Wine Talk

Snooth User: dvogler

How ridiculous the British Columbia government is

Posted by dvogler, Jan 6, 2016.

This is an article by (well known in Canada wine writer/critic) Anthony Gismondi.  I'll follow it up with some local stories.



Reply by EMark, Jan 7, 2016.

Hmm.  Politicians being influenced by money and self-interest while ignoring what appears to be a popular issue with the electorate.

Have you thought of repatriating, Darrin?  Nothing like that ever happens here.  

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 7, 2016.

Love this part: The hapless plan hatched by totally conflicted government workers (they operate 199 liquor stores of their own), was designed to permit local producers to be on regular shelves within the main aisles of grocery stores while import wines were to be banished to a barricaded area referred to as a store-within-a-store zone.

Whoa, conflict of interest? 

And restos have to buy at retail?  That's beyond daft. 

Funny thing is that some people want MJ law down here to be state by state like liquor/wine laws.  Which is a cop out on saying whether they think it ought to be legalized in the first place usually.  I think it's totally reasonable to allow different levels of taxation by states and localities--they will answer to their own populations--but keeping track of 50 (or even 11) different sets of provincial rules doesn't help the industry grow and employ people.  Since BC is expanding wine production, they are hurting themselves quite a bit, although they seem bent on building in some protectionism as well.

Of course, even sophisticated NY has some very silly liquor laws. 

Reply by dvogler, Jan 7, 2016.

Thanks for taking the time to check it out.  I know it's probably dull and irrelevant to most of you guys.

Where I was going with this is that it's already effected my local BC Wine shop.  It's about five minutes drive away and loaded with great stuff that you would ordinarily have to go to the wineries to get.  They do great tastings on the weekends and regularly open $50+ stuff to try.  I go hang out for at least a half hour every Saturday or Sunday (they let me know ahead of time what bottles they'll be opening).

I just found out that their license is being poached by a big BC chain grocery store (owned by BC's richest man).  The wine store owners had allegedly rebuffed his advances on more than one occasion, but he's sweetening the pot every time.  It seems he really wants this license.  Of course, everyone has a price.  I hope they can hold out.  It's happened already to a BC wine shop in Vancouver.  This guy wrote an article about, but he's a little more 'to the point' than Gismondi.

Mud Bay Wines Rest In Peace:

We end the year by raising a glass to Mud Bay Wines. It was the most wonderful “mom and pop” type wine shop in Tsawwassen, overflowing in hard to find BC wines, at winery prices, laid out simply, cleanly by varietal, with helpful staff, a huge selection in the fridge, a few nominal but worthy cuisine items and, get this, dog friendly, with treats behind the counter. Before or after a ferry trip it was a common detour for us. You always felt welcome at Mud Bay. I simply have nothing bad to say about Mud Bay Wines, but things come and go, it went, let’s not get sentimental. C’est la vie.


However… Mud Bay went for the wrong reason. It went because our provincial government is archetypally provincial. They treat adults like children (like children in an institution, like unsupervised children in a boarding facility, like a Lillian Hellman allegory) and adopt and enforce rules that are asinine. And I’m not talking about Geoff Meggs rationalizing the removal of the downtown viaducts so that the developers that own the city can capitalize on more development. I’m talking about the “good news” Liberals “modernizing” BC’s cryptic, comic and often quaintly anachronistic liquor regs. The “liberalization” of liquor laws in the province, by the provincial Liberals, a supposed right-leaning pro-business government, allow for BC wine shop licenses to transfer (i.e., be sold) to grocery stores. So Mud Bay is now available about half a click further south in a commercial grocery store chain. But it’s not the same. No PR mouthpiece bureaucrat can make the argument. You can get the bestsellers, but none of the finds, the attention to detail or the character of an actual wine shop. Why the two couldn’t coexist, why government couldn’t allow expansion of wine sales, why there had to be some imaginary level playing field, is anyone’s guess. I guess a deputy minister somewhere along the line got an MA in economics and wanted to ensure his (or her) thesis wasn’t simply a dust collector in a Public Storage locker. Essentially, what Christy Clark’s Imbeciles, er, Liberals have done, is create paperback stands where before there were libraries. Death to character, one government policy at a time. When I hear Vancouver proclaimed by our politicos as the most livable city on the planet all I can do to stop from heaving is wonder whether anyone has lived in a free society, unconstrained by moronic, antiquated, and, worse, “modernized” policies deemed to enhance livability.


