So, you are on your lunch hour and you pick up the Wine Spectator, it is their value issue. The mag raves about all of these 90+ point wines that are widely available and all under $20.00 USD! You can’t believe it, you buy the issue, go to the liq. on the weekend and to your suprise most of the wines are not there. The ones that are there are either the wrong vintage or cost close to $40 bucks! Not much of a value anymore….
Even worse, that $20.00 USD gem, can cost close to $80.00 CDN at a restaurant plus 16% tax and a 10% tip? Your bargain wine is going to cost you $101.00 CDN in a restaurant!
How many of you have run into this scenario? I do lots and it drives me nuts.
Here is the 1st dilemma for our wine savvy city, our provincial government controls the importation, price setting and taxation of liquor. That’s right, that $20.00 USD wine bargain you read about gets assessed by a bureaucrat who sets the wholesale price, taxes the daylights out of it and tacks on a profit for good measure. Somewhere in there, there is also a small profit for the agent who represents the winery. To make matters worse, private wine shops often tack on an extra 10% on top of the set government price and we all know what restaurants do to the price of wine.
This means you need cash money in this town to have a wine habit. Yes, local writers scrounge around and try to find bargains but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a significant number of wines out there that are good and under $15.00 CDN. There are plenty of good bottles in the $15.00 to $25.00 range even more in the $25.00 to $50.00 but the going gets tough under $15 bucks a bottle.
It is difficult to be a top wine town when the government controls everything to do with booze. As Anthony Gismondi pointed out many small producers give up trying to deal with the government distribution system. It is not worth it, so they sell their products in markets where it easier to get their wines into consumer’s hands. Even our own BC wine industry faces the same problems. The best BC wine IS NOT found at the BC Liquor store, you need to go to the winery or a private wine shop to get the best our province has to offer. Guess what folks, there is better wine selection in Alberta than BC! Oh yah, it is cheaper too!
What does this mean for you? That’s right, lots of mediocre product at an expensive price point. If you find a hot wine from a hot producer be prepared to pay, it will cost you as you will probably be in a wine shop or in a restaurant. Or, the wine may be on the liquor store shelf one week and gone the next. It either gets shipped to another liquor store or sent to god knows where.
The provincial government and our archaic liquor laws have made it impossible for us to be a great wine town. The market is not controlling what is available or what we can buy, the government is. We all know how good the government is at doing stuff. They usually find a way to screw things up. The problem with this is, is our system will not change. Not when over a billion dollars a year is generated through the BCLS system. Not when the City of Vancouver has a by-law on the books that says that a new wine store can only sell wine, no spirits no other kinds of booze.
Not sure what the answer is, but next time we will look at the restaurant industry and not being able to bring your own wine to a restaurant. A novel concept, but widely done all over the world.
Till next time..