Cellared in Canada?

It has been a tough summer for Canada’s wine image, under attack from the likes of respected English wine writer, Jancis Robinson, the esteemed newsweekly, the Economist, the world’s largest-selling wine magazine, the Wine Spectator, and several unhappy Canadian wine writers.

The centre of their discontent is "Cellared in Canada (CIC)" wine, a grossly misleading name for foreign or imported juice bottled inside Canada.



The perpetrators are the country’s largest wine producers, ably assisted by the provincial retail monopolies, who openly condone the sale of what is, essentially, imported wine in the Canadian sections of their stores.

In Ontario, the law requires such wines to contain 30 per cent local grapes (it’s been as little as 10 per cent), while in British Columbia, the term "Product of Canada", does NOT require a single drop of Canadian-made juice to be in the wine.

Regulations and semantics aside, it’s all a racket.

Robinson termed it the “great Canadian con”, while the Economist is asking “…why the government thinks consumers should be hoodwinked”?

Even the Wine Spectator has weighed into the mess, backing Ontario grape growers, who claim the practice is tarnishing the reputation of local wine and jeopardizing their livelihood.

Let’s not muddy the waters by talking about the welfare of Canadian grape growers or the amount of Canadian grapes allowed in CIC wines as if it is vital to their survival.

It’s all a smokescreen.

Any Canadian grapes dumped into a wine bearing the “Cellared in Canada” or "Product of Canada” labels, are not worth measuring or talking about.

What is important is, when a wine, made with foreign juice, is bottled in Canada, by a Canadian winery, in a Canadian cellar; it does NOT mean the wine is “Canadian”.

Nor should it be displayed in any retail environment where its origin can be misconstrued as being from Canada, or worse British Columbia, or Ontario.

If wineries believe there is a market for "imported blends, made in Canada", they should have no problem telling consumers what it is: imported juice, blended and bottled in Canada, end of story.

Retailers should cease and desist from the current practice of muddying the origin of CIC wines by placing them in the Canadian wine section as if they had something to do with 100-per-cent locally-grown and produced Canadian wines, because they don’t.

It’s been more than 20 years since the Free Trade Agreement was employed, along with some substantial buffers to help local producers make the jump to the world stage, but it’s time for the handouts and mollycoddling to stop.

It’s time to grow up... before we become the joke of the wine world.

To say Canadian wine laws are out of date is an understatement.

Ironically, the success of 100-per-cent grown and produced VQA wines may well be the downfall of Canadian wine, if we do not move to a revamped system which recognizes all audited wines of Canadian origin.

This must be clearly delineated on the front label.

The longer we condone the current mess, the louder the protests and all the hard work going on in Canadian vineyards will be for naught.

Many have suggested "Cellared in Canada" must go before it ruins the reputation of Canadian wine.

I would suggest the latest trends, including a call for a boycott of producers using the "Cellared in Canada" nomenclature, are ruining the reputation of those Canadian wineries whose owners are recklessly playing both sides of the market.