Why People Don’t Drink Ontario Wine

#ONWineChat this week asked the questions ‘Why don’t more people drink Ontario Wine? What excuses do you hear?”. As someone who promotes Ontario wine, I hear lots of feedback (see my list near the middle of this article). With somewhere around 50 folks participating in the discussion this week, we heard some interesting feedback that I thought I would summarize for those of you who don’t want to read the entire Twitter feed. My summary that I tweeted was this: ON needs ambassadors. We’ll win them over one glass @ a time. Pair ON wines with food. CIC/ICB hurts.

Top Excuses

Stigma: If it is foreign/exotic, it must be better and typical “Canadian thinking” is that we don’t think we’re good at anything but hockey.

  • @MBosc: Typical Canadian response- if from away it must be better than local. Crap I say! Embrace local love!!! @angelsgatewines #ONWineChat
  • @littlemissmocha: @MBosc Agree. Such a Canadian thing. As a society, we romanticize far-flung destinations and producers.

Market Access: Still big issue with LCBO only carrying a few of the many wines produced in Canada each year.

  • @whitbywino: “The LCBO could do more to sell better Ontario wines too. Appealing to lowest common denominator a lot it seems.”

Restaurants don’t support/promote: Lots of discussion that restaurants could do more to support (as they do in BC), especially since Ontario wineries are producing great wines.

  • @SandraOldfield: “From West coast I have a theory: ON restaurants need to support ONWines like BC does #BCWine to be more successful”
  • @Ontario_Wines: “Whenever I ask a resto why not, they say it doesn’t sell, and I challenge its because they don’t list it!”

Quality/Price Ratio is an issue: Again, plenty of discussion about cheaper imports.

  • @LaceyEstates804: “I can go to LCBO and buy a $8.00 bottle from Chile”
  • @whitbywino: “Another unfortunate reality is that ON wine prices reflect a labour cost here that other countries don’t have”
  • @CKuziemsky: “True – some Ontario reds are priced high compared to other regions – for $30 do I buy Ontario Red or California?”
  • @whitbywino: “Certainly a stigma from the early days of Ontario wine-making, wouldn’t you think? People think that wine hasn’t improved.”
  • @Ontario_Wines: “The quality-price thing is an issue, I think many wineries are addressing that with their $14 blends”
  • @angelsgatewines: “how about we start with vqa isn’t sexy enough. Somehow wines from other countries or far away places must be more interesting.”
  • @MBosc: “Many believe quality = fruit bomb. Ontario wine is elegant, balanced with finesse. Perfect for food pairing”
  • @BeerGirlCA: “I hear a lot in my restaurants/bars that people think it’s of lesser quality (as it may have been previously)”
  • @MBosc: “Typical Canadian response- if from away it must be better than local. Crap I say! Embrace local love!!!”
  • @BeerGirlCA: “I think a stigma has developed around ON Wines that are mainly word of mouth and they haven’t even sampled!”

Here’s My List I Used to get Discussion Rolling:

  1. Excuse #1: “Quality vs. price just isn’t there”
  2. Excuse #2: “Ontario wine isn’t very good”
  3. Excuse #3: “I can get better wine from for way less money”
  4. Excuse #4: “Anything but Chardonnay”
  5. Excuse #5: “I got really sick off of Baby Duck (or Bright’s House Wine) when I was 16”
  6. Excuse #6: “I tried those CIC wines, but they aren’t very good”
  7. Excuse #7: “I like Zinfandel”…(OK that one might be valid…I like Zinfandel too, just not White Zinfandel)
  8. Excuse #8: “They taste sour”
  9. Excuse #9: I only drink Yellow Tail
  10. Excuse #10: The lady at my LCBO told me the wines weren’t very good



Probably the best part of the discussion – lots of ideas on what can be done to help the situation.

