Fruit Wine Sales at Ontario Farmer’s Markets…maybe…

Interesting things are happening in Ontario, Canada with regards to sale of fruit wines in Farmer’s markets. In the province of Nova Scotia and Alberta, it is already happening with great success. Let’s hope the province of Ontario can see the many benefits to this. Read on:

Fruit wineries are hoping this week to convince Ontario lawmakers to allow them to sell their products at farmers’ markets.

On Wednesday, Queen’s Park is holding public hearings to consider Bill 132, a proposed change to the province’s liquor laws that would allow non-grape wines to be sold alongside fruits and vegetables.

For some struggling small vintners, located off well-worn wine routes in Ontario, selling products in high-traffic areas such as farmers’ markets is a needed “lifeline,” said Jim Warren, president of the Ontario Viniculture Association.

“They got into the business with the best of intentions,” said Warren, who is also head of the Fruit Wineries of Ontario, an association with 15 members.

“Then they discovered, ‘Hey, this is not the way I thought it was going to be.’ They like what they’re doing and they want to leave their mark, but they need more opportunities.”

Warren and the province’s 20 fruit wineries have been lobbying the provincial government for more than four years to sell their products at farmers’ markets.

Last December, Leeds-Grenville Conservative MPP Bob Runciman introduced a private member’s bill to change the province’s liquor laws.

Bill 132 has passed two readings, and must get through third reading before wines can show up at farmers’ markets.

If approved, the program would be rolled out as a pilot project at a small number of sites approved by the Farmers’ Market Ontario association, which has 142 members.

But the bill is not without its opponents.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario — the province’s alcohol authority that holds a near monopoly on sales — and the Wine Council of Ontario, which represents grape-wine producers, have spoken out against it.

Last spring, wine council president Hillary Dawson said she’d rather the province consider other outlets to sell all wine, such as fine wine boutiques.

But Warren argued fruit wineries get fewer advantages than producers that make Vintners Quality Alliance grape wines.

Only a handful of fruit wines are sold at LCBO outlets compared with hundreds of Ontario grape wines. Fruit wines do not qualify for LCBO subsidizes offered to VQA products.

“Maybe this will help balance it off a little bit,” Warren said.

If the bill is passed, Warren said, he would like to see the farmers’ market program extended to small grape wineries that make vino strictly from their own estate.

Other provinces, such as Quebec and New Brunswick, allow wines to be sold through farmers’ market.

There are a few producers in Niagara that make fruit wines, such as Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery and Southbrook Vineyards, and Vineland’s Stoney Ridge Estate Winery.

An electronic version of the bill is available online at www.ontla.on.ca

Article by: MONIQUE BEECH/Sun Media

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