IDEAL FOR CELEBRATIONS
Reds tie beautifully with beef feast
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.