May 29, 2014

The “Pairs Perfectly” campaign

Filed under: Cancon, Wine — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:03

Just as the Ontario election writ was dropped, the small wineries of Ontario started pushing the Pairs Perfectly campaign, to move the province toward a more mature wine retailing model (like British Columbia’s). While I’d prefer a full privatization model (like Alberta’s), at least the move to allowing some private wine stores would be an improvement. Despite the quick work to launch the campaign, Michael Pinkus says it’s already being forgotten on the hustings:

Ontario is deep into an election campaign and the best thing done so far is a little initiative from the Wine Council called “Pairs Perfectly”. They’ve backed it with radio and television promos and in truth they make a lot of sense. Ontario is one of the only provinces not to have some sort of private system in place, either along with their provincial monopoly (a la British Columbia) or fully privatized (a la Alberta). This initiative seemed to be already formed and waiting in the wings: no sooner had an election been called than the “Pairs Perfectly” slogan was in my inbox (with its twitter handle @PairsPerfectly, hashtag #PairsPerfectly and website PairsPerfectly.com), articles were written to explain the notion, social media seemed abuzz from wineries to writers to the average-Joe, all were tweeting, re-tweeting, blogging, tumbling, gramming, hooting, hollering, casting, accosting and I initially thought, “Wow, the buzz is really out there, this just might have legs, or at least more legs that that ‘My Wine Shop’ that seemed to go nowhere.”

But 6 weeks is a long time in the political realm, just ask Rob Ford, so much can happen over the course of 6 weeks that can turn the tide on a well-thought-out, well-organized plan of attack. Instead of the Ontario booze media jumping whole hog onto the initiative and writing piece after piece after piece about the benefits of privatization to keep the idea in our collective consciousness, a new issue has come along to polarize: the VQA, which I have repeatedly said is a sham of a system, most notably because of its tasting panel. Now there’s a new horse to ride, a newer and shinier issue to get all worked up about. The VQA is easy pickings because it is so wrong, crushes creativity and stymies’ our winemakers making them think “will this pass VQA”. Every winery has come into conflict with it at least once in its existence and it needs an overhaul (radical? Maybe not, but definitely a big tweak).


I believe this: Ontario is a mess and is destined to remain that way long after this election season has been put to bed. We already know the Liberals position on privatization of any sort (over their dead body); the NDP seem in lockstep with the Liberals train of thought because it would disrupt union jobs. And the Conservatives, before the campaign the only party willing to talk privatization, have somehow gone mute about the whole issue – as if someone told them not to rock the boat; which makes them the wild card. But if history shows us anything it’s doubtful it’ll get past committee if it ever does come up.

And don’t even get me started on the asinine things happening on the beer side of the ledger. The Beer Store’s cockamamie campaign against corner stores carrying the product that they have a duopoly to sell (with the LCBO), is as misguided and ill-conceived as any I can think of. Does beer not also get sold in corner stores in other provinces? Are all those owners corrupt-minor-sellers? It seems to have galvanized the public against them; especially when people find out they aren’t government controlled; which a vast majority of the province was under the false notion it was. This also took focus away from the larger issue of an open and freer market for all in the alcohol industry (craft brewers, craft winemakers, etc.)


  1. Hi, I’ve got to call him out on his talk about the VQA – although their packaging restrictions need to loosen up, his going after the tasting panel just blows my mind. Clearly he has no experience with the process – or does and didn’t pay any attention to the realities. If he’s huffing and puffing because the panel is staffed with LCBO Product Consultants, that a political/ideological problem not a real-world one.

    In order to sit on the VQA panel, a candidate needs to achieve scores of roughly 85% or higher on a rigorous blind tasting and theory exam (this includes a paper testing on VQA regulations), completed annually (I had to step down from the panel this year for not achieving those results – better luck next year).

    The panel is made up with some extremely gifted palates and the evaluation process is _completely_ impartial. There is no room of prejudice or any kind. The samples show up in numbered carafes with a description of the wine style (appassimento, etc.), grape variety, and vintage. That’s all we know about what’s being presented. The sample will pass through 24-30 different panel members (in a randomized order over 2 separate weeks) whose results are combined. There’s no discussion permitted in the lab while the samples are being evaluated. If a wine fails, it can appeal numerous times. If it is faulty, it gets an automatic retry with a sound replacement sample.

    From personal experience – you would be shocked at what comes through those doors. It’s truly shameful the things some producers are trying to sell to the public (I don’t know names obviously because, as I said above – there is no information on producer provided). I’d have to say that a minimum of 60% of a given day’s submissions have some kind of lactic or bacterial fault – others are simply terrible wines and should not be sold bearing the VQA symbol. Somewhere in there will be some truly brilliant examples of Ontario winemaking, but they are few and far between. Its a sad reality, when real quality products are continually dwarfed by a flood of the poorest efforts of people trying to cash in on a trend. If even half of this stuff reached the market, it would turn the consumer off local wines for good.

    Rant over.

    Comment by Brendan — May 29, 2014 @ 11:10

  2. Thanks for the “inside story” on the tasting panels. Michael has issues with the VQA, but I don’t know much about the inner workings of the organization, aside from what you and Michael and other writers have shared in the past.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 29, 2014 @ 12:16

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress