Uncorking old laws: Canadian wine could soon be sold across provinces, lawyer says
Featherstone Estate Winery owner Louise Engel (left) and senior winemaker David Johnson tuck vines on Wednesday July 16, 2008 in Vineland, Ont. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Sheryl Nadler)
Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, April 29, 2016 9:58PM EDT
A Vancouver-based lawyer specializing in the tricky rules around selling Canadian wine says winemakers are excited about a “breakthrough” court decision that could pave the way for regional vintages to be sold across provincial lines.
Mark Hicken, a lawyer with the Vintage Law Group, says the Canadian wine industry may soon be “on the same footing” as winemakers in many other countries.
“If you told somebody from Paris that they couldn’t buy wine from Bordeaux, they’d look at you aghast,” Hicken told CTV News Channel Friday.
The potential shift comes after a New Brunswick judge ruled Friday that the province’s limit on alcohol purchases in other provinces is unconstitutional.
The decision ended a years-long case against Gerard Comeau, a retired man from Tracadie, N.B., who was fined $292 and charged with illegally importing alcohol in 2012 when he was caught bringing 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor into New Brunswick from Quebec.
But Hicken says any changes likely won’t happen overnight. He says the New Brunswick decision could be appealed and move through the legal system all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
While more time in court would delay any changes, Hicken says it could establish a binding legal precedent across the country.
“And I think that would be beneficial. It would be great for wineries and wine consumers to know that it’s actually legal to purchase alcohol from other parts of the same country,” he said.
The Canadian wine industry is largely centred in small, grape-friendly regions in B.C. and southern Ontario, but small-scale vineyards and fruit wine are produced in nearly every province.
Wine from across Canada can already be purchased through provincial regulators, but the new decision could pave the way for a wine lover in Nova Scotia to directly order a bottle from the Okanagan Valley.
The latest Statistics Canada figures estimate that Canadian winemakers shipped $784.5 million worth of wine and related products, such as cider and fruit wines, in 2006.
Eliminating provincial wine rules would break down “significant barriers” to the wine industry’s “restricted” market and open up new business, Hicken said.
“It’s an exciting case both for the wine industry and wine consumers,” Hicken said. “If (winemakers) are able to ship to everywhere in Canada, then obviously you get (35 million) potential customers, which is tremendously beneficial to the industry as a whole.”