Winemaker wins landmark ‘icewine’ case

A Canadian winemaker has won a landmark case against a regulatory body which attempted to revoke its approval of some 6,000 bottles of icewine.

Joseph DeMaria, of Niagara-based winery Royal DeMaria, took the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VAQ), the provincial regulatory body for Ontario wines, to court after it tried to revoke its permission for DeMaria to label his wines as icewine, according to a report by Canada’s The Toronto Star.

Under Ontario law, icewines have to pass VQA taste tests to be able to be labelled as such – tests DeMaria failed in 2009.

His membership to the agency was later revoked before being banned from using regulated terms, including icewine, following a year’s grace period by the agency.

Two bottles of icewine were later bought by investigators at the winery, posing as customers, leading DeMaria to be charged with the use of illegal terms – despite the vintages sold having previously passed the required taste tests.

In a court ruling on Tuesday, Justice of the Peace Brett Kelly said the VQA was not entitled to revoke its approval which would have affected some 6,000 icewines from vintages which had previously passed its taste taste.

Despite being acquitted of three charges, DeMaria was found guilty of using the word “icevine”, on his website and fined $5,000, as the 1999 VQA Act also prohibits the unapproved use of words similar to regulated ones.

Speaking to The Toronto Star, DeMaria said: “This win is not only for Royal DeMaria, it’s a win for all wineries.”

“In my case, they weren’t controlling quality, they were controlling inventory. They could have completely wiped us out.”

In a statement on its website, the VQA said: “The winery was convicted on a charge of using the variation “Icevine” of the VQA regulated term Icewine, without the approval of the wine authority. A fine of $5,000 was levied by the Provincial Offenses court.

“The winery was acquitted on three charges related to the use of VQA regulated terms in association with wines that had previously been approved by the wine authority.”

 

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