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Ontario charities have new platform to raise needed cash with launch of online wine auction website

Charities in Canada have been severely impacted by COVID-19 in Canada, with the arts, culture and recreation charities reporting the most declines in revenue.
A report by Imagine Canada says these groups have been hit hard, with 87% reporting a decrease in revenues and 74% reporting declines specifically in event-based fundraising.

One area that raised considerable money in the past has been charity wine auctions. Just look at the interest the recent Grapes for Humanity online charity wine auction attracted from generous donors who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of hospitality industry workers in Ontario.

And now, due to relaxing of the rules guiding liquor sales in the wake of the pandemic, virtual charity wine auctions are poised to mitigate fundraising challenges during difficult times as we all navigate the Coronavirus situation.

Ontario wine

On Nov. 17, Toronto-based Iron Gate Private Wine Management will launch, one of Canada’s first online wine auction platforms that will give charities more flexibility to fundraise while in-person events are cancelled due to COVID-19. And, as charities continue to experience pandemic-related revenue shortfalls, is designed to help increase their net return compared to traditional live charity auctions.

The pandemic was a catalyst for permanent changes to liquor auctions recently announced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) that allow for virtual charity wine auctions. Iron Gate Wine founder, Warren Porter, has been lobbying for these changes for more than a decade, believing that the requirement for a live auction hindered a charity’s fundraising potential by limiting buyer demand and raising costs.

“Iron Gate Wine has always believed that a virtual auction can substantially increase the amount of revenue that a wine auction can generate for charity and we’re thrilled that the AGCO is finally on board,” says Warren Porter, President, Iron Gate Wine and founder of (and seen above pulling a cork and the very top photo). “Virtual auctions cost less to execute, provide access to a larger buyer base and offer more bidding flexibility, so we can create more demand compared to traditional events. In short, it’s a game-changer for charity wine auctions.”

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s (TSO) 30th Annual Fine Wine Auction will be the first to run on Iron Gate’s virtual auction platform. The week-long online event begins on Nov. 17 and will feature 500 wine lots valued at almost $1 million with all proceeds benefitting TSO’s vital music and educational activities in the community.

Traditionally, TSO’s Fine Wine Auction attracted buyers from Toronto. However, this year’s virtual auction has the potential to attract a broader audience and online bids can be made from anywhere across Canada. Additionally, purchases made at charity auctions are not subject to buyer premiums or sales tax applied to commercial auctions, equivalent to a 35 per cent savings for buyers.

“We’re confident that by taking this year’s wine auction online, the TSO will double its return,” says Porter. “And, virtual charity auctions are good for buyers too: they can find great wine, feel good about giving back to a worthwhile cause and avoid the extra costs associated with commercial wine auctions.”

Buyers looking to shop online for a special holiday gift or seeking a specific vintage to celebrate a milestone birthday can preview the TSO Fine Wine Auction online catalogue beginning this Friday. Wines from every region of the world and all price points will be on offer. Some rare and coveted lots include:

• a bottle of 1869 Lafite Rothschild
• a 6 litre 2006 Ornellaia Vendemmia Artista, one of only 20 in the world
• 31 bottles of Dunn Howell Mountain, spanning vintages 1986 to 2007, all signed by the winemaker, and
• a 2009 Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache valued at close to $10,000

Porter hopes that AGCO’s policy changes will encourage more charities to consider virtual wine auctions for their fundraising.
“The virtual model offers flexibility and scalability,” says Porter. “Charities can auction fewer lots at one time or host a series of smaller auctions depending on their access to wine donations. It’s a turn-key fundraising solution that charities can access now, when they need it most.”

Interested charities and wine buyers can register at for regular updates and early access to information about upcoming auctions.

How it works

• Bidding is anonymous, simple and secure
• Register at with name, phone number and email address
• Registrants can create their own auction item wish list and make anonymous bids throughout the duration of an auction
• Bidders will receive email notifications for bids, outbids and won
• Bids can be placed from anywhere across Canada
• Online auction catalogues can be searched by producer, region and sub-region, vintage and appraisal value
• The platform features a real-time countdown clock that will track the time remaining in auction
down to the second
• No cost to register and place bids
• No additional taxes or buyer’s premium for charity wine auctions
• Online catalogue preview begins on Friday, Nov. 6 at

• High resolution images of all auction lots will be featured
• Auction catalogue can be searched by producer, region and sub-region, vintage and appraisal value
• The virtual auction goes live on Nov. 17 at 12 p.m. at and closes on Nov. 24 at 9 p.m.
• Full terms and conditions of the TSO 30th Annual Fine Wine Auction will be available here by Nov. 17

About Iron Gate Private
Wine Management

Founded in 2004, Iron Gate Private Wine Management offers fine wine collection management, off-site wine storage, cellar and wine appraisals, collection sales, traditional and virtual wine auction services via its newly launched subsidiary, In 2017, Iron Gate launched IronGate.Wine, a U.S.- based online wine retailer offering Canadian wine collectors access to the secondary wine retail market for the first time. Iron Gate Wine Management is based in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto.