By: Niagara This Week
Ted McMeekin is ready to spread his proactive attitude about VQA wines to the public.
Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs made a visit to Pillitteri Estates Winery last Wednesday to tour the Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyards and discuss the importance of Ontario VQA wines — those wines made of 100 per cent Ontario grown grapes — on the economy. The winery, which is the largest estate producer of ice wine in the world, is focused on making VQA wines more prominent than imported wines in the marketplace. During this visit, Pillitteri’s director of viticulture, Jamie Slingerland, covered the process of working in the vineyards and the lengths at which the family-owned business is going to ensure VQA wines become more popular and become the number one wine sold at LCBOs across the province.
Slingerland said Pillitteri Estates Winery remains focused on its impact on the community and how to make positive impacts on the lives of its neighbours. Slingerland pointed to a main problem the community had: the wind machines in the vineyards. The machines held the job of regulating the temperature when it is too cold out, and stir the air to the point of a four to five degree change in the temperature. While at first the family received complaints of these machines turning on in the middle of the night, after educating the public on the importance of the machines, they haven’t received complaints in about two years.
“Knowledge is power,” said Slingerland. “When people don’t know what’s happening they get concerned, but when they know what’s happening, they appreciate what’s going on.”
The community is already aware of the importance of buying VQA wines, but many Ontario citizens still need to realize the positive impacts buying local products has Slingerland explained.
“If you believe in going local, if you believe in community, then you believe in agriculture,” added Slingerland.
The importance of VQA wine does not end with just the impact on the community, but also largely affects the overall economy. Slingerland explained how imported wines add a value of $1 per litre to the economy, while VQA wines add a value of $12.29 per litre, which goes directly into Ontario’s economy. According to a 2011 KPMG study the growth of the industry had a $191 million of value add in the 2011 economy and created an increase of 1,300 jobs. The agriculture minister said the industry has raised Ontario’s profile around the world.
“These local wines put Niagara on the map, not just in Ontario, but around the world,” said McMeekin.
Slingerland explained how currently 82 per cent of Ontario citizens go into the supermarket with the intention to buy local products. He said the goal is to raise this number. The first problem to focus on is raising the amount of VQA wine sold in the LCBO from around 10 per cent to 50 per cent.
“It has become very important to get the opportunity to be the number one wine sold at the LCBO,” said Slingerland.
The winery continues to work as a family and as a business to emphasize the importance of VQA wines, enhance the education about the industry, and promote the culture of Niagara.