VQA: What is it?

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You’ve seen the VQA stamp on bottles of wine but do you know what it means? 

At this point, VQA has basically become synonymous with Canadian wine. Most stores, including Happy Hour that sell Canadian wine have forever labeled their Canadian sections “Canada VQA” or something similar. While all wine made in Canada is Canadian, not all of it is VQA. 

So what is VQA? 

It’s short for Vintners Quality Alliance and it’s a basically a system that governs wine in Canada, more specifically Ontario and BC, where the vast majority of our wine comes from. 

VQA is similar to other bodies around the world that control wine standards in countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Germany. 

What does VQA govern?

Most notably they care about where the grapes used to make the wine are grown and what type of grapes are used. Specifically, grapes used for wine in Canada may be made from the “Vitis vinifera” grape variety, which is basically a fancy way of saying the common grape vine. These grapes grow all over the world and there are literally thousands of different types within the family, meaning that the options for wine are basically endless. As for where these grapes can be grown, well that’s a long list. We’ll just say there’s a bunch of them in Southern Ontario and BC. 

On top of these grapes, some hybrid varieties are allowed as well. These grapes are created by crossing two more different Vitis grape types to make something different. These grapes are often grown to survive different environmental challenges they may face depending on where they are being grown. Some are grown to tolerate mildew, fight off fungal diseases, among other benefits.

In Ontario, Vidal grapes are also permitted under VQA because they are used to make ice wine. Vidal grapes themselves are also a hybrid that has been bred to be winter hardy. Which makes sense, as ice wine is made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Since winter is pretty prominent in Canada, as a country we are known world wide for the quality of our ice wines. 

Under the VQA, some provinces have their own certification bodies. BC has a “wines of distinction” category, there’s also “Wines of Nova Scotia” and “Vins du Quebec.” Those bodies obviously oversee wine made in Nova Scotia and Quebec. 

Now that you know a little more about VQA wines, why not come try some out? We’ll be sampling a selection of great wines from across Canada on Saturday from 1-4 pm. 

Joel Gasson