Monday night last week, walking to Provence Marinaside, with a light rain falling, did not deter me from the positive feelings about modernizing our wine regulations in BC. The Modernize Wine Association of BC Inaugural Fundraiser was kicking off, and I wanted to show my support. There are many rules and regulations for purchase and handling of liquor that are not outdated. The world and society evolves, so our liquor laws should evolve too.
As an example of a regulation that should be changed is the one that has shut down several charities from holding auctions of bottles of wine donated by wineries and wine agencies. This regulation caused the cancellation of Crush, an important fundraiser for the Belfry theatre in Victoria for example. As a way around this regulation, wine can be auctioned if it is together in a gift basket of items, but still we should not have to resort to such methods to support charities. Government agencies should not be effectively cutting off funding from charities, the arts & culture.
With the move to local food and wine, we have farmer’s markets across BC. As wine is a local product, it would be nice if wineries could have a booth at the farmer’s market where they could let people sample and buy their wine. Across the border in WA state, they have already begun to implement this.
What Does Modernize Wine Want to Accomplish?
- Allow Educational Wine Tastings. Current BC liquor law and policy does not permit the sampling of wine during wine education classes (such as WSET or ISG classes). <- These are very important classes to educate many of us in the wine and food field. I have taken several of the WSET courses, which has taught me a lot about wine, and would not be possible without tasting wine!
- Allow Wine Orders at Tasting Events. BC wineries and wine importers often participate in wine tasting events. Although people tasting the wines may love what they are tasting, current BC liquor policy does not permit retail stores to take orders for wine at any location other than their licensed premises. This simply makes it difficult for consumers to purchase wine. <- I have seen many events where people try wines and then are so excited about these wines, many of them SPEC items, that they want to place an order with a wine agency. Why not? If the agency, or private wine shop personnel are there in attendance, filling out an order form and taking credit card numbers, should be OK. The purchaser would then pick up the wine at the wine shop at a later date.
- Allow Secondary Tasting Rooms. BC wineries are currently only permitted to operate a single tasting room at the site of their winery. Many other jurisdictions permit secondary tasting rooms which encourages the growth of towns focused on wine tourism (e.g. Walla Walla, Woodinville, Healdsburg). <- I totally agree. One reason I love going to WA state to taste wines, is that many wineries have off-site / secondary tasting rooms in Woodinville. It is so convenient to try wines from 100-200 different wineries clustered together in Woodinville. I think these tasting rooms would be wonderful to have in Vancouver. It would promote our wines, boost tourism, and I think sales at private wine shops, and when people go to eat in one of our restaurants.
- Allow Off-Site Storage for Restaurants and Retail Stores. Current BC liquor policy requires that all wine and other alcohol must be stored within the licensed premises for restaurants and retailers. Off-site storage would make it much easier for stores and restaurants to manage their inventory and supply. <- sounds reasonable to me.
- Allow Restaurants to Purchase Wine from Private Stores. Currently, restaurants must buy all of their wine from a designated government liquor store which often has a limited selection or may be out of stock on particular products. <- again another reasonable request.
Who are the Modernize Wine Association of BC?
The Modernize Wine Association of BC is a registered non-profit BC society. It consists of members from throughout the Province of BC. The members represent the food/wine industry, the hospitality industry, as well as wine lovers. They are Executive Director: Frank Haddad, and Board of Directors: John Clerides, Mark Hicken (President), Sandra Oldfield, Karri Schuermans, John Skinner, Nessa Van Bergen (Treasurer), Julia Watt (Secretary). If you meet any of these people at a wine event, such as the Vancouver International Wine Festival this week, please shake their hand and tell them you support modernizing wine in BC.
Below is an excerpt video I produced of the speech given by Mark Hicken about our wine/liquor laws, and a few pictures from the event. Enjoy!