CFIA eyes replacing ‘Cellared in Canada’ claim for wine

Southern Ontario wine grapes on the vine. (Dave Bedard photo)

Labels declaring blends of imported and domestic wine sold in Canada as “Cellared in Canada” could soon be on the way out in favour of more specific wording.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Thursday announced a round of consumer and stakeholder consultations, running until June 30, on a proposal for new wording on wine labels.

The proposal calls for replacing “Cellared in Canada” when used as a way of saying the bottle in question contains some level of imported wines that were blended with domestic wines at a Canadian facility.

CFIA instead proposes that a bottle blended from “primarily imported” wines be labelled as “International blend from imported and domestic wines.”

A “primarily domestic” blend with imported content would instead be labelled “International blend from domestic and imported wines.”

“These statements are intended to provide consumers with the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision,” CFIA said Thursday.

Public submissions can be made through a survey now available online.

The federal Food and Drug Regulations today require “a clear indication of the country of origin” to be declared on a wine’s label, CFIA said Thursday.

The “Cellared in Canada” wording has been allowed as an “interim measure” for blended wines since 1994, the agency said.

Specifically, it’s acceptable to label a wine as “Cellared in Canada by (company name), from imported and/or domestic wines” to meet the country-of-origin label requirement for such blends.

Since then, however, the agency has heard the “Cellared in Canada” phrase is “not informative and potentially misleading to consumers,” CFIA said Thursday.

Critics such as British wine writer Jancis Robinson have been openly critical of “Cellared in Canada,” describing such brands in 2010 as “made up substantially of inexpensive bulk wine imported into Canada to be blended with some of the most basic domestic wine and, often, water.”

Canadian wine writer Beppi Crosariol wrote in the Globe and Mail in 2009 that while Canada has a long history of importing bulk wine and grapes for blending, in part to help domestic wineries boost cash flow, “clearer labels were necessary” to distinguish blends from 100 per cent domestic wines at retail. — Network

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