August 23, 2013

Free the flow of my grapes

There was a time when “Canadian wine” would have been considered an oxymoron in the order of “Florida maple syrup.”

But no, times, and presumably climates, have changed. These days, some world-quality wines are the product of vineyards in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Maritime provinces Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island also have credible but limited local wine industries.

According to the Canadian Vintners Association, 500 wineries exist in Canada, squeezing and fermenting the grapes from some 1,700 vineyards. Most of these wineries are small time, although there are a few large-volume producers.

Last year Canada exported more than 26 million litres of wine, worth about $41 million. That’s double the volume of only five years ago.

As you read this, depending on the appropriate time zone, someone in China, the United States, Russia, Japan or South Korea is washing down a meal with a fine Canuck wine.

You might say things are looking very rosy for the Canadian wine industry; but thanks to a law that critics say has passed its time and gone off, grape-growers are griping that their domestic sales are being corked.

The law, adopted in 1928, is called officially the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, and it says “no person shall import, send, take or transport or cause to be imported, sent, taken or transported into any province from or out of any place within or outside Canada any intoxicating liquor.”

What it means is that no one can buy wine from a producer in one province and bring it to another. It also means the same ban on the shipping of said wine, which puts a damper on Internet trade.

The law, of course, was intended to thwart the traffic in booze during the Prohibition period, and, frankly, it probably could have stayed on the books as is forever had not Canadians developed a knack and taste for homemade wine.

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