B.C. Wine Institute rejects California group's claim that liquor reforms break international trade rules

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      B.C. wine producers have leaped to the defence of the provincial government in a looming trade dispute with California's Wine Institute.

      In a news release issued today, B.C. Wine Institute chair Josie Tyabji claimed that the province "has done its due diligence in working to meet consumer requests during [B.C. Liberal MLA] John Yap's Liquor Policy Review".

      "California's wine industry representatives are misinformed if they believe B.C. is working outside trade regulations," Tyabji stated.

      Tyabji's comments came after Tom LaFaille, vice president and international-trade counsel with California's Wine Institute, told the Straight that his group has been in "close contact with the Obama administration" about three liquor reforms announced on December 19.

      The California group, which represents 1,000 wineries and businesses, wrote a letter to the premier objecting to the B.C. government's plan to allow a limited number of licences to sell only B.C. wine in grocery stores. It also complained about letting VQA and independent wine store licences be transferred to grocery stores less than a kilometre from other public or private liquor stores.

      In addition, the California group opposes allowing grocery stores to sell 100-percent-B.C. wine on designated shelves starting April 1.

      California's Wine Institute has called for these policies to be amended or scrapped, alleging they violate international trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement.

      The B.C. Wine Institute, however, said that B.C. VQA licences (which allow for the exclusive sale of B.C. wine) were "grandfathered into trade agreements".

      Meanwhile, the organization's CEO, Miles Prodan, said in the news release that similar trade concerns were expressed about allowing B.C. liquor to be sold at farmers markets.

      "I'm not convinced increased consumer convenience for B.C. wine in grocery stores is as much a trade agreement issue as it is about others wanting to protect their market share," Prodan stated.



      Vancouver wine shopper

      Feb 3, 2015 at 12:36pm

      It is silly that BC wine institute rejects their claims. BC wineries should be forced to compete with worldwide wines on equal terms. If BC wine is that great, it will sell well. Taxes should be reduced to encourage more people to try and buy BC wine. Currently, BC wine is too expensive. This is partly because BC wineries are smaller with less economies of scale. That is why tax should be reduced to make their wine more affordable. Most people do not want to pay or can afford to pay over $30 for a bottle of wine. Currently, wines from California and Italy are better value. Better wine for less cost.

      N. Golley

      Feb 3, 2015 at 5:24pm

      I agree taxes on wines are too high better to lower them too encourage better sales for BC wines.
      You can buy BC wines in Alberta cheaper than here.


      Feb 3, 2015 at 11:23pm

      Our government is too stupid and short sighted to wake up on the fact that their 100%+ tax rates have done far more damage than good.