There has been much discussion in the last couple of years about the ‘Free My Grapes’ campaign in Canada (see www.freemygrapes.ca). Most people believe that when private member’s Bill C-311 passed unanimously in Parliament last year, repealing an 84-year-old federal prohibition-era law, the issue was solved. Alas, in varying degrees, the provinces have stepped in to mitigate the freedoms that bill was intended to allow. I have been a big proponent of winery-to-consumer delivery legalization across Canada for quite a while and will try to articulate my ‘Top Ten Reasons’ we should allow for doing this (all data from the recent 2013 Canadian Vintner’s Survey www.canadianvintners.com).
1. Supports farmers and small business. There are almost 1,700 grape growers and vineyards across Canada supporting over 27,500 acres of land. Of the 476 licensed Canadian wineries, 94% are classified as small enterprises. Impeding small business and farmers is not a very popular stance to take these days.
2. Taxes will be collected. Contrary to what some may think, wineries are not trying to sidestep paying provincial taxes by selling direct to consumers. Canadian wineries pay $879 million in federal, provincial and local taxes.
Believe me: winery owners know taxes are a part of life, and death. The provincial governments should find a unified way for wineries to remit the proper taxes when shipping wines to consumers outside their home provinces.
3. Wine is personal. Making connections with wineries is imperative for consumers who are passionate about wine. Being able to speak directly to the winery when ordering a special case of wine is paramount to helping the wineries build a loyal consumer following. The world is marching toward direct marketing to consumers all products and Canadian wineries do not want to be left out.
4. Liquor board sales will increase. Imagine you purchase a mixed case of wines from your new favourite Canadian wine club and fall in love with their Pinot Gris. One night you find you’ve drunk all of that Gris, but you need more for your dinner that night. Chances are low you will call the winery, wait for the shipment to arrive and forego drinking wine that night. A more likely scenario is you will go to your local liquor store and buy another bottle of Canadian Pinot Gris – or even a non-Canadian Pinot Gris to satisfy your desire. Either way, that one shipment increased provincial liquor board sales. When consumers are exposed to more Canadian wine they drink more Canadian wine.
5. The U.S. did it. This is as good a reason as any. Since I have lived in Canada for 20 vintages, I have learned this reason alone gets things done in Canada.
6. Help drag Canada out of the laughing stock category in the world of wine producing countries. You are sitting in a Paris café and your maître d brings you a wine list with no French wines on it. When asked why he explains there are no interprovincial trade agreements between the provinces of Ile-de-France (Paris) and Burgundy or Bordeaux. Now you see why our Canadian wine laws look so silly and archaic.
As an aside, the word “export” should never be used when referring to sales of wine between Canadian provinces. The verb “export” in the dictionary is defined as “to send goods or services to another COUNTRY for sale.”
7. Help boost local tourism. From the quaint towns of Annapolis to Quebec’s Eastern Townships to Pelee Island to OK Falls, small towns in Canada benefit when winery-to-consumer shipments are legal. Once you’ve connected with a vintner you have a much greater chance of making the trip to visit them someday. Did I mention that the total impact of wine related tourism across our country is $1.2 billion annually?
8. People will do it anyway. The great military commander, Hannibal, purportedly said, “We will either find a way or make one.” True enough.
9. Raise consumption of a Canadian Product in Canada. Canada ranks 16 in world wine consumption but only 32% of what it drinks is Canadian wine. Contrast that to Argentina at 96%, Italy at 93%, the United States at 66% and even Russia at 50%. (from www.wgao.ca ) There is certainly much, MUCH more room for Canadians to be drinking more Canadian wine.
10. Build a Canadian Wine Culture. What is a Canadian wine culture you might ask? Well, Free My Grapes and 476 Canadian wineries are waiting to show you!