Faster wine bottling seen boosting Ont. grape demand

A new high-speed bottling line in Ontario’s Niagara wine country is expected to lead to a “significant” boost in demand for Canadian grapes in about three years.

Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery, based at Beamsville, about 30 km east of Hamilton, has picked up a federal loan of over $97,000 to buy and set up a “state of the art” bottling and labelling line which it says will allow it to double its daily production capacity.

The repayable funding, flowing through the federal AgriFlexibility fund, will “give farmers more opportunities to sell their product,” local MP Dean Allison said in a release Tuesday.

The project is expected not only to generate jobs but to result in a “significant increase” in the annual demand for Canadian grapes by 2013-14, the government said.

The company bills itself as having long-term contracts in place with “some of the best” fruit growers in the Niagara region.

With the new equipment will come new packaging designs and the “latest innovations in wine closures” in lieu of traditional corks, the government said.

Food safety practices will also be “strengthened” on the new line, the company said.

“The AgriFlexibility funding will have a significant impact on our ability to achieve major improvements to food safety, productivity and competitiveness,” Peninsula Ridge president Norm Beal said in the government’s release.

The company, operating since 2000 on the Niagara Escarpment, now runs 42 acres of vinifera grapes and manages a nearby 43-acre vineyard.

Its wine production is classified as VQA Niagara Peninsula, allowing its bottles to carry the VQA (Vintners’ Quality Alliance) logo certifying the wine as Canadian-made from Niagara-grown grapes.

The loan will come through the fund’s AgriProcessing initiative, which has budgeted up to $50 million over five years in repayable contributions for agrifood processing companies adopting new and “new-to-company” technologies.

Projects funded under the AgriProcessing initiative have to be completed by the end of March 2014.

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