• By: OLM Staff

Canadian Wine Laws Stink

Symbol of the ACWC

Over the past 5 months I have found myself pouring over the results of both the Canadian Wine Awards and the All Canadian Wine Championships – the two major cross-Canada wine awards that pit region against region to find out who’s best at what.  As a wine writer I like to pour over the numbers and analyze the who’s doing better with what grape aspect.  I also like to see if I rated those wines high or even if I liked them in the first place … but above all, I like to dream of getting my hands on a bottle or two of the top wines.  Sure I sit on the panel of the All Canadians, and I am sure I have “tried” the wine – but there’s a difference between tasting a wine for judging purposes and sitting down with a bottle over dinner with friends … one of the main differences is spitting – when you judge you spit everything, with friends you only spit on a bet or a dare, and even then some are just too good to spit, in either case.

But the question of how to get these wines is moot, there is no legal way to do it.  The red wine of the year, which hails from B.C. (Blasted Church 2008 Cabernet Merlot) is as much out of my reach as Charlize Theron – in fact I have a better chance of putting my hands on Charlize than I do a bottle of Blasted Church, that’s because Miss Theron can cross our country freely … wine can not.

I hear you scratching your collective heads and asking: “Why can’t you just call the winery, order a few bottles and have them ship it here?”  You can do it with a Magic Bullett, Shaun-T workout videos, Genie Bras and Sham-wows.  Yes my friends, you can ship any piece of mail order crap across this great land, but you just can’t do it with booze because of a 1928 law that’s still on the books today (and remarkably still enforced) called the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA for short), it states that nobody who brings intoxicating liquor into a province can sell it to anybody except the provincial liquor board. For those constitutional buffs out there you’ll realize that this law contravenes section 121 of the constitution which reads:  “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”  No exceptions were ever made, not then, not now: All Articles.

It was recently pointed out to me that if you had a gun, any kind of gun, legally I mean, you could transport it from province to province without fear of reprisal – yet carry one bottle of wine, a case of beer or a mickey of vodka from Quebec to Ontario and you my friend, are a felon (are you ready to turn yourselves in?  I didn’t think so.).  I also find it funny (not ha ha, but peculiar) that I could visit Cuba and bring back two bottles of rum, trek over to France and return with two bottles of vin ordinaire, or fly in from Equador with a couple of bottles of Pisco – and yet I can’t come back from British Columbia with even one bottle of award winning wine.  Does that not strike you as odd?

Now I hear you saying: “People do it all the time.  I return frequently from Quebec with a 2-4 tucked under my arm.”  And that is true, there are no border guards (any more), as you travel from province to province waiting for you to declare what you’re crossing with.  But there are Liquor Monopolies in each province (besides Alberta) who probably think its not a bad idea, because you are cutting into their rightful tax revenues and thus the do what they can: putting the kibosh on wineries from sending wines to another province … because that is dangerous and socially irresponsible, Lord knows you might do some harm while intoxicated, like pull out that weapon you’ve been carting all over the country.

Don’t believe me?  Look it up, there are some interesting resources you can find on …

Wines and Vines
Farris Wine Law
Wine Law.ca (just one reference of many)
And my own article on the matter: OWR Newsletter 156

Perrin & Fils - Les Cornuds $15.00

This week’s selection …
Since we can’t go outside the Ontario border to get our booze fix we’ll fly straight to France’s Rhone Valley for this just released wine through Vintages (June 25, 2011):  Perrin & Fils 2009 Les Cornuds Vinsobres ($15.00 – #241604).  Ready to drink now but will easily cellar 5-7 years.  A blend of equal parts Grenache and Syrah this wine is loaded with dark fruit and other delectable finds for not a lot of coin.  Since summer’s here try something BBQed with it. (****+)