Sipping on a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a wee dram of scotch has been part of Canada’s culture for the past 150 years. During this time, the value-added production of beverage alcohol from farm to glass has evolved, but its linkages with gastronomy, history, tradition, origin, local quality products and social settings remain a part of everyday life for the vast majority of Canadians.
The wine industry is unique. It is rooted in Canadian soil. The workers can’t simply rip out their vines and move elsewhere. Vintners are bound to the land—the terroir. Our diverse geographical landscape is what sets us apart in the global wine economy. In fact, Canada’s wine industry has a deep history pre-dating Canada’s constitution.
In 1811 in Cooksville, Ont., the first commercial vineyards opened, and in 1871 Vin Villa, Canada’s first estate winery opened on Pelee Island in Ontario. Following the dark ages of prohibition that swept across the country from 1901-1930, in 1932 Calona Wines, the first winery in British Columbia, opened in Kelowna. Forty years later and on the East Coast, in 1972 the first commercial vineyards were planted in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, building a foundation for years of culinary pleasure and tourism to come.
In 1989-1990, the development of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), a regulatory appellation system guaranteeing quality and authenticity of origin for Canadian wines, was adopted in Ontario and British Columbia. Shortly after, in 1991, Ontario-based Inniskillin became the first Canadian winery to win a major international award in Bordeaux, France, thus placing an international spotlight on Canadian ice wine, now our largest export.
Fast forward to 2017: the Canadian wine industry is made up of almost 700 grape wineries and 1,300 independent grape growers, contributing $9-billion to the national economy. Each grape-growing region is unique, with their own marketing bodies such as the British Columbia Wine Institute, the Wine Association of Nova Scotia and the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario (to name a few) that drive tourism and provide provincial and federal contact.
Grapes and wine are a prime example of success for Canada’s value-added agri-food industry. From vineyard development and grape cultivation to winemaking and bottling, our compounded impact extends well-beyond cellar door sales and employment, with strong links to tourism, retail sales, bars and restaurants across Canada. As a result, the domestic wine industry helps support more than 37,000 jobs and is motivation for more than 3.7 million tourists visiting Canadian wineries each year.
Unfortunately, depending on your geographical location, interprovincial barriers continue to be an obstacle to Canadians wanting to have wine shipped from our wine-thriving provinces. British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are the only jurisdictions in Canada that have permitted inter-provincial wine delivery.
This means that only 19 per cent of Canadians can legally order award-winning Canadian wines delivered to their out-of-province home. These are wines that are not readily available
in liquor retail stores in their home province.
In its June 2016 report Tear Down These Walls: Dismantling Canada’s Internal Trade Barriers, the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce identified wine as number three on its top list of barriers to trade, and called for the removal of internal barriers by July 1, 2017. In light of the Canada Free Trade Agreement, finalized in early 2017, provincial premiers have agreed to a working group on the interprovincial trade of alcohol with the goal of creating a more open domestic market. What could be a perfect gift to celebrate our 150th birthday?!