Levelling the playing field for Canadian wines

American tourists traveling through Canada, are curious questions about how expensive all the wines seem to be up here.

  • Nov. 9, 2011 5:00 a.m.

~By Andrea Pollock

One of the things I hear from American tourists travelling through Canada, are curious questions about how expensive all the wines seem to be up here.

I have to admit that after taking a few trips to the states over the years I am rather jealous of the sheer glut of beautiful wines that are available at very cheap prices.  Two buck chuck isn’t just a cute way of describing inexpensive wines in the United States – you can actually find wine that sells for $2 per bottle!  For us as Canadians, we know this just doesn’t happen.  The comparisons that I hear about are major California based brands that sell for $4 a bottle in the United States, but show up on Canadian liquor store shelves for $13.  Why is there such a difference?

In large part the liquor and wine sales in Canada are controlled by a very small group of people.  Imagine for a second that we allowed wine agents to import wines from California, mark them up slightly and sell them in liquor stores across Canada at competitive prices like $6 per bottle.  How on earth would we ever sell home grown Canadian wines that can barely be produced for that price?  Make no mistake – wine is a big business like many others, there are lobbyists, policy makers, people on the take and a young industry that is trying to grow and gain credibility.

In order to protect the interests of Canadian wine producers, it is a much better idea to price imported wines from other countries competitively on their taste profile rather than strictly their import price.  Unfortunately for the Canadian consumer there is little comfort in this knowledge, except that you are helping to support a young industry with strong growth potential and eventual economies of scale.  As Canadian wines get better and better, we will actually see the value of import wines increase as well because they will remain competitively priced with a high product quality.

While we may not be getting these wines at the smoking deals that they see in the U.S., these are some great California wines that you can pick up and still count on for great value.

Wines of the week

Fish Eye Chardonnay 2008 [California]

A refreshing nose that pops with mandarin orange, pineapple flesh and potted flowers.  The wine has a brightness when it hits the tongue matched with a smooth, full flavour of oaky citrus and toasted corn.  Enjoyable by itself or would be an elegant touch to many meals – try this with a nice roasted chicken or for lunch with a turkey BLT.  91/100 $9.99 [BC Liquor Stores] (April 22, 2011)

Flip Flop Pinot Grigio 2010 – [California]

A nose of melon, spring air and long grass.  A bright sting of sharp acid starts off this wine, followed by strong citrus flavours of lemon and orange zest with a nice little bit of chalkiness.  87/100 (August 7, 2011)

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