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Ontario Wine Brands Get New Logo, Keep Old Problems

Posted by Abe Sauer on April 2, 2010 08:15 AM

"Canadian wine country" may sound absurd to those not in the know but the land of the maple leaf also boasts a robust fermented grape industry in Ontario. One challenge for local vintners though is that many Canadians might not know this.

Even worse, many Canadians who do know this are having trouble figuring out just which wines are home-stomped and which are imports. Consumers looking to buy local can identify 100-percent Ontario-made wines by noting the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance of Ontario) symbol. The problem? Grape Growers chairman Bill George Jr. explains, "Several studies have shown a lot of customers don't know what VQA means." However, the alliance has a solution. Too bad it is more of the same.

In the interest of helping consumers better identify the Ontario-made brand, the organization's marketing board introduced a new, very characteristic logo: A clutch of purple grapes surrounded by a trillium flower. The logo is more colorful and noticeable than the old black VQA version.

However, the new logo does not advance the winemakers beyond their existing quandary. While a more colorful, attractive logo may be an improvement in theory, the fundamental problem remains; if a lot of customers did not know what VQA means, why are they going to know what the new (prettier) logo means?

What the alliance really needs is a strong, extensive outreach and education program for its brand. This is especially true since the alliance's marketing board says the new logo is intended only to compliment the existing VQA symbol, not replace it.


Natalie MacLean Canada says:

Thanks for this post Abe! As a wine writer, I'm very interested to see how this unfolds.



Nat Decants Wine Online

April 2, 2010 09:26 AM #

andy halmay Canada says:

I clicked on "Continue Reading" and it simply repeated the opening paragraphs.  Is it really necessary to ask your readers to bounce around?  We can bounce right away from you and not bother coming back

April 5, 2010 08:44 AM #

BrandKnowItAll Canada says:

It would be a shame if they got rid of the VGA logo. The issue isn't the logo, it is the job they've done giving communicating what it means. The new logo is juvenile and while it may do a moderately better job of clarifying "home grown," it will hurt quality perceptions.

April 5, 2010 11:19 AM #

Shawn Bouchard Canada says:

BC's wine industry has faced similar challenges. However, the location of marquis VQA stores in wine regions (Okanagan) and major metropolitan areas has helped to improve the brand recognition of VQA.

Part of the issue is representation in provincially controlled liquor stores. In order to gain shelf space in BC government stores, producers must guarantee a certain level of volume (product and sales) - which leads to ownership consolidation. Corporate ownership can, in some instances, lead to a dilution of local content in favour of more profitable foreign produced juice blended, bottled or aged locally.

April 5, 2010 02:52 PM #

Luis Jaime Lara Mexico says:

I think the problem is communication, not the graphic logo or pictogram.
The problem is not fixed.

April 5, 2010 04:05 PM #

Stephen Malouf Canada says:

Ontario wine, Quebec wine, BC wine.

I am proud to buy Canadian wine if it taste good.  Why not support my industry....it creates jobs and I am CANADIAN. and on top of that I have a client that is a grape grower...and he is trying to do a world class wine.
So rather than have associations (lets face it, which cost the producer a small fortune) brand a wine with their LOGO, lets promote the wine with try before you buy at all Government liquor stores, and that includes my SAQ.

I cannot judge a bottle from the LOGO.  and Ontario wine has this OLD stigma attached to it.  Remember Baby Duck...I think it was made by Andre's wine...but that was 25 years ago...cheap wine to get drunk on when in University.

I grew up on good wine, like Chateau Lafite Rothchild ( 1961) because my parents had a wine cellar.

...and a good bottle of wine is a good bottle of wine.
...time for Canadians to make a GOOD bottle of wine.
...actually our ICE wine is VERY good....maybe world class....???

April 6, 2010 09:17 AM #

Gayle Canada says:

The new logo screams "design by committee" and doesn't address the core problem.  Ontario wines,unfairly, have the stigma of being cheap and not very good. This is an old perception. The new wines are quite good.  This is the core issue and it needs to be tackled head on.  

Additionally, the VQA does not tap into the patriotism and pride of Canadians/Ontarians.  "New world wines" from Chile, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, etc.. have done a great job of this.   Without a comprehensive strategy a logo redesign is just a waste of ink.

April 6, 2010 08:53 PM #

Rick Schofield, CWE United States says:

I love the reporting Abe, & the comments everyone, & the wines & the sticker!

It says in plain English (Quebec could be a problem, eh?) 100% Grown by Grape Growers of Ontario"

What can be more succinct than that?  No acronym. How many non-wine geeks living in Italy know what DOC gives them? Same for any average consumer in any country?

Canadian wine has still more issues to fix than this as does Australia, France, California, etc.  

The gist of Canadian Winery problems are too many wineries that are too small to distribute widely and at competitive prices ... wholesale is 1/2 the bottle revenue of retail. There are also too many Provincial monopolies (9 out of 10) who apply basically the sames rules when choosing & pricing the stock for their shelves regarding Imports versus domestic wines.

Furthermore, it's not easy to grow vines in cool climates.  Price has to be comensurate with that, which is why PEC costs more than Niagara, and Niagara costs more than La Mancha. (Half of the Okanagan is not cool, I know, but there they are micro-sized wineries mostly).

Without economy of scale, distribution and revenue are limited and then so is promotion ... it is a catch 22 for the non-billionaire. Then there is the current (I can't stand it) fashion of high alcohol wines.

Canada, even Nova Scotia, should be proud of what their wine industry has accomplished in 35 years.  The new stickers for Ontario are just one tiny tidbit of help that will continue to add up over the next decade, as will the London Chardonnay tasting on May 17.

Like a tree, a good winery or a good wine industry is not made in, or for, one generation.  Maybe global warming will help speed up Canada's sure-to-come fame.  In the meantime, I'm driving up to get another 2 mixed case next weekend. (Shhhh ... keep all this quiet, demand raises prices you know!)

Rick Schofield,
Port Ewen, NY

April 27, 2010 08:07 PM #

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