Appellation defines the most respected wine regions of the world; VQA is the steward of Ontario's appellation system. VQA Ontario is responsible for maintaining the integrity of Ontario's wines of origin by ensuring claims of origin are accurate and meaningful.
The creation of the Prince Edward County DVA in 2007 ensures label integrity for Prince Edward County wines. Dedicated to producing wines that typify grape character and the distinctive imprint of origin, Prince Edward County winemakers are immersed in the cultivation, interpretation and communication of terroir as it is reflected in their wines, from vineyard to bottle.
Clearly, the best wines are a unique reflection of a winemaker's passion inspired and challenged by a sense of place and these qualities of origin.
Prince Edward County has a long history of horticulture, with it being the mainstay of the economy for centuries. For decades our region was known as Canada's canning capital, producing canned products such as peas, tomatoes, sour cherries and pumpkin which were shipped nationwide and internationally. At one time Prince Edward County was the supplier of one third of all canned product in Canada. The production of tender fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, sour cherries and apples was also a key component to our horticultural makeup.
The history of grape growing and winemaking dates back to the 1800's when Dorland Noxon of Prince Edward County was awarded a gold medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. However, due to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Prohibition in the late 1800’s, winemaking was kept to a minimum and produced in secret. During that period, at least one fabled winemaker, the late poet Al Purdy, pursued the passion – producing five or six garbage cans each Fall!
The modern era of importing and growing vinifera grape vines began in earnest around 1981. News of these pioneer’s early success and the resulting quality of wine spread quickly attracting would-be grape farmers, talented winemakers, entrepreneurs and investors, as well as media interest. Rapidly, throughout the 1990’s the group began to grow. Agricultural land was purchased; posts and trellises were hammered in and small vineyards began to dot the rural landscape.
Refined viticultural practices continued to improve the condition of harvested grapes and enhanced the survivability of fruiting buds during winter, as well as enabled growers to undertake longer-term strategies in vineyard management. Continuous innovations in vineyard management techniques led to economies in labour and higher percentage survival rates.
In 1999, the Provincial Government was petitioned to open winery retail stores outside of the existing Designated Viticulture areas (Niagara and Lake Erie North Shore). Permission was granted for Waupoos Estates Winery to open a winery in 2000 and other wineries soon followed. In 2003, the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) changed the structure of their districts to include the new Prince Edward County East Wine Region
With vineyards and infrastructure now in place and growing, the Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association made application for a Designated Viticultural Area under the VQA legislation. In the summer of 2007 the official designation of DVA Prince Edward County was announced.
In terms of varieties planted, there is a broad range of both vinifera and hybrid in the ground. In vinifera, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Riesling are planted in significant numbers with smaller amounts of Zweigelt, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot in the mix. Among hybrids, Baco Noir, Vidal and Geisenheim are among the popular choices.