Canadian winemakers celebrate misleading wine labeling change

Canadian wine saw new protection Monday following a decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Canadian wine saw new protection Monday following a decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Global Okanagan

Decades of concern over “Cellared in Canada” wine labeling have lead to marketing changes for all wine that’s not made from 100 per cent Canadian grown grapes.

Blended wines bottled in Canada from both domestic and international product will be required to make a new statement following changes announced on March 12 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The new statements created by the CFIA to replace “Cellared in Canada” are as follows:

  • for primarily imported wines: “International blend from imported and domestic wines”
  • for primarily domestic wines: “International blend from domestic and imported wines”

“The support of Minister MacAulay and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are greatly appreciated,” Dan Paszkowski, President and CEO of the Canadian Vintners Association, said in a release Monday.

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Consumers and representatives of the Canadian wine industry had told the CFIA for over 20 years that “Cellared in Canada” was misleading, said the CFIA’s summary report.

Wine bottled in the Okanagan from domestic and international wine was often placed with B.C. wine in stores, leading some to believe it was a locally produced product when some only had a drop of Canadian sourced grape juice.

“Truth-in-labelling and authenticity certification are cornerstones to our BC VQA Wine program,” BC Wine Institute President/ CEO Miles Prodan said in a release following the decision. “A wine label tells consumers what they are buying and what they are drinking. It is important the label accurately identifies the origin of the wine.”

The VQA program was created to regulate 100 per cent Canadian product, with programs in B.C. and Ontario.

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The cellared statement was created more than 20 years ago to allow flexibility, according to the CFIA.

It also benefited some of Canada’s biggest wine makers which bottled inexpensive foreign wine at large commercial operations in the Okanagan Valley or Niagara wine regions.

Sometimes the only difference was the VQA designation label on the bottle, as was seen in 2009, when Jackson-Triggs bottled wine for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

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Bottles of VQA and non-VQA wine were identical except for the VQA sticker.

At the time, Jackson-Triggs said they were unable to source enough BC wine to supply the official product for the Vancouver games but ended up removing the non-VQA wine after concern was raised.

Stakeholder consultations in the CFIA report saw 886 respondents, mostly from B.C. (45 %), Ontario (28.4 %), Alberta (11.1%) and Quebec (9%).

“Canadian producers will now begin the process of transitioning to the new label designation as quickly as possible,” said Paszkowski.