Postcard #2 From a Troubled Wine Region

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 05-19-2011

Courtesy of Zelda Sydney

Greetings, again, from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), three hours’ drive from the Okanagan wine-producing region. I last offered Terroirist readers the gloomy portrait of BC’s wine industry as painted by a local university policy wonk. Now, more bad news:

Vivid pink Japanese cherry blossoms have just finished blooming here, announcing Springtime for the West Coast. But anyone in an alcohol-related business might be thinking less ‘Spring’ and more ‘Thanksgiving.’ Why? Because the government monopoly business/regulatory agency that controls all alcohol movement in the province often keeps orders under lockdown in a bonded warehouse for lengthy periods of time and without reason. Retailers and restaurants need to think months in advance to ensure that they’ll have inventory they ordered.

Being forced to think “Pinot Noir and roast turkey” when customers are gearing up for “chilled rosé under hot July sun” is one of many complaints that BC’s restaurant owners and sort-of-private alcohol retailers have against their overseer/regulator and direct competitor, the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB).

If George Orwell and the Three Stooges created a business model, the BCLDB could be the fruit of their partnership. If the BCLDB were a film, maybe a remake of ‘The Parallax View’ with an MW in Robert Redford’s role, and sinister Parallax Corporation trying to assassinate…BC’s budding wine culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Postcard from a Troubled Wine Region

Posted by | Posted in Wine Where? | Posted on 03-21-2011

Greetings from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, judged for the fifth consecutive year by The Economist to be the world’s most livable city. What makes Vancouver so great? Lots of things might, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll argue its vicinity to one of Canada’s two winemaking regions.

The up-and-coming Okanagan region is a mere few hours’ drive from the city (just north of Washington State and the Canada/US border), where 190 wineries are producing fair-to-very-good-quality wines from mostly classic varieties. The region lacks a signature regional wine, but BC icewine is recognized as world class, and some Chardonnays have won international attention.

So, it’s a vibrant and thriving wine community…or is it? Not so much, according to a buzz-killing new research study conducted through Simon Fraser University and Genome Canada. Political scientist Andy Hira, Ph.D., conducted policy-motivated research on the Okanagan wine industry, and his report emerged with a laundry list of critical industry troubles. Read the rest of this entry »