If winemaking appeals to you and you live in Ontario, the Amateur Winemakers of Ontario (AWO) may be just what you’re looking for. AWO is the umbrella organization of 33 independent clubs across the province, which has more than 350 members, including a “members-at-large” club for those who don’t have a club nearby but want to share their hobby with others.
Since its inception in 1969, AWO has been dedicated to the education of its member clubs and the general public in the art and science of home winemaking. AWO also promotes the positive health benefits of moderate wine consumption and provides a forum for competitive judging of members’ wines.
Ranging from very serious winemakers who sometimes turn professional to those who just want to have fun, clubs usually divide their energies among tasting, education and social activities, with each club finding the balance that best suits the interests of its members.
Clubs typically meet on a regular basis to share winemaking tips and techniques, taste both homemade and commercial wines and enjoy getting together with good food and wine. Many have made the investment in specialized winemaking equipment such as crushers, presses, filters and pH meters, which make it easier for new members to get started with fresh grapes.
Most clubs hold an annual club competition where qualified judges, who are often from Wine Judges of Canada (WJC), judge members’ wines. WJC is an organization of trained people who also judge commercial events. These judges are often amateur and professional winemakers themselves so they can give a fair evaluation of the wines as well as tips on how to improve them. The top wines from all the clubs proceed to the “Provincial” level where they are again judged by WJC in 24 classes ranging from aperitifs through white and red table wines to dessert, sparkling and cider. There are usually 700-800 wines entered. Medals and certificates are presented to the winners at our annual festival, which is traditionally hosted by several clubs.
Those succeeding at the Ontario competition are then eligible to enter the Nationals held by the Amateur Winemakers of Canada (AWC) in a different province each year. AWC is made up of representatives from each provincial body like AWO.
But competing isn’t the only reason to get involved in the home winemaking hobby. Members receive a quarterly newsletter, AWONews, and are also able to join Winetalk, our online home winemaking forum. Winetalk allows members to ask other members about solutions to problems, find specialized winemaking supplies or suppliers of grapes and juices, and share tips and techniques. Finally, all AWO members receive a subscription to WineMaker magazine.
If you’re one of the more than 1,000 Ontario amateur winemakers reading this story who doesn’t belong to a club but is interested, check out our website at www.makewine.com. All of our member clubs are listed there with contact information. If there isn’t a club located near to you, there is information on how you can join as a member-at-large. There is also a wealth of information about winemaking and winemaking resources located on the website.
Contact us at www.makewine.com/contact-us/ to get information and contacts for clubs in your area or to get help in starting a new club. A local club consisting of at least six members is eligible to join AWO.