Government pours it on, declares April B.C. Wine Month

Alberta’s loss, B.C.s wine drinkers gain

With Alberta’s threat to put an embargo on B.C. wines now reaching maturity, John Horgan’s NDP government is uncorking several initiatives to help the wine industry including a proclamation declaring April B.C. Wine Month.

The B.C. government announced late Wednesday afternoon it was ramping up support for the industry which includes 929 vineyards and over 350 licensed wineries.

RELATED: Wine war puts Okanagan vintners in a tough position

On the government’s list is creating increased opportunities to have B.C. wines in local B.C. Liquor Stores for those small and medium producers that choose to do so.

Other initiatives include storefront displays, a greater variety of in-store tastings, and funding to support the marketing of B.C. VQA wines to international markets.

Charlie Baessler, president of the Similkameen Independent Winegrowers, a group of small, boutique wineries near Keremeos, said he was appreciative of the government’s support and saw the proclamation as a chance to tap into some free social media type marketing.

“I can see this being used on social media levels, a sort of BCWineMonth hashtag kind of thing. It’s a great way to make people excited about B.C. wine and things of that nature,” he said.

RELATED: Wine ban hasn’t got our winegrowers worried

But, Baessler didn’t see most of the boutique wineries in the Similkameen placing their products in government liquor stores mainly because of the process involved in getting there and the desire to be selective of where their wine is sold.

“It isn’t just ‘hey, I want to put some wine in the local government liquor store,’ so, I’m going to head down there with a case and put it there. There’s a process that involves a bunch of steps and for most of us here in the Similkameen it isn’t necessarily the place where we want to sell our wine just because we have other avenues. It’s a personal choice for each winery,” he said.

Baessler, who owns Corcelettes Estate Winery, said he understood the B.C. government is in tough spot and respects any initiatives they bring forward but quipped, “an epic move would be for them not to charge us PST. That would certainly make an impact,” he said with a laugh.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton was not as kind with his criticism of the government’s April is B.C. Wine Month idea. In a tweet sent out shortly after the government’s announcement he said, “sorry to say that ‘wine month’ will not help wineries make payroll or offset lost revenue from the Albertan market.”

The government also plans to fund an expansion of the Buy B.C.: Eat Drink Local campaign to further develop partnerships between the B.C. Wine Institute and the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Services Association.

“B.C.’s wine industry is made up of family-run vineyards and wineries that have chosen farming and wine-making as their passion and their profession,” stated Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham in the government press release. “In addition to delivering fantastic wine, they also provide good jobs in communities throughout the province, and we are proud to shine a spotlight on the work they do and the wine they make. We told British Columbians we would fight for our wine-making community, and devoting an entire month to B.C. wines is a wonderful way to do just that.”

Initiatives in support of B.C.’s wine industry will be developed in the context of B.C.’s existing trade obligations, the government press release stated.

Fast Facts (provided by the B.C. government):

There are just under 3,900 hectares of wine grapes grown in B.C.

Over 60 different grape varieties are produced in the province, including Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

In 2016, B.C. wine exports increased four per cent over the previous year to $9.7 million shipped to 17 international markets.

Ice wine exports were $1.8 million of the total.

The top markets for B.C. wine were China (54 per cent), Taiwan (23 per cent) and the United States (11 per cent).

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