The Vintners Quality Alliance is a contract between the vintners of Ontario and the consumer. The VQA medallion is a commitment to quality and a guarantee that the wine expresses the highest aspirations of the vintner's art.
Every wine-growing country has a body of regulations which sets standards for its finest products. Based on generations of trial and error, these laws delimit the geographic areas where the grapes can be grown and how the wine must he made.
The VQA not only sets the regulations for Ontario's quality wines, it also ensures that the wines live up to these standards. Before products can be marketed under the VQA medallion they must be tested and passed by a grading panel.
The Alliance also issues vintage reports on the Designated Viticultural Areas and disseminates information concerning Ontario's quality wines on an on-going basis.
In Ontario, a distinction is made between two levels of superior quality. Each of the provincial and geographic designations have their own set of guidelines.
Wines that conform to the Provincial designation regulations can, under VQAs charter, use the term "Ontario" on their labels. To be eligible, such wines must meet many basic standards.
For this superior designation, the Vintners Quality Alliance recognizes within Ontario three Designated Viticultural Areas which have traditionally produced the finest and most distinctive wines:
Pelee Island, and
Lake Erie North Shore.
A more stringent code of regulations governs the right of vintners to use these highly specific Geographic Designations on their labels:
Wines are evaluated by a panel of experts in light of the stringent VQA quality parameters. Only those wines which meet or exceed the production and appellation standards are awarded VQA status and entitled to display the VQA medallion.
"The single most important factor in the advance in quality of Ontario wines has been the introduction of the VQA. This appellation system and the minimum standards it set in place brought Ontario into the twentieth century and set the course for global recognition."
There are many ways to measure critical acclaim and certainly, when it comes to the products of Ontario's vineyards, the praise of the wine press is an excellent barometer. So too is rapidly escalating consumer demand. The most palpable symbols of high achievement, however, are the medals, scrolls, commendations and other decorations that have been lavished on Ontario wines since the introduction of the Vintners Quality Alliance in 1989. At competitions at home and around the world, their sheer number and diversity arc testaments to the fact that Ontario has been recognized and accepted as a producer of fine wines.