Prove the quality: As more foreign experts recognize the quality, Canadians will start to believe

  • @angelsgatewines: “Don’t buy local because it is just local. Buy it because it is good.”
  • @whitbywino: “It never hurts when Matt Kramer and Jancis Robinson tout ON wines – it’s a Canadian thing sometimes to wait for outside praise”
  • @whitbywino: “Exactly – but it seems that people only remember the good stuff from other countries and bad stuff from ON”
  • @MBosc: “How about instead of price we focus on VALUE. Is the wine worth price. Whatever the price.”

ICB(CIC) still an issue: Confusion as a sales advantage?

  • @Cellar_Sisters: “Actually ICBs are causing confusion with consumers. How do you educate your customers?”
  • @Ontario_Wines: “The smaller wineries have hard time competing with the huge sales forces behind those pushing the junk wine to restos”
  • @whitbywino: “Three words – “Cellared In Canada”. That’s a concept that needs to die.”
  • (Author’s note: I have heard that we need the ICB wines to use up excess bulk juice from Ontario though, so maybe just labelling and placement issues.)


  • @kristalamb: “Some still think there are no good Ontario wines. I invite them over to prove them wrong”
  • @whitbywino: “Me too – any chance to expose my friends to what I consider to be world-class wines.”
  • @kristalamb: “I feel like we need more Ontario wine ambassadors to dispel these myths. Important to have those voices championing it.”
  • (Author’s note: How about ambassadors in every LCBO?)
  • @whitbywino: “Sounds like a lot of us already know that ON makes some great wines – is it up to us to spread the good word?”
  • (Author’s note: I believe the answer is a big YES)

Influence Early: “Get ’em while they’re young!”

  • @mikedicaro: “It’s where I would focus my efforts. Making that emotional & taste building connection early is invaluable.”
  • @KarloEstates: “Younger demographic R more open 2 Ontario wines”
  • (Author’s note: Many people don’t understand VQA = 100% grown in that appelation…should we add 100% ON (or BC) to the wine bottles?)
  • @travelprose: “I visited 23 wineries in PEC last yr, every time I open a bottle It’s like like a visit with friends” (Author’s note: we need to sell that feeling!)

Educate, Educate, Educate!: Need restaurants to understand that these wines pair well with all sorts of food!

  • @GeorgianHillsOntario:  “Wines are classic cool climate style w good acidity, we need to teach the consumer what food to pair and when”
  • @MBosc: “The pendulum is moving back to elegance & finesse but it takes time to build a wine culture”
  • @Ontario_Wines: “People will buy more ON wines in the stores when they see & taste decent ON wines in “chains” like EastSides etc instead of CIC”
  • @whitbywino: “Another unfortunate reality is that ON wine prices reflect a labour cost here that other countries don’t have”
  • @mikedicaro:Indeed, if people are willing to pay a premium for local food & produce for the same reason, why not wine?
  • @littlemissmocha: “Getting consumers out to wineries to hear passion/talent involved is so different than a store purchase, yes?”
  • UncorkOntario: “Key. It was instrumental for me. Which is why I drag all my friends to wineries every chance I get”
  • @mikedicaro: “I’m still shocked when I hear folks are surprised to learn VQA = ON grown grapes”
  • (Author’s note: Someone even wondered why we don’t incent restaurants even more to sell VQA wine)

Private Wine Shops: aka #MyWineShop

  • @TemptationTea: “The LCBO doesn’t have the best selection of Ontario wine. Sometimes I find the Ontario wine I want at an SAQ.
  • @FazooliBarMan: “Exactly! You don’t see other parts of the world marketing the hell out of their table wine”
  • @mikedicaro: “100% true. The LCBO really isn’t designed to sell small lots which are some of the best wines”
  • @Ontario_Wines: “If we allowed privately owned VQA wine stores you wouldn’t have to worry about educating LCBO staff!”
  • (Author’s note: Many folks wondered why the wineries cannot sample and sell at farmer’s markets, something they have in other provinces today)


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