You are in the LCBO or a winery retail outlet poring over the bottles of wine from Ontario in search of the perfect pick. The bottles are littered with words: winery names, places, fancy descriptions, and over and over again three little letters keep appearing: V. Q. A. With so many bottles wearing the same three letters, there must be some significance to this. When it comes to “VQA,” you may find yourself asking, “what’s in it for me?”

VQA stands for the Vintners Quality Alliance. It is one of the most significant pieces of information to be found on an Ontarian bottle of wine. The VQA is an independent regulatory body that sets the standards for quality grape growing and winemaking in Ontario (and in British Columbia, but we’re focusing on Ontario here). When you see VQA on a bottle of wine you can be guaranteed that the wine inside is a quality product. Just a few of the standards governed by the VQA include approved grape varieties, minimum sugar level in the fruit at harvest (a measurement known as “Brix”), and production methodology (for example, the manner in which bubbles are created in Ontario Sparkling Wine). All VQA wines are subjected to laboratory testing and taste testing before approval. The VQA goes beyond mere guidelines and recommendations. Its standards are enshrined in law. In 1999 the Vintners Quality Alliance Act was passed in Ontario to secure the integrity of Ontarian wines.

VQA and the Consumer

So, what’s in it for you, the consumer? When you purchase a bottle of VQA wine you are guaranteed that 100% of the grapes that made that wine were grown in Ontario. You are supporting Ontario’s wineries as well as the grape farmers that grow the fruit. You will enjoy the pride and satisfaction of financially supporting your fellow Ontarians and keeping your hard-earned dollars in the Ontarian economy instead of ejecting your money out of the country. But VQA goes much further than dollars and cents.

Ontario Terroir

Every bottle of VQA wine is a genuine expression of Ontario’s terroir. Terroir is the unique combination of soil, slope, temperature, sunshine, wind and rainfall that contribute to a grape’s characteristics and give wine its place of origin. Terroir bears great significance for grape growing. Labelling a wine with the VQA logo signifies not only where the grapes are grown, but also acknowledges that Ontario grown grapes express themselves differently from grapes grown in other wine producing regions. For example, wine made from Chardonnay grapes grown in Ontario will take on some different flavour and structural characteristics than wine made from Chardonnay grapes grown in Australia. An experienced taster will recognize and appreciate the difference. When you bring home a bottle of VQA wine, you can rest assured that you will be drinking, and celebrating, a true expression of our beautiful province.

Wine Tours

A great way to explore Ontario’s terroir and to taste the difference that VQA makes is to join a wine tour to sample Ontario’s wines in the places they are made. Niagara Vintage Wine Tours offers professional and educational wine tours of Niagara Wine Country year round. Start exploring VQA wines with a call to Niagara Vintage Wine Tour’s guest services agents at 1-866-628-5428. Get your VQA on!

Michael Twyman
Sommelier and Wine Smart Guide for Niagara Vintage Wine Tours and Bootleggers

* The opinions and recommendations in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect Niagara Vintage Wine Tours or Bootleggers.