  • Click on the Act or the specific regulation you would like to view.

The VQA Act can be viewed and downloaded directly from the Province of Ontario e-laws website at
www.e-laws.gov.on.ca. Related regulations that set out the details of the winemaking and labelling standards are:

What is Regulated?

Regulations set out basic standards for grapes and wines. They cover:

  • Grape varieties and ripeness
  • Winemaking techniques
  • Labelling requirements
  • Sensory and chemical criteria for the finished wine

What is not Regulated?

VQA Ontario believes that the regulations should be adequate to protect the consumer but not so restrictive that they stifle innovation. The VQA standards provide a foundation for label integrity and quality wines. Some example of things that are not regulated by VQA Ontario:

  • Vine density or grape yield in the vineyard
  • Yeast types or fermentation temperatures
  • Aging required (with some exceptions)
  • All approved grape varieties are allowed in all appellations
  • A wide variety of global wine styles are recognized

Brix Levels

By Variety

Grape Variety Ontario Provincial Designation
Minimum Average Brix (all grapes used in final blend)
Viticultural Area, Estate Bottled, Vineyard Designation
Minimum Average Brix (all grapes used in final blend)
Baco Noir 19.5 º Brix n/a
Cabernet Franc 18.0 º Brix 20.0 º Brix
Cabernet Sauvignon 19.0 º Brix 20.0 º Brix
Chambourcin 18.0 º Brix n/a
Chardonnay 18.0 º Brix 20.0 º Brix
Chardonnay Musque 18.0 º Brix 18.0 º Brix
Gamay Noir 18.0 º Brix 19.0 º Brix
Gewurztraminer 18.0 º Brix 19.0 º Brix
Marechal Foch 19.0 º Brix n/a
Merlot 19.0 º Brix 20.5 º Brix
Muscats 17.0 º Brix 18.0 º Brix
Pinot Blanc 17.5 º Brix 18.0 º Brix
Pinot Gris / Grigio 17.5 º Brix 18.5º Brix
Pinot Noir 18.5 º Brix 19.5º Brix
Riesling 17.0º Brix 17.0 º Brix
Sauvignon Blanc 17.0 º Brix 18.0 º Brix
Syrah/Shiraz 18.0 º Brix 19.5º Brix
Vidal Blanc 18.0 º Brix n/a
Viognier 18.0 º Brix 19.0 º Brix
Other Varieties 17.0 º Brix 18.0 º Brix

If rosé and blanc de noirs wines carry a viticultural area designation, each grape variety used in the making of these blended wines is required to meet only the minimum average Brix level for the Ontario Provincial designation for each grape variety, as set out in the Column 2. Wines approved under this rule must declare Rosé or Blanc de Noirs on the label.

Vin de Curé wines are required to meet the minimum average Brix level for the grape variety at harvest as set out in Column 2 or 3 according to the geographical indication that appears on its label. After the grapes are dried, the resulting must shall achieve a brix of at least 27 degrees as tested by VQA Ontario’s independent agent.

The minimum Brix for all component grapes used in VQA wines shall be 17.0 º Brix after each pressing when measured after transfer to the fermentation vessel, except for grapes used in Sparkling Wines.

The minimum brix requirements listed above for wines designated with the provincial designation “Ontario” apply to all grapes and wine content harvested in the vintage 2011 or later. A minimum brix of 17 degrees applies for all varieties for grapes harvested in 2010 or earlier used in Ontario designated wines.

By Wine Category

Wine Category for All Grape Varieties Minimum Brix (after each pressing when measured after transfer to the fermentation vessel) Minimum Average Brix (all grapes used in final blend)
Botrytis Affected (B.A.) 26.0 º Brix 26.0 º Brix
Icewine 32.0 º Brix 35.0 º Brix
Late Harvest 22.0 º Brix 22.0 º Brix
Nouveau Red Wine, Fortified Wine, Liqueur Wine 18.0 º Brix 18.0 º Brix
Sparkling Icewine 32.0 º Brix 35.0 º Brix
Sparkling Wine n/a n/a
Select Late Harvest 25.0 º Brix 26.0 º Brix
Special Select Late Harvest 28.0 º Brix 30.0 º Brix
Totally Botrytis Affected (T.B.A.) 34.0 º Brix 34.0 º Brix
Vin de Cure 27.0 º Brix 27.0 º Brix

For Vin de Curé wines, the grapes used in making the wine must be dried to achieve the Brix level specified in Column 2 at the time of transfer to the fermentation vessel.

Permissible Limits for Chemical Analysis

Substance Permissible limits
Arsenic (ppb) 100
Cadmium (ppb) 20
Cobalt (ppb) 20
Copper (ppm) 1.0
Diethylene Glycol (ppm) 10
Dyes Not permitted
Lead (ppb) 200
Methyl Alcohol (ppm) 400
Potassium Ferrocyanide (ppb) 500
Sodium (ppm) 500
Sorbic Acid (ppm) 200 (500 if less than 9% alc., or if greater than 1% sugar)
Sugar (g/100 ml) no limit
Ethyl Alcohol Permissible limits
Actual versus Declared (% alcohol/volume) ± 1.1% if less than 16% alc. or ± 0.5 if 16% alc. or more
For non-standardized products, ± 0.3% if less than 7.0% alc., or ± 1.1% if greater than 7.0% alc. and less than 16% alc.
Ethyl Carbamate (ppb) 30 Table Wine; 100 Fortified
Sulphur Dioxide Permissible limits
Wines with less than 35 g/L residual sugar Wines with more than 35 g/L residual sugar
Free Sulphur Dioxide (ppm) 50 70
Combined Sulphur Dioxide (ppm) 250 330
Total Sulphur Dioxide (ppm) 300 400
Turbidity (N.T.U.)* Permissible limits
Nephelometric Turbidity Units White 5.0; Red 10.0

* Note: Special guidelines apply to Unfiltered and Bottled with Lees wines. Please click on the Unfiltered Wines tab under Packaging & Labelling.

Volatile Acidity Permissible limits
Acetic Acid (ppm) Icewine and Totally Botrytis Affected 2100
Special Select Late Harvest and Botrytis Affected 1800
Late Harvest and Select Late Harvest 1500
All other Wines 1300
Sulphuric Acid (ppm) 1057
Agricultural Chemicals Permissible limits
Carbaryl (ppb) 800
Iprodione (ppb) 2,000
Myclobutanil (ppb) 1,000
Procymidone (ppb) 1,000
Agricultural Chemicals not listed above 100 ppb

