Nanaimo wineries are expressing both optimism and reservations about a recent trade agreement announcement between B.C., Ontario and Quebec.
The inter-provincial agreement will make all B.C. wines more accessible to residents of Ontario and Quebec and will reduce bureaucracy for local wineries, the provincial government said. B.C. wines will now be available for sale through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario website, a practice that was previously illegal in that province.
Natalie Riga, owner of Chateau Wolff Estate Winery, said her operation sells primarily to Vancouver Island, but welcomes the announcement. Online ordering is something she could consider in the future.
“It would be wonderful for the B.C. wine industry to be able to sell to Ontario,” Riga said. “I think it’s absolutely absurd that they haven’t been able to until this point. Even freeing up the laws a little bit is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Dale Shortt, owner of Millstone Estate Winery, said the announcement is positive, but his business doesn’t do a lot of online sales. He is concerned about shipping costs, which he referred to as “horrific.”
“The big thing about online purchasing is the cost of the freight because wine is heavy,” said Shortt. “A box of wine weighs about 36 pounds and that’s 12 bottles, you’ve got to be pretty competitive in your price or somebody really, really wants your wine in order to ship it all the way to Ontario. In my mind I don’t think it’s going to help us a lot.”
Ben Chin, provincial government spokesman, said the deal essentially opens up a market of about 21 million people (combined populations of Quebec and Ontario) to B.C. wineries.
As part of the agreement, Quebec will list B.C. wines on its control board’s website and B.C. will reciprocate, listing wines from those provinces.
Chin estimated that process for B.C. will take between three and six months.