B.C. allows expands wine market with direct sales

B.C. wine lovers got some good news when the province announced another change to regulations around shipping wines between provinces.

B.C. wine lovers got some good news yesterday when the province announced another change to regulations around shipping wines between provinces.

Thursday morning, Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for liquor, announced that B.C. vinophiles can now order their wine of choice from wineries in other provinces and have it shipped directly to them.

“I am very excited about the announcement and this really opens the door to free trade in wine in Canada, and that was the true intent of the bill,” said Penticton MP Dan Albas, the sponsor of the bill.

In the wake of Bill C-311 being passed in June, Coleman first announced a regulation allowing residents to bring back a limited amount of wine and other spirits with them, but expressly excluded direct shipping.

There was an immediate, strong backlash from both wine buyers and makers who had hoped that the passage of the bill would open up a freer trade in wines between provinces.

Coleman said that B.C. was now taking the lead and setting an example he hoped other provinces would follow.

“Leading by example is good,” said Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. “Every province has things they have to figure out, but it always helps when someone takes the lead and does something like this. I have great hopes.”

The new regulation supports bringing wine into the province, but B.C. wineries will still be unable to do direct shipping other than to provinces adopting similar measures.

Oldfield and other wine producers may not have long to wait. Albas said Manitoba and Alberta are already on board, and he feels they are also making progress in Ontario.

“We encourage other jurisdictions to take immediate steps to reciprocate by opening up their borders and allow all Canadians to order wine over the Internet,” said Coleman. “B.C. produces world-renowned wines and we want residents in all provinces to enjoy them.”

Oldfield said the direct sales market is important, especially for the smaller wineries. But, she said, it’s about more than just selling more wine.

“I have never seen it from a huge bonanza of sales, but I have seen it as it driving more people to have an awareness of B.C. wines, so that when they come out to visit us, they chose to come to wineries that they already have a connection with,” she said. “I have always seen it as a much bigger thing to bringing more people in through our front doors and tourism, than I have with e-commerce.”

Wine directly shipped from a winery in another Canadian jurisdiction to B.C. residents will be exempt from provincial mark-ups. To be eligible for direct shipping the wine ingredients must be 100-per-cent grown and produced in the province it is being shipped from, and the wine must be for personal consumption only.

There is no limit on the number of bottles that can be shipped, provided they are for personal consumption.

“I have great faith the other provinces will do the same. I am just trying to stay ultra positive,” said Oldfield. “Things are happening at high speed right now but you get far with little baby steps and staying positive. Challenges can also provide opportunities and that is definitely how I see this announcement.”