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In photos: Ontario brothers tout grape with a lowly reputation

Brothers' goal is to persuade restaurants to serve vidal

Brothers Greg and Yannick Wertsch are the owners of Between the Lines Winery, a six-year-old enterprise in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., that produces and sells wines from a retail store in the family barn as well as through a wine club and in restaurants. One of their specialities is vidal grapes, the variety used most often in Ontario to make icewine.

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But while wines made with vidal grapes sell out in the store, they don’t do well in restaurants. “Selling vidal in restaurants is almost impossible,” says Yannick, who notes that Between the Lines now sells about 5,500 cases of wine a year, up from 1,000 five years ago. “Most people think of vidal as a sweet, cheap, garbage-y wine, so restaurants don’t want to carry it because they know they’re not going to sell it.”

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One of the brothers’ innovative ideas is a sparking wine in a can called Origin. Here, they look over a canning machine at the winery, which was built on the farm where their parents had grown grapes to sell to the region’s wineries.

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Over all, the brothers would like to change the widespread perception of vidal as a low-end wine. At their vineyard, they’ve worked to improve the grape’s quality by reducing yields – a strategy that prevents dilution of soil nutrients.

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During tours at the winery, Between the Lines staff will often serve vidal and ask visitors to guess what they’re sipping. “We always have people telling us it’s chardonnay or riesling,” says Yannick Wertsch, right. “When we tell them it’s vidal they’re always surprised.”

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A few restaurants have embraced Between the Lines’s vidal. But the brothers would like to see more of this wine flowing at restaurant tables.

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“We had one restaurant in particular that has had a lot of success with our vidal wine as their house white,” Yannick says. “We educated their staff and talked to the owners about promoting our vidal wines. This is about updating knowledge – a lot of people tried vidal 20 or 30 years ago, and the wine quality has changed so much since then.”

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