National News | Oct 17

Wine-makers depend on tourism, regulation changes to rectify late harvest troubles in BC

After a cool summer, the wine harvest in the Okanagan is running late.  Wine makers in the region are also up against rising costs, regulatory headaches and an August study that concludes B.C.’s wine sector is at risk of saturation.

But Glenn Fawcett, a Calgary entrepreneur who put together a group of investors to buy the highly regarded Black Hills winery in 2007, remains optimistic.  He is part of a growing wine community that features players ranging from industry heavyweight Vincor Canada to boutique wineries that produce a few hundred cases of wine a year.

A draft August report – The Wine Industry in British Columbia: Issues and Potential – cites a lack of co-ordination among the various players in the industry as one of several “vulnerabilities” facing the sector. The report also cites rising land costs, market saturation and dependence on tourism as risks for the sector.

Infographic: The booming B.C. wine industry

Mr. Fawcett, however, is counting on tourism to boost traffic and profits not only at his winery but for the region as a whole. He’s banking on the same kind of wine-loving clientele that helped him raise more than $10-million from investors willing to pay to own a piece of Black Hills.

On the regulatory front, some are pushing for changes that would make it legal to transport wine out of B.C. to other provinces.

This month, Okanagan-Coquihalla Conservative MP Dan Albas introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act of 1928.

The proposed amendment would allow a personal exemption people to take wine across provincial borders, similar to border crossing laws that exist on the national level at the Canada-US border.

B.C.’s reputation for quality wine dates to the 1989 Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States. It spelled an end to subsidies for B.C. wine and the beginning of regulatory changes designed to nurture a domestic wine industry.

Now, some suggest it’s time for some of those regulations to change again.

Currently, B.C. regulations require land-based wineries to own their own land and processing facilities – requirements than can push startup costs past $1-million for even a small wine-making operation.

Regulatory models such as Washington State’s allow wine processing to occur off-site and could open the door to smaller wine-making startups.

To take advantage of Canada’s exceptional wine-making products, visit your nearest Duty Free Canada land border location before you cross into the U.S. You will see fantastic selection on wines at a discounted, tax-free price!

With files from The Globe and Mail.


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