“Cellared in Canada” wines spill into 2010 Olympics

British Columbia’s government is “risking the reputation” of the province’s wines by allowing the official Olympic designation to be used on wines labelled “Cellared in Canada,” one opposition ag critic argues.

Canadian wine companies have recently come under renewed fire for their marketing of non-VQA wines containing blends of bulk imports and Canadian product, labelled “Cellared in Canada.”

“These are not B.C. wines,” B.C. NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham said Thursday. “They are lower-grade wines being passed off as local, and they are not representative of the kind of world-class wines B.C. is truly producing.”

Among the wines carrying the official Olympic designation are “wines imported in bulk, carrying the deceptive descriptor ‘cellared in Canada,'” the NDP said.

“Instead of using the Olympics to showcase the superior wines we are really producing, the B.C. Liberal government is actually damaging the reputation B.C. wines have earned over the past decades,” Popham, the MLA for Saanich South, said in a release.

Popham cited recent vocal criticism by renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson of the “Cellared in Canada” label claim.

The MLA quoted Robinson’s column in the Financial Times, the U.K. business newspaper, in which the editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine recently called the claim “the Canadian con.”

Many wines produced in Canada from vineyard to liquor store are eligible for the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) designation, featured prominently on many all-Canadian wines’ labels. Robinson has criticized the marketing of “Cellared in Canada” wines in the same space as their VQA counterparts.

“Now that Canada is producing world class wines, it is surely high time the Canadian wine industry educated Canadians properly about their own wines,” Robinson wrote on her blog in 2007.

“How is Canadian wine to establish a reputation if even Canadians are cheated of the chance to taste the difference between it and the rest?”

The Economist magazine also weighed in last month with an article titled “Blended deceit from the nanny state,” in which it acknowledged that Canada’s larger wine manufacturers feel they can’t compete with Australia or Chile without blending to offer cheaper product.

However, the magazine said, also blasting Ontario’s Crown-owned LCBO liquor stores for promoting the blends in shelf space meant for Canadian wines, “it is bad enough for consumers to have to buy wine from the government. Why the government thinks consumers should be hoodwinked in the cause of trying to compete with Chile and Australia in wine production is even more baffling.”

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