Barcelona, with its buried ring road on the beach, that’s livable. Melbourne, with its light rapid transit, that’s livable. Jesus, Portland, with its wine served in cinemas and downtown parking free evenings (!) and weekends (!) that’s livable. See any similarities with liberal liquor laws in any of the most livable cities on the planet?


This brings us to the Vancouver Sun. That is not a jarring segue; it is in fact their complicity in the liquor boondoggle–and I hold them accountable for viewing this issue as a tangent that has received, at best, a human interest segment by Pete McMartin. They have one of the best critical wine writers in Canada, Anthony Gismondi, who they have write short and not terribly useful minor wine reviews once a week (for, mainly, the dross that BC Liquor sports) and then a cellar selection midweek. With Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Imbibe and others online, and with every Joe and his dog blabbing on about malolactic fermentation and high versus low alcohol content (witness this blog) we simply don’t need more file card wine recommendations. But GM’s articles, on wine, the wine business, are what counts. These are better, generally, than anything in the Globe or NP. Why he doesn’t take home a journalistic award of excellence is baffling. But not more baffling than having is essays presented as lifestyle on Saturday, in other words, not being a “proper” columnist; that’s the Sun I guess… Gismondi needs to be in the business section, twice a week. But he’s not. That’s because the editorial tag team down at the Sun, the last half decent paper left in the province (emphasis on half) for some idiotic reason hasn’t come to grips with the business of wine.


In BC, wine is a business. In fact, it is a holy trinity of business. It is first a generator: It generates jobs. It produces a tangible product. It produces a product in demand. It has a gross and net profit angle, it has a human interest angle, it has a production, wholesale and retail angle. Mining, forestry, fishing, the lead stories never end. One more Vaughan Palmer inside story about a pipeline and there’s a Pulitzer I’m certain. Second, there is wine tourism. Forestry tourism anyone? Oil patch tourism anyone? So tourism, variously somewhere in the top three provincial industries, doesn’t get the business section either. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the political side of the story. Wine is politics. The headline side of the story. It’s time to elevate AG to the gaping hole left with David Baines’ departure from the biz section. Our one and only resolution this year. More of a last hope I guess.


Well, there you have it: Sadness and bad news and ignorance called Buying Wine in BC.


Reply by dmcker, Jan 7, 2016.

That 'most livable' moniker about Vancouver has always cracked me up. Suicide rates, junky rates, rainy-day rates, affluent 'immigrant' (former 'communist block', etc. over the past 20 years particularly) influx driving up real estate prices beyond local reach, etc., etc. Seems certain statistics are being ignored in that kind of chamber-of-commerce labeling. Not to say Vancouver isn't most certainly a lovely town in other ways, and some of the islands around it are cool/wet-yet-very-nice paradises of their own. If and when I move back to North America it's one of a handful of locations I'll look closely at.

But back to wine. Three choice paragraphs from the middle of Gismondi's well-focused article:

"Governments hate it when their plans attract opposition from all sides, and when doctors start talking about the dangers of increased exposure to wine and city councillors suggest schoolchildren walking by wine shops will be scarred for life at the sight of a wine bottle you can bet they all rue the day they ever wandered into the grocery store wine debate.

"Of course the real reason grocery store wine sales are a mess is because you have the No. 1 seller of liquor (the government) deciding how all other private retail chains should operate. Imagine if The Bay could set the rules and prices at Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew and, just for fun, keep the shoe and purse business for itself — following the BCLDB’s lead of keeping the lucrative restaurant business to itself.

"If that sounds ridiculous put yourself in the position of a B.C. restaurant or hotel. They have no choice but to buy at retail prices and only from the government, excluding some 75 per cent of the private retail market more than capable of servicing restaurants in their neighbourhoods."


Glad to see that there's part of North America that's even more messed up than the US when it comes to wine regulations. Makes me feel less provincial when I encounter the bizarre and arcane in places like Utah.

Now let's see how they deal with ganja! Wonder if any vested interests have had past dealings with the massive illegal BC cannabis industry...

Reply by dvogler, Jan 7, 2016.


You can bet that whether or not they've been involved, there