Reds tie beau­ti­fully with beef feast

Vancouver Sun - - YOU - AN­THONY GISMONDI

B.C. gro­cery stores li­censed to sell wine were handed a sig­nif­i­cant up­grade last week thanks to the new tri­lat­eral trade deal be­tween Canada, Mex­ico and the United States. In what amounts to a side covenant be­tween Canada and the United States, it was agreed that wine sold on B.C. su­per­mar­ket shelves is no longer limited to lo­cal bot­tles.

If you missed the im­ple­men­ta­tion of one of the dumb­est B.C. liquor laws — and there have been many — B.C. gro­cery stores were given two op­tions by Christy Clark’s govern­ment for sell­ing wine in gro­cery: a “wine on shelf ” op­tion granted to B.C.-only wine and a cum­ber­some “store within a store” op­tion af­forded im­ported wine that kept it out of the main­stream shop­ping aisles and gro­cery carts.

The bla­tant favouritism in­flamed U.S. winer­ies, who lob­bied their fed­eral govern­ment to do some­thing about it. En­ter Don­ald Trump and his bel­liger­ent trade ne­go­tia­tors who quickly ex­ploited the hand­cuffs placed on im­port wines, turn­ing a mi­nor trade is­sue into a sig­nif­i­cant bar­gain­ing chip.

In the end, with the USMCA deal hang­ing in the bal­ance, the Amer­i­cans asked Canada to al­low Amer­i­can wine to be sold on gro­cery store shelves in B.C., and Cana­dian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land con­firmed that Canada would do so.

To be clear, it’s not just the U.S. who were com­plain­ing un­der WTO rules, The Euro­pean Union, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Ar­gentina and Chile were among those re­serv­ing their third-party rights to take on the rul­ing. To say it is a mess is an un­der­state­ment, but most of it stems from the mis­guided idea that B.C. wine needs to be pro­tected from the rest of the wine world.

B.C. con­sumers have done noth­ing but sup­port the B.C. wine in­dus­try from day one, beg­ging the ques­tion: Do lo­cal winer­ies need any fur­ther pro­tec­tion?

A quick sur­vey of B.C. wine would sug­gest that re­cent sales of B.C. winer­ies have been at astro­nom­i­cal prices. B.C. vine­yard prices are the high­est they have ever been, ri­valling those of Cal­i­for­nia and Europe. Grape prices — if you can find any­thing on the open mar­ket — are im­pos­si­bly high, and B.C. wine prices have never been higher than they are to­day.

One might say there is noth­ing to fear but fear it­self. Gro­cery stores, like pri­vate wine stores and govern­ment stores, do not have to buy any wine they don’t want to sell. Save- On-Foods has re­peat­edly stated its com­mit­ted to com­mu­nity and lo­cal prod­ucts and that it is not in­ter­ested in sell­ing any­thing but lo­cal wine, mak­ing the Cal­i­for­nia wine ques­tion moot.

There could be more bad news for Cal­i­for­nia wine pro­duc­ers on a much broader front. Cana­di­ans ap­pear to be tir­ing of all things Trump. From his Twit­ter tirades and trade tac­tics to his ob­vi­ous lack of ethics and moral­ity it seems to me it would easy for Cana­di­ans to sim­ply look else­where for wine. There are sev­eral groups al­ready look­ing at op­tions to buy any­thing but Amer­i­can in the food sec­tor and there is no rea­son it couldn’t hap­pen in the wine sec­tor.

None of this ex­cuses the pri­vate wine shop /gro­cery store liquor de­ba­cle in Bri­tish Columbia. The pri­vate sec­tor liquor busi­ness is hang­ing on by a thread, while B.C. Liquor Stores and its right-hand part­ner LDB Whole­sale Op­er­a­tions (the pri­vate sec­tor’s im­porter, reg­u­la­tor and chief com­peti­tor) is re­port­ing record prof­its.

There is some­thing about free trade and com­pe­ti­tion that brings out the worst in Cana­dian leg­is­la­tion, and es­pe­cially our liquor mo­nop­o­lies.

But not all hope is lost. With the ar­rival of le­gal­ized cannabis this month means a new, high­ly­fi­nanced sec­tor of Cana­dian busi­ness will be­gin to in­ter­act with the B.C. LDB, the self ap­pointed, sole whole­sale dis­trib­u­tor of non-med­i­cal cannabis for the prov­ince.

Maybe when it takes six weeks to ship cannabis across the city and it ar­rives with 30 per cent of the or­der miss­ing, its new busi­ness “part­ners” will be able to ef­fect some change. Stay tuned.

Whole roasted beef ten­der­loin with horse­rad­ish hol­landaise pairs well with red wines such as Caber­net Sauvi­gnon or Syrah.

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