Wednesday, April 6, 2011

“Ontario wine consumers need more access to Ontario wines,”

Grape Growers call for more consumer access to Ontario wine
Media Release April 1, 2011

ST. CATHARINES (April 1, 2011) – Over the past year, the Ontario government has made changes that have put Ontario wines on a good foundation moving forward, but now we must embark on the next steps to ensure the domestic grape and wine industry will enjoy robust growth in the future, says the Grape Growers of Ontario.

“Ontario wine consumers need more access to Ontario wines,” says Grape Growers of Ontario Chair Bill George Jr. “We have put in place a varietal plan. We have made prices affordable. But there is only so much we can do if consumers can’t get access to the wines Ontario grape growers and wineries are producing.”

The Grape Growers of Ontario propose key stakeholders in the grape and wine industry meet with the provincial government to begin discussions on the existing wine distribution network in Ontario and how it can be improved to boost the sales of domestic wines.

“We’re going into this with an open mind,” says George Jr. “We would like the government to work with us to review the various options available to reshape the distribution of and access to Ontario wines.”

For the industry to reach its maximum potential in wine sales and Ontario wine market share, it needs better access to the marketplace, says Grape Growers of Ontario CEO Debbie Zimmerman.

"We need to shift our focus to the future so we can be sure the excellent products we are growing today have a place to be sold tomorrow,” Zimmerman says. “Increasing the access Ontario wines have to the market will help Ontario catch up to the rest of the wine-making world where domestic wines have a significant share of their own market.”

Ontario wines have 44% share of their domestic market, whereas most other wine-producing regions have a much larger domestic share:

◦Australia- 90%

◦California– 63% of the entire U.S. market

◦New Zealand– 57% (New Zealand does not import grapes for wine, whereas Ontario includes blended wines as Ontario wines)

Ontario’s grape growers are coming off a strong 2010 when a hot, dry summer and fall led to a 13% increase in tonnage harvested. Growers also agreed to a new pricing model, introduced a new wine label designating 100% Ontario-grown wine grapes, are anticipating the beginning of a four-year, $12-million Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs transition program and, as part of that transition program, developed a Varietal Plan to determine which grapes grow best in this cool climate, making the quality grapes grown in Ontario even better and improving the market for those grapes.

“We have completed the first phase of a Varietal Plan that will identify the cool climate varietals the industry grows best and have good market potential,” says George Jr. “This will help us best align the Ontario grape supply with the demand.”

At its Media Day April 1, the GGO also launched a redesigned website that will help it stay in better touch with not only its members, but also Ontario wine consumers.

“In our ongoing effort to remain in touch with the people who matter most to us, our new website will provide industry statistics, tourist information about our Ontario appellations and other reports for the general public,” Zimmerman says.

The Grape Growers of Ontario represents more than 500 grape growers in eastern, southern and southwestern Ontario who produce grapes for processing.

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For more information, contact:
Debbie Zimmerman
CEO, Grape Growers of Ontario

Bill George Jr.
Chair, Grape Growers of Ontario

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