As we have all heard by now, Alberta has banned the import of BC wines into the province as part of an ongoing disagreement over pipeline policy. The media jumped right in and began to spew out endless statistics explaining what this ban would mean for Alberta and for BC wineries. It was rather disappointing, but hardly unexpected, to see so much misleading information given out in the media.
The problem centers around the difference between what people think of as BC wine and what the laughably lax laws regarding place of origin allow in this county. One article stated that the ban was going to be a big deal because almost 29% of wine purchased in Alberta is “BC wine” and that the trade in “BC wine” was worth over $70 million every year. What they do not mention is that the vast majority of “BC wine” sold in Alberta has little actual wine from BC in it. Any wine from BC that sells for less than $15 or $20 is very unlikely to have a lot of BC juice in it. Most of these products are imported in bulk from the US, Chile, or even farther afield, blended with as little as 10% domestic wine and, until very recently, labeled as “Cellared and Bottled in Canada”. I believe the current rules require the label to say somewhere in the small print that the wine is “blended from domestic and imported wines.” People who buy these wines are deliberately deceived and believe they are supporting the Canadian wine industry.
Another article stated that several of the top ten wines in Alberta were “BC wines”, including Copper Moon Shiraz and Jackson-Triggs Pinot Grigio. Oy Vey!
For those of you who want to drink genuine Canadian wines, look for the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) designation on the label, talk with a wine geek you trust, and shop in a place that cares what they sell, and they will point you to the genuine BC wines. Just don’t expect to find them in the big chain store’s weekend flyer for $6.99/btl.
Jeff Sparling is the general manager of Fine Wines by Liquor Select and a wine enthusiast.