Ont. lays out financial supports for VQA wines

Ontario’s vineyards will get a new funding program next year to help them shift their focus toward production of made-in-Ontario wines.

The program, worth $12 million over four years, is one of three funding announcements Wednesday from the province laying out some specifics for a longer-term Ontario wine strategy it pledged last fall.

Starting in 2011, the province will put up $3 million a year for four years to help grape growers transition to a new focus on production for wines in the Vintners’ Quality Alliance (VQA) program, which designates wines made in Ontario using strictly Ontario-grown grapes.

Transition supports under the program are to be provided “in alignment with a new varietal plan being developed by the industry,” the province said in a release Wednesday.

The province on Wednesday also pledged to increase its previous funding of marketing and tourism activities in Ontario’s wine regions by $1 million per year, for a total investment of $3 million per year over five years.

Marketing activities covered will include advertising, promotions at the province’s Crown-owned LCBO liquor stores, awards programs and public relations.

Tourism activities, meanwhile, are to include “enhanced” wine route maps and signage, plus promotion of events such as the VQA-sponsored Cuvee Gala and the Niagara Wine Festival.

Also, the province will renew its funding for the VQA Wine Support Program to the tune of $6 million per year over five years (2010-14).

That program gives wineries an annual grant based on their sales value of VQA table wines sold at Ontario’s Crown-owned LCBO liquor stores. Wineries must apply each year to be eligible for program funding.

Ontario’s VQA wine sales have risen over 10 years from $75 million in 1999 to $173 million in 2009. The number of grape wineries in Ontario increased from 50 to 146 during that period.

“Our long-term vision is a wine and grape industry that is increasingly competitive and successful, offering products that are recognized across Canada and around the world,” Consumer Services Minister Sophia Aggelonitis said in the province’s release.

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