Ont. boosts funds for wine marketing, development

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Ontario has topped up its funding for its wine industry’s marketing and development and proposes to further expand local wines’ market visibility.

The province last week announced a budget of $75 million over five years for its “Wine and Grape Strategy,” which it bills as a renewal of previous strategies set up in 2004 and 2009.

The previous five-year funding package in 2009 included $3 million a year over five years (2010 to 2014) for marketing and tourism activities, plus $6 million a year over the same period for a VQA Wine Support Program, for a total of $45 million.

(“VQA” refers to the Vintners’ Quality Alliance programs running in Ontario and B.C., certifying wines made exclusively with grapes grown in those respective provinces — as opposed to wines made with blends made using out-of-province or imported grapes and are often billed on their labels as being “blended” or “cellared” in Canada.)

In 2004, wine marketing and development work got $2 million a year for five years, while 63 wineries received grants totalling over $13 million over three years (2007 to 2009) from the initial VQA Wine Support Program set up in 2006.

“Key investments”

Among the work to be backed by the $75 million pledged last week will be a program allowing VQA wines to be sold at farmers’ markets, the province said.

Funding will also go to expand the new “Our Wine Country” destination boutiques in the province’s liquor vendor chain, LCBO.

The “Our Wine Country” boutiques offer an “expanded” selection of VQA wines and are also tasked with helping to elevate the profile of products from smaller local wineries. Over 500 wines from across the province are available through the boutiques, the province said last week.

The new funding will also go to set up an Ontario Wine Fund, meant to support “key winery and vineyard investments,” such as specialized equipment and machinery, and to support “enhanced marketing for the province’s wines locally and globally.”

The funding will also back a new provincial Wine Secretariat, proposed as a “one-window point for discussions between the province and industry” and for finding “ways to reduce red tape to help make grape growers and wineries more competitive.”

The Wine Secretariat is to be led by Premier Kathleen Wynne, who’s also the province’s ag minister, and by Jim Bradley, the provincial MPP for St. Catharines. – AGCanada.com Network