For the first time, the Canadian grape and wine industry is coming together with the goal of strengthening the sector in a sustainable way.
Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay, announced Wednesday, July 4 a commitment of $8.4 million in funding to establish the Canadian Grape and Wine Science Cluster, a collaborative project which includes university researchers, grape growers and industry partners in Ontario, B.C., Quebec and Nova Scotia.
The cluster will be overseen by the national grape and wine not-for-profit, Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN) which is working to advance the $9-billion industry with a sustainable supply of quality grapevine material.
Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) will lead the research in Ontario and will be involved in additional research across the country, said CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis.
“In the past, we’ve had lots of regional programs, but this is the first time we’ve been able to jointly come together with a funded project on a national level to support issues of national importance to the grape and wine industry,” she said.
Inglis pointed out that this project — to be called Fostering Sustainable Growth of the Canadian Grape and Wine Sector — is also unique because it was driven by the industry, with the CGCN applying for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) funding.
“Research plays an important role in the continuous enhancement of the quality of grapes and wine and the reduction of the environmental footprint of the entire production cycle,” said Hans Buchler, Chair of the CGCN. “We’re grateful for the investment that the Government of Canada and Minister MacAulay provided toward the ongoing success of the Canadian grape and wine sector.”
Matthias Oppenlaender, Chair of Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. and the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO), said the announcement Wednesday is “a culmination of many years of hard work and collaboration with the GGO, Wine Council of Ontario and Winery Grower Alliance of Ontario.”
“Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. welcomes the opportunity to partner with and invest in the CGCN’s Grape and Wine Science Cluster,” he said. “This research is vital to the growth and profitability of the grape and wine industry.”
Brock University President Gervan Fearon praised the government’s decision, and said he is “extremely pleased” to have Brock’s world-class grape and wine institute play a crucial role for the new scientific cluster.
“Brock is committed to contributing to making Canada’s communities and industries stronger, healthier and more sustainable,” he said. “Professor Inglis and her CCOVI team of scientists have spent years working closely in support of the grape and wine sector, and are perfectly positioned to help make this investment a significant success for the Canadian industry.”
Prior to making the funding announcement Wednesday at the Niagara-on-the-Lake grape growing farm of Huebel Grapes Estates, managed by Oppenlaender, Minister MacAulay toured the CCOVI laboratories at Brock University and met with researchers and students.
“The funding we announced today will help increase innovation and sustainability in Canada’s wine and grape sector,” he said. “I was also pleased to have the opportunity to meet with student researchers from the University, who represent the next generation of Canada’s grape growers and winemakers, and will play a key role in ensuring the future prosperity of the sector.”
In addition to the $8.4 million in government funding, the grape and wine industry will also contribute $3.7 million in cash and in-kind donations toward the research project.
Inglis said Wednesday’s announcement shows “the federal government’s clear support of our national priorities for a sustainable grape and wine industry.”
“CCOVI is excited to work with our research colleagues across the country to help ensure the continued growth and sustainability of the Canadian grape and wine industry,” she said.
The Brock CCOVI-based research, with industry cash support provided by Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc., will focus on five areas including:
- Understanding the impact and management of grapevine diseases in Ontario.
- Improving red wine quality and consumer acceptance through CCOVI’s TanninAlert program.
- Grapevine cold hardiness evaluation to improve the sustainability of the Canadian grape and wine industry.
- Improving sparkling and still wine quality with natural Canadian indigenous yeast.
- Vineyard pest management.
To complete this work, six Brock-based researchers and scientists will collaborate with 13 of their research colleagues from across Canada.