B.C. wineries remain victims – July 26, 2014
By Anthony Gismondi
Some might say it’s the golden age for B.C. wine producers. Prices are at an all-time high, as are aggregate sales.
However, walk into the dry-goods storage rooms of most Okanagan wineries and you have the impressions that selling even a few hundred cases of wine, one bottle at a time, is more than a daunting task. For many, the case numbers are becoming much larger, which begs the question who is going to buy it all.
B.C. wine sales have never been stronger provincially, both in government monopoly stores and the private sector, although the private moniker is almost a joke given that private shops operate directly under the thumb of the monopoly. But what better place to keep your competition if you are the monopoly?
It was hoped wine would be flowing across provincial borders by now, opening new markets, but the powerful, scofflaw, liquor monopolies led by Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have literally ignored the spirit of the federal legislation. No one in Ottawa appears to have the political fortitude to take on the monopolies who are accustomed to wielding absolute power when it comes to booze, and no amount of federal legislation and directives is going to stop them from doing what they please. So far, Manitoba and B.C. have amended laws to allow direct importation of wine for personal use but beyond that not much has changed two years down the road from the much ballyhooed federal legislation.
In the real world, there would be no shortage of plaintiffs ready to take on the liquor monopolies but as a supplier taking your provincial monopoly retailer to court is just too risky a business for obvious reasons. No matter how many federal politicians hail a new era of interprovincial wine sales, the reality is the provinces that count haven’t budged and remain desperate to maintain the status quo of collecting fat tax dollars from distributors and consumers who have no choice but to pay.
Paradoxically it’s not the Canadian wine producers who worry the monopolies but rather it’s their import brethren. Once Costco starts shipping California or French wine to Toronto or Quebec addresses, it’s all over for the monopolies. The great irony is an open market would still result in the same amount of tax flowing to government coffers as well as opening a big Canadian wine market to local producers. But then we wouldn’t need the monopolies would we?
Now, back to reality. Another B.C. Day long weekend is not far off and the best I can say is let’s celebrate the local wines we can buy that the rest of the country can’t. Here’s a quick list of some head-turning B.C. wines I have recently tasted that may just change the way the rest of the free world looks at our wine, long before the rest of Canada finds out. To point out how inane the situation is, most of the wines the monopolies want to stop from being sold across provincial boundaries are not sold by the monopoly. Be sure to check the winery website for the latest in availability.
If you are a cabernet franc fan, two relative new comers River Stone 2012 Cabernet Franc River Rock Vineyards ($26) and the Fort Berens 2012 Cabernet Franc ($26) are knocking it out of the park. Equally impressive given how hard it is to ripen cabernet are the Nk’Mip Cellars 2012 Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) and the Burrowing Owl 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($35). Gamay noir the star grape of Beaujolais is finding its feet in B.C., led by a delicious Orofino 2013 Gamay Celentano Vineyard ($23) and a bargain Oak Bay Vineyard Gamay Noir 2012 ($17). Think of them as richer, juicer pinot noirs.
Bringing some love to the much neglected merlot category are the Poplar Grove 2010 Merlot ($30) along with a smooth dense juicy Bartier Bros. 2012 Merlot Cerqueira Vineyard ($27). The much maligned pinot gris category has three new game changers: Tightrope Pinot Gris 2013 ($19), Arrowleaf 2013 Pinot Gris ($17) and 50th Parallel Estate 2013 2013 Pinot Gris ($20).
I could go on, and will when the Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada are released this month but in the meantime it is safe to say whether we like it or not when it comes to wine, what happens in B.C. stays in B.C.