Wine will flow to Saskatchewan

South Okanagan winery owners say removal of barriers for shipping wine across B.C. and Saskatchewan is a step in the right direction.

Cynthia and David Enns of the Laughing Stock Winery in their shipping room at their Naramata Road location.

While the removal of barriers for shipping wine across B.C. and Saskatchewan is a step in the right direction, involvement is needed by other Canadian provinces, says the co-owner of a Naramata Bench Winery.

“This has been such a long struggle to get the provinces to respond to the federal law change,” said Cynthia Enns, co-owner of Laughing Stock Vineyards. “It’s good to see Saskatchewan change its laws.”

Enns added that although Saskatchewan isn’t a large market for B.C. wines compared to some other provinces, she’s hoping the move will pressure the key wine markets in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec to follow. Enns said she’s been told that discussions have begun in those provinces in consideration of removing the shipping barriers and examining a mechanism as to how taxes would be collected for shipping out of province.

“I have no problem with paying appropriate taxes as we do with our B.C. sales,” said Enns. “We pay a 10 per cent liquor tax and I have absolutely no issue in remitting the same to said province if they figure a recording tool for us to do that.”

Consumers in either province will be able to order wines and craft spirits directly from producers in the other provinces and have them delivered once the deal takes effect next June.

The agreement was concluded by Premier Christy Clark and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall at a premiers’ meeting in Charlottetown.

She finds it frustrating that Canadian wine consumers lack convenient access to Canadian-made wines.

“We are in all of the proper liquor board (stores) in all of the provinces that are still holding out, but I have to say working through the liquor boards to get on their shelves is a very arduous, long process, and the pricing the consumer has to pay is punitive,” said Enns.

She noted that they’ve been breaking the law in that they’ve been shipping their wine to customers across Canada for some time, but added they aren’t the only ones to do so.

“Most of the wineries are just ignoring the laws right now, because it’s ridiculous,” said Enns. “We’re kind of all flying under the radar. I don’t think any of the liquor boards would actually take action at this point.

Saskatchewan joins B.C. and Manitoba in offering direct access to Canadian wines and once implemented, consumers in both provinces will be able to order B.C. or Saskatchewan wines and craft spirits directly from producers, and have them delivered to their doorstep.

Previously, consumers were restricted to wines or spirits that were available for sale through Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority stores in Saskatchewan, and B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch and private liquor stores in British Columbia.

“B.C.’s wine industry has earned a strong reputation internationally for quality and value, and thanks to this agreement, more people right here in Canada will be able to enjoy the high-quality BC VQA wines grown and produced in B.C.,” said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of the BC Wine Institute.

Tyler Dyck of the BC Craft Distillers Guild said it is pleased to see that B.C. and Saskatchewan have committed to removing barriers to access for consumers to Canadian products.

“Access to new markets is important as we look to build on the strength of our growing industry,” he said.

Since March 2013, B.C. has worked extensively with other provincial and territorial officials on looking at ways to open up domestic markets for B.C. wines. The terms of the agreement will be drafted in the coming weeks for implementation June 17, 2015.