WINCHESTER — Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Lisa Thompson, and representatives from the Ontario wine industry announced changes reducing regulatory burden to support growth in the industry on Mon., Aug. 12..

Changes have been made to the rules that reduces restrictions, and provides more flexibility to wineries across the province by expanding, wine choices for consumers.

One of these changes includes adding the Marquette hybrid variety to the list of permitted grape to be eligible for VQA approval.

“The addition of the Marquette hybrid grape variety will help small and new wineries experience easier entry into Ontario’s VQA wine market,” said Thompson. “It particularly supports wineries located in emerging regions where cold winter temperatures are a challenge for traditional grape varieties.”

Paul LeBlanc is the owner, along with his wife, of Smokie Ridge Vineyard, and is the president of Eastern Ontario Wine Producers.

The group is made up of 12 vineyards in the region.

After six years of lobbying the government for VQA approval for a variety of established cold weather grapes, LeBlanc said he was happy with the announcement, but at the same time frustrated.

“It means that after six years they are starting to acknowledge these varieties exist,” he added.

“We are still a long way off,” said LeBlanc.

He said he has the approved Marquette hybrid grape growing in his vineyard, but he has another six grape varieties waiting for approval.

“If I put just one drop of any of the other varieties in, I cannot sell it,” he said. “The VQA should be down here to see how they can help us.”

LeBlanc suggested that each vineyard in the region should champion a different cold weather grape, and perhaps that strategy would make the approval authority move faster.

Because the other grape varieties are not sanctioned by the VQA, the wine they produce cannot be sold in farmers markets and are subject to a crippling 53 per cent levy if sold at the LCBO.