The bottle that gives back // News

A Toronto-based nonprofit cofounded by a local lawyer makes drinking wine a good deed

By Rose Hendrie

On Friday December 7th, 2012


Longtime friends Matt McPherson and Brett Preston — who met 17 years ago in university — have been batting around ideas for charitable projects for a few years.

In 2010, another friend suggested that they make a world-class wine and sell it for a good cause. McPherson, now practicing Aboriginal law at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, loved the idea. “I’m not an aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but I like wine,” he says.

So McPherson and Preston — president of a consumer research company — went on a tasting tour in Argentina, contracted with growers in Mendoza and found a winery to process two wines. The Little Grape That Could appeared on LCBO shelves last July, the first totally nonprofit wine label in Canada.

The Little Grape produces a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Torrontés, both priced at $11.95. The company donates around $1 from the sale of each bottle to a charity of your choice, but not at point of sale. After purchasing, you enter a code found on the bottle into The Little Grape’s website and direct it to a charity from a list of more than 20 organizations, including Pro Bono Law Ontario, Second Harvest and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“That’s one of the things about the concept that’s so great; it makes it really easy for people to give,” says McPherson.

The wine offers not just money to those in need, but a tribute. Each bottle has a name printed on the back. The Little Grape’s fans can nominate someone to celebrate — grandfathers, mentors and cats have been past nominees — and that name will be printed on a batch of up to 500 bottles.

The wines have received praise from notable wine critics. Zoltan Szabo called the company’s white “Just perfect,” and Konrad Ejbich wrote of the same wine, “Brilliant!!!” The Little Grape has now sold over 10,000 bottles at the LCBO.

McPherson’s law colleagues love them too: associates at OKT uncork The Little Grape at their get-togethers and Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, which has been providing the non-profit with pro bono legal work, has plans to serve the wine in future. As Preston points out, “If something’s for charity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s low quality.”

Photo courtesy of Megan Melin