Toronto – New wine labels do not address the 8,000 tonnes of grapes that will rot on the vines this fall, and without a major overhaul of Ontario’s Wine Content and Labeling Act one of the Province’s most iconic crops remains threatened, warns the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
Recently, three of Canada’s largest wine makers announced that they will create new labels for their “Cellared in Canada” wines. While new labels will potentially provide consumers with a more realistic understanding of the contents of the bottle they are buying, this will do nothing to address the issue of the content itself. Under the current Ontario law, “Cellared in Canada” wines can contain up to 70% foreign grapes or grape product.
“This new labeling scheme is nothing but lipstick on a pig,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “With 8,000 local grapes rotting on the vine this growing season we need a lot more than a simple label change. To support Ontario Greenbelt farmers we are asking the government for a complete overhaul of the Wine Content and Labeling Act. Ontarians have been fooled and our farmers have suffered enough. Significant changes need to happen now to have tangible effects to offset this year’s forecasted grape surplus.”
In 2008, the equivalent of  30,000 tonnes of grapes were imported, to be made into “Cellared in Canada” wine while Ontario farmers with high quality crops of the very same variety were left without buyers and with local grapes rotting on their vines.  This year, despite a good growing season and an increasing public concern about the effect of “Cellared in Canada” wines, a number of Ontario grape growers with unsold grapes remain at risk of declaring bankruptcy and losing their vineyards.
“We know that buying locally supports economic viability, ecological sustainability, and helps ensure our prime rural lands remain in the hands of farmers, not developers,” said Jamie Kirkpatrick, Campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “The government needs to direct policies that will support the livelihood of Ontario farmers, and keep our Greenbelt healthy and viable. Ontario Grape Growers are not looking for a bailout. They are looking for their government step up and help provide a lasting solution that will protect the future of their crops.”
The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance calls on the Ontario Government to support Ontario’s grape growers by:
–          Completely reworking the Wine Content and Labeling Act so that it supports Ontario grape growers
–          Significantly increasing the Ontario wine market share at LCBO stores throughout Ontario
–          Increasing access to more retail stores across Ontario to sell more 100% grown Ontario wine.
Individuals are encouraged to visit www.greenbeltalliance.ca to join the put the “O” back into the LCBO campaign and encourage the provincial government to support Ontario’s grape farmers.
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of more than 80 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)