In short, BC VQA stands for “British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance”. The BC VQA program is an “appellation of origin” system, similar to the AOC and DOC systems utilized in France and Italy respectively. The BC VQA system guarantees origin and ensures that qualifying wines meet certain minimum quality requirements.
The BC VQA program can trace its origins back to Ontario where some wine producers in that Province came together and formed the Vintners Quality Alliance or “VQA” and implemented an industry-operated system under that “VQA” appellation. This program was then brought to BC in 1990 by some BC wineries and it initially ran as an industry-operated program for a number of years. In August, 2005, after extensive industry consultation, the Province took over responsibility for administration of the BC appellation system by bringing into force the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation (the “Regulation”) and creating the “BC VQA” appellation of origin. Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulation and operation of the appellation system was delegated by the Province to the BCWA at that time. From that point forward, qualifying BC wines are only permitted to utilize the “BC VQA” appellation. The term “VQA” alone, without “BC”, may only be used on wines originating in Ontario and qualifying under the Ontario program, administered by VQA Ontario. While the BC and Ontario appellation systems share the same origin and do remain generally similar, they have evolved in different ways, represent different standards and are overseen by two completely different regulatory bodies which have no formal affiliation to one another.
Wines made from 100% BC grapes are submitted to the BCWA by participating wineries for a taste assessment to determine if the wine meets BC VQA requirements. Assessments are conducted by taste panels comprised of trained taste assessors, independent of the wine and grape growing industries, who assess each wine by smell and taste to ensure the wines are free from those potential faults specified in the Regulation. Our panels assessed well over 1600 BC wines in 2014.
Wines which are free from specified faults and meeting the other requirements and technical specifications set out in the Regulation are then permitted to utilize the BC VQA appellation on their labels. This also permits them to use certain other regulated terms, including certain geographical indicators. The BCWA also performs audits on participating wineries and their BC grape suppliers, as well as inspections of retail outlets and non-member wineries, to ensure that the wine standards and other requirements of the Regulation are being complied with.
"Icewine" is a special category of BC VQA wine and is subject to extensive oversight by the BCWA under the Regulation. See the “Icewine” tab for further information on BC Icewine.