Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Trouble with BC Wines

With Canada Day just around the corner I got to thinking about our domestic wine industry and what is wrong with it. Don't get me wrong, I have great respect for the men and women who are working in the local wine industry, I've been around long enough to remember when the quality was abysmal and Canadian wines were things like:


So while we have come a long way we still have a long way to go.

The quality of BC wines overall is good but the pricing and consumer access is abysmal, in the mid range and the top end the prices are too high, and there is no bottom end/entry level. What I mean is that among 100% BC wines there is only one available in the LDB system that sells for less than $12.49 per bottle so the bottom end of the market has been abandoned.

There are 160 wines listed at $12.49 - $19.99 and with rare exceptions I can guarantee you that there are many, many examples from Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia selling for $2-$5 a bottle less that will kick the crap out of the locals in quality .

At the top end there are some genuinely terrific BC wines but you either can't buy them, due to limited production, or they are unrealistically priced again, or both. I am fortunate that my position allows me to sample a great many of the Super Premium BC wines and I can tell you I have yet to drink one that could not be blown out of the water by less expensive wines from other countries. I mean really $45 for Cedar Creek's Platinum Malbec ? I can buy a half a dozen Argentinian reserve Malbecs for less than $30 and they will all be better than the Cedar Creek .

Then there is the distribution setup that makes it ludicrous for BC wineries to sell their product in the Government stores, the winery receives 20-50% more by selling direct or through private stores. The result of this is that the wines are not in wide distribution and, since most private stores add additional markups, the prices are even higher, compounding the value for dollar issue even further.

Listen there are a number of reasons to buy BC wines, patriotism, carbon footprint, romantic folly but none are sound economically. We may live in the only wine producing country in existence where imported wines are cheaper than domestic, and before you start in on :

But the labour costs and land costs are so much higher, I have two points for you:

1) I don't care, if your business model requires you to sell equal, at best, quality products for a higher cost it's a damn poor model.

2) Germany

It will eventually get to be grilling weather this summer and when it does I'd love to slap some burgers on the grill and reach for a nice cheap full throttle BC red to go with the burgers, but I won't. What I will do is crack open something from Spain, or Chile, or Argentina that is solid quality at $10-$12 a bottle and wish it wasn't so.

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