Vintage wine laws need re-thinking

In 2013, the wine bloggers conference is coming to Penticton. Wouldn’t it be nice if the attendees, at least the Canadian ones, were able to ship some Okanagan wines home to enjoy there?

As it stands now, they would be committing a criminal act if they tried, thanks to a 1928 law restricting the shipment of wine across provincial borders unless it is purchased by or on behalf of a provincial liquor board.

It’s often referred to as a prohibition-era statute, but in truth it comes from just after the alcohol prohibition laws were repealed in 1927.

That’s when the government brought in the shipping regulations, along with a near 50-year moratorium on licences for new wineries, which was lifted in 1974.

But the ban on shipping wines, or any alcohol, has lingered. In 1974, it was probably not that noticeable. The few B.C. wine producers of the time were larger interests, with the resources to deal with the liquor boards.

But times have changed. The release of the moratorium means there are hundreds of small wineries, and the internet and online ordering makes it easy for them to bypass liquor boards and deal directly with their customers in other provinces.

That is, if the regulations didn’t make that a criminal act.

And politicians have been talking about changing the law for a couple of years now. Everyone seems to agree that it’s bad for business and puts the smaller operations at a huge competitive disadvantage.

But governments move glacially slow, and even then progress can be lost through an election, like the private members bill to amend the act submitted by Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, which had to be re-submitted in June.

It’s really up to the people to show the government this is an important issue and we’ve only got two years left to make sure those wine bloggers can take home some samples of B.C. wines.

After all, even if they are from Toronto, don’t they deserve a taste of B.C.’s finest wines too?

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