I’ve had the pleasure over the past two weeks of co-hosting 260 delegates from 30-plus countries who came to the province for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress. The group had dozens of agri-food experiences, including wine sampling at the province’s main wine-producing regions — Niagara, Lake Erie/Pelee Island and Prince Edward County.

This particular group of journalists typically writes about the production and, sometimes, the politics of the wine industry. Few are actual wine writers. But that doesn’t stop them, or anyone, from having opinions about the quality of Ontario wines. If you like it, you buy it. If you don’t, you don’t.

For at least the last 20 years, Ontario’s wine industry has worked hard to leave its mediocre past behind and respond to increasingly selective consumers. This effort has been propelled mainly by the industry’s determination to develop its Vinters’ Quality Alliance (VQA) appellation, and make sure wines bearing the VQA logo were produced with high standards, such as 100 per cent Ontario vinifera grapes.

Plonk is everywhere, including Europe. No country can hold its nose when sniffing another’s wine bouquet. However, you don’t want a reputation for producing average wine, either.

That was my biggest concern as the journalists moved through their wine-region tours. I’d told them repeatedly Ontario has superb, medal-winning wines. Would VQA carry the day with them?

For the most part it did. But some international visitors considered our wine average, and didn’t mind saying so.

I discuss some of the challenges facing quality, affordable wine production in my Urban Cowboy column in the Guelph Mercury.