Quality Standards

VQA wines are tested and audited to ensure all standards are met

VQA Wine Standards

Every VQA wine meets the following standard:

  • Wine must be made from 100% fresh Ontario grown grapes — no concentrates are permitted - Grapes used must meet a quality standard for each variety (measured by natural sugar content in the ripe grapes)
  • No water can be added in the winemaking process
  • Labels must be truthful and accurately represent the wine in the bottle
  • All wines except for sparkling wines must be vintage dated and meet vintage requirements
  • All wines must be packaged in glass bottles with cork, synthetic or approved screwcap closures
  • All finished wines are evaluated by an expert taste panel and a laboratory analysis and must meet minimum quality standards before release

In addition, regulations establish detailed standards for specific claims of origin and for each individual style and type of wine. Wine-making standards are described in full in regulations made under the VQA Act.

Label Integrity

Making sure label information is accurate is a critical part of VQA Ontario’s responsibility.

Always look for the statement of origin on the label – VQA appellation name VQA – all VQA wines must show these markings if they are certified to be true appellation wines. Wines that do not qualify are prohibited from using regulated appellation terms.

The label on a VQA wine can tell you a lot about what is in the bottle. VQA sets standards for label claims about origin, grape variety content, and vintage along with other things such as the accuracy of alcohol content. Every label is reviewed to ensure it matches the wine in the bottle and is compliant with VQA standards.

Sample VQA wine label

How to read a VQA wine label (top to bottom):

  1. Name of Producer (who made the wine)
  2. Vintage year (At least 85% of the grapes) were grown in 2010
  3. Vineyard Designation (optional) - 100% of the wine came from this vineyard
  4. Varietal name (at least 85% of the wine is made from Riesling grapes)
  5. VQA Ontario appellation of origin (where the grapes were grown)
  6. Mandatory product information (required by federal legislation) - alcohol strength, net quantity, country of origin, dealer's address, common name declaration

How does a wine get VQA approval?

VQA Ontario does not certify wineries, rather it evaluates each different wine to see if it meets the VQA standard and is eligible for appellation labelling. When the winery has finished making the wine and is ready to bottle, the wine is submitted to VQA Ontario for "approval".

Tasting

The wine is tasted by a panel of highly trained tasters provided by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). These tasters must pass a yearly proficiency test and are independent of the wineries to avoid a conflict of interest. Tastings are conducted in a controlled setting following well established principles of sensory evaluation – it is much different from a wine competition since the wines are evaluated against an absolute standard.

Testing

Every wine undergoes comprehensive laboratory analysis, which is also conducted by the LCBO, to ensure it meets basic wine quality benchmarks and health and safety standards.

Detailed information on requirements can be found under the Processes page on this website.