The Glory of Autumn™️ is officially upon us and as we get out our quilted vests and cozies for #sweataweatha, and get ready to snap glorious photos of fall foliage, while drinking pumpkin spiced this-and-that (wine included!), winemakers across the Northern Hemisphere are busy picking grapes for the 2023 harvest. In Ontario, harvest usually begins around September, and into December for late harvest wines, followed by January for ice wine. The grapes are picked, crushed, and then fermented, which is when the yeast converts the grape sugars into alcohol. When they are ready to drink depends on the grape and winemaker, but generally some will start coming through next year. The year on a wine label is the year the grapes were harvested to produce that wine, also known as the vintage. Happy #Harvest2023!
Good Vintage Expected for Ontario. NiagaraThisWeek.com’s Luke Edwards reports on the grape harvest season starting in Niagara. Some wineries have begun harvesting, mostly for sparkling wine, while others expect to start soon as different varieties become ready to pick. Matthias Oppenlaender, chair of Grape Growers of Ontario and General Manager of Huebel Grapes Estates winery, said that “it’s an anxious and exciting time.” The growing season had some early worries, from overly dry conditions to extreme downpours, but it all came together, with Pillitteri Estates Winery’s Jamie Slingerland saying that “it’s going to be a good vintage.“
Lobbying for Changes to Ontario’s Wine Industry. In a Nervous time for Ontario Wine Industry as Ford prepares to change the game plan, Wine In Niagara’s Rick VanSickle reports on a “key issue hanging over the heads of every winery in Ontario.”
While the annual harvest is of immediate concern, what happens in the next few weeks can determine the success or failure of many Ontario wineries struggling to survive.
VanSickle is talking about the Ontario wine industry, and specifically a recent report from Deloitte, which found that the Ontario wine sector is well positioned to drive economic growth, if given the right conditions. One of those conditions would be doing away with a 6.1% tax levied on Ontario wine sold at the winery. The Deloitte reports notes that it’s a tax not seen in any other wine-producing nation, and is “essentially a tax on small businesses,” representing “a major barrier for those trying to excel in the wine industry.”
The three associations that commissioned the report — Ontario Craft Wineries, Tourism Partnership of Niagara, and Wine Growers Ontario — have launched the Uncork Ontario campaign to lobby the government for changes to grow the industry. The Ontario legislature recently resumed and VanSickle writes that:
What transpires in the wake of the fall sitting will impact the alcohol beverage industry profoundly going forward. There will be winners and there will be losers no matter what they decide, even if they do nothing and leave it at the status quo.
VanSickle notes that while the 6.1% tax is an immediate concern, adding that “65% of every bottle sold going to taxes and severe levies at the LCBO,” it’s a rumoured overhaul of the entire system that is more concerning.
Premier Doug Ford has always signalled that he is a big believer in opening up the industry to a broader range of retail options for consumers, beyond the LCBO and the system now in place at grocery stores. Not only that, but some are hinting that the Master Framework Agreement with The Beer Store, a monopoly run by the big three, foreign owned beer companies, could be in the crosshairs of Ford. That sweet deal for the existing system requires a two-year warning before it can tear up the agreement and open it up to the private sector. That warning would have to be given to the Beer Store in the next few weeks. There are only three options on the table — extend the agreement, modify it, or suspend it entirely.
Which begs the question: if the agreement is dissolved, what happens next? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Carolyn Hurst, the chair of Ontario Craft Wineries and co-owner of Westcott Vineyards, wants to see “more Ontario craft wineries in all retail channels . . . to grow our domestic products and grow market share.” She is cautiously optimistic that the Ontario government will be supportive of the asks from the Ontario wine industry.