This week, the British Columbia provincial government announced some wine law reforms to continue to open things up and update laws, many of which date back to Prohibition.
It’s one small step for the wine industry but is probably feeling like one giant leap for the Liquor board, but even small victories are welcome in this wine land where public and private co-mingle.
Among the reforms:
- Private liquor stores can now set up shop next door to government stores. Previously, there was a 1km minimum limit unless the general manager was willing to waive the rule.
- Independent wine stores and VQA wine stores are included in a category of wine stores that are now considered licensees. What does this mean, you ask? Basically, it makes everyone subject to the same regulator. Wholesale prices won’t be affected, and no new licenses will be granted at least at this time.
- Breweries and distillers can now more freely operate tasting rooms.
- Small or mid sized wineries (and breweries and such) can now have a direct relationship with up to three retail establishments (e.g., bar, restaurant, private liquor store).
- And, last but definitely not least, the provincial government has appointed Herb Leroy as “Wine Envoy”, tasking him with helping to open up interprovincial wine shipping laws. And it looks like Herb is quick to get going. At least he’s updated his LinkedIn account to state Wine Envoy as his current job.
To get down to the nitty gritty and a sense of the ridiculousness posed when these laws were not yes passed, hop on over the Mark Hicken’s Wine Law website.
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“Free my grapes was the rallying cry on Parliament Hill on Tuesday as a committee heard from supporters of a private member’s bill seeking to erase a 1928 rule that restricts individuals from bringing wine across provincial borders.” according to Yahoo News today. For more on this story, click here.
We’re angry and we’re not gonna take it anymore!
That’s the battle cry of more and more Canadian wine drinkers and industry folks in British Columbia, that west coast province touting itself the best place on earth, but with ugly wine laws dating back to prohibition that make it illegal to take wine across provincial borders.
The movement started gradually and was slow to pick up speed, but it’s shaking off the sluggishness and becoming an avalanche of popular opinion. Mark Hicken at WineLaw.ca has spoken out for some time with truths that reveal the insanity of these laws. The Free My Grapes website, run by the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers – a grassroots, volunteer alliance of wine lovers whose goal is to change the provincial and federal laws so Canadians can purchase not-for-resale wine directly from Canadian wineries in other provinces and have it shipped to their homes – has also done well in spreading the word about these laws. Notable wine folk like Anthony Gismondi have spoken out on their twitter feeds, and now it’s gotten to the point that Terry David Mulligan hopes to get arrested..
Thankfully, splinters of government are taking note, and doing something. Ron Cannan, the Conservative incumbent MP for Kelowna-Lake Country “tabled a motion to amend the law to allow consumers to purchase wine directly from out-of-province wineries. Motion 601, however, died on the order paper when the election was called. Mr. Cannan has vowed to reintroduce it if he’s re-elected and is optimistic about garnering all-party support.”
And they should be angry. You should be angry! Why? Because neither the federal government nor the B.C. government, which currently runs the gambling and booze in this ocean-hugging province, hasn’t done a thing about it for decades. …and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. From the notoriously astounding 120+ % wine tax markup to restrictions that make it nigh impossible for independent winemakers to begin wineries without major capital (just ask winemaker Bradley Cooper from Black Cloud) and a slew of other laws, restrictions, and regulations that we can sink our teeth into further another day.
I’d urge you to learn more about these issues at sites like Free the Wine! and Free My Grapes. Have your voice heard. Demand reform. With this malcontent avalanche of public voices, we can promote change. And a chink in the armor of government can lead to further changes to make it easier for winemakers to make wine, wine retailers/wholesalers to sell wine, and wine lovers – like you – to enjoy wine.