Authorized Grape Varieties

1. Varieties of Vitis vinifera
Prime Name Synonyms
Aglianico  
Aligoté  
Auxerrois Pinot Auxerrois
Bacchus  
Blauburger  
Cabernet Franc Cabernet
Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet
Chardonnay  
Chardonnay Musqué  
Chasselas Chasselas Doré
Chenin Blanc  
Colombard French Colombard
Corvina  
Dornfelder  
Ehrenfelser  
Faberrebe  
Furmint  
Gamay Noir Gamay
Gamay de Chaudenay  
Gewürztraminer Traminer
Goldburger  
Grüner Veltliner Veltliner
Kerner Trollinger x Riesling
Lemberger Limberger, Blaufränkish
Madeleine Angevine  
Madeleine Sylvaner  
Malbec  
Malvasia Malvasia Bianca
Marsanne  
Matsvani  
Melon de Bourgogne Melon
Merlot  
Molinara  
Morio Muscat Muscat
Mourvedre  
Muscat Blanc Muskateller, Gelber Muskateller, Muscat
Muscadelle  
Muscat Ottonel Muscat
Müller-Thurgau Riesling x Sylvaner
Nebbiolo  
Optima  
Oraniensteiner  
Ortega  
Perle of Csaba Pearl of Csaba
Petit Verdot  
Petite Sirah  
Pinotage  
Pinot Blanc Weissburgunder, Pinot Bianco
Pinot Gris Pinot Grigio
Pinot Meunier Meunier
Pinot Noir Spätburgunder
Reichensteiner  
Riesling  
Riesling x Traminer 3  
Rkatsiteli  
Rondinella  
Rotberger  
Samtrot  
Sangiovese  
Sauvignon Blanc Fumé Blanc
Sauvignon Gris  
Sauvignon Vert  
Savagnin  
Scheurebe  
Schönburger  
Sémillon  
Sereksia Chornaya  
Siegerrebe  
St. Laurent  
Sylvaner Silvaner
Syrah Shiraz
Tannat  
Tempranillo  
Traminer  
Trebbiano  
Viognier  
Welschriesling Riesling Italico
Zinfandel  
Zweigelt Zweigeltrebe
2. Varieties Produced by Inter-Specific Crossbreeding
i. Hybrid varieties that may to be used to produce provincially designated varietal wines.
Prime Name Synonyms
Baco Noir Baco
Chambourcin  
Chancellor Chancellor Noir
Couderc Muscat Muscat du Moulin, Couderc
Maréchal Foch Foch
Seyval Blanc Seyval
Vidal Blanc Vidal
Villard Noir  
ii. Hybrid varieties that may be used with varietal wines to a maximum volume of 15%, 10% or 5%, as the case requires. (for use only with hybrid varietal wines)
Prime Name Synonyms
Aurore Aurora
Castel  
Chelois  
De Chaunac  
Léon Millot  
Millot  
Pollux  
Rosette Seibel 1000
Siegfriedrebe Siegfried Rebe, Siegfried
Verdelet  
Vignoles Ravat
GM 311-58  
GM 318-57  
GM 322-58  
JS23.416  
SV23.512  
Notes:
  1. The term "Cabernet" may be used as a synonym for Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon, or any blend of the two. "Cabernet" shall be considered as a single-varietal component when determining the minimum content for the other varieties in a dual-varietal or triple-varietal.
  2. The term "Muscat" may be used as a synonym for all or any combination of Muscat grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera. "Muscat" shall be considered as a single-varietal component when determining the minimum content for the other varieties in a dual-varietal or triple-varietal.
  3. Shall be Riesling x Traminer 25/4.

Authorized Grape Varieties for Aromatic Sparkling Wine

1. Varieties of Vitis vinifera
Prime Name Synonyms
Bacchus  
Chardonnay Musqué  
Colombard French Colombard
Ehrenfelser  
Faberrebe  
Gamay Noir Gamay
Gewürztraminer Traminer
Goldburger  
Kerner Trollinger x Riesling
Morio Muscat Muscat
Muscadelle  
Muscat Blanc Muskateller, Gelber Muskateller, Muscat
Muscat Ottonel Muscat
Müller-Thurgau Riesling x Sylvaner
Optima  
Oraniensteiner  
Ortega  
Perle of Csaba Pearl of Csaba
Reichensteiner  
Riesling  
Riesling x Traminer  
Sauvignon Blanc  
Sauvignon Vert  
Scheurebe  
Schönburger  
Siegerrebe  
Traminer  

Varietal Content Requirements

Varietal Requirements
Single Varietal The wine must be made from at least 85% of the grape variety named.
Dual Varietal The wine must be made from:
  • At least 90% of the two grape varieties named.
  • At least 15% from the second variety named.
The varieties must be listed on the label in descending order of content.
Triple Varietal The wine must be made from:
  • At least 95% of the three grape varieties named
  • At least 15% from the second variety named
  • At least 10% from the third variety named
The varieties must be listed on the label in descending order of content.
Multi Varietal The wine must be made from:
  • At least 95% of the four or more grape varieties named
The varieties must be listed on the label in descending order of content.
Non-Varietal The wine must be made entirely from vitis vinifera grape varieties if it is not labelled as a varietal wine.