Friday, July 16, 2010
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
In case you were wondering how some of the rash of LCBO-listed celebrity wines are doing, here's a quote from a Vancouver Sun web site article of April, 2008:
"The Liquor Control Board of Ontario said that wines endorsed by Wayne Gretzky will sell 18,000 cases (or $2.7 million) over the next 12 months, and wines endorsed by Dan Aykroyd over 11,000 cases ($1.7 million). Both were among the top-10 bestselling wines of 2007.
Spokesman Chris Layton said all new celebrity wines have been selling well and significantly better than new, non-celebrity brands."
The same article described a deal between The Rolling Stones and Ex Nihilo Vineyards Inc. near Kelowna, who have begun marketing a limited-edition icewine called "Sympathy for the Devil." Each bottle in the 222 cases of their Rolling Stones icewine will be hand-numbered. Mick didn't go to the London School of Economics for nothing it seems. The price? - $125 per bottle.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Today there is no crop shortage to justify allowing so much foreign content in our wine. In fact, grape growers are facing potential crop surpluses and depressed prices because the current wine content act is hurting our industry. We want consumers to understand what they are buying, and support wineries that produce 100% Ontario wines.One can sympathize with their position. The wines they're talking about currently outsell VQA (100% Ontario grapes) by a factor of 3 to 1. Isn't it a bit strange to contemplate the possibility that our wine industry is supporting other country's wine industries, buying what might be surplus some years to supply demand for a "made in Canada" product that only has to be 30% Canadian? Maybe it's just me.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
When I entered the Ontario wine industry in 1985 Chateau Gai's main market excitement came from a product called "Canada Cooler". We paid a lot of homage in those days, in this case to California Cooler, which was huge in the US youth market, and soon thereafter to French wine, with the launch of "L'Escapade", a dry white with foreign wine blended in and a TV commercial featuring the Eiffel Tower. You may not have considered it before, you may not have been aware of it, but L'Escapade illustrates a key point about Ontario's wine industry. It stands alone around the globe in depending on wine from other countries to make its own.
Take a moment to digest that. The image to the left comes from the website of the Grape Growers of Ontario. It explains the blending rules currently in place for those wineries which have the right to use imported wine in their bottled product. The privilege was withdrawn in 1993 but wineries operating before that year and who had taken advantage of the right, continue to enjoy it today. To make the point crystal clear let me in memory walk you around behind the winery in Niagara Falls where we could watch foreign wine being pumped out of 200-Litre plastic bags, called "flexitainers", which traveled by ship, train and truck from whatever country made the wine - and it could be just about anywhere where price and minimum quality came together. My recollection is that this right had to do with a higher demand than the grape harvest could satisfy. The noble grape varieties were not much grown in Ontario in the early 1980's, although the situation was beginning to change. So to make a decent table wine meant using wine from elsewhere to supplement what we had at home.
Twice in the past six years harsh winter conditions have ushered in a short crop and the blending rules have been adjusted accordingly, meaning a higher proportion of foreign wine to fill the gap. Depending on how much off-shore content is used the wines made this way are labeled either "Cellared in Canada" or "Product of Canada". Such wines come almost entirely from two wineries, the giants of the Ontario industry, creations of mergers and acquisitions over twenty years - the largest of them now wholly owned by a New York State based global wine marketing machine known as Consolidated Brands. Those two companies are Vincor Canada and Andrew Peller Limited. Their retail chains are "Wine Rack", which I ran for ten years, and "Vineyards". Both also participate heavily in the "real" Ontario wine market, the one built around VQA, products approved to wear the designation by a body called the Vintners Quality Alliance, which above all else means 100% Ontario wine content in every bottle. But let's save this discussion for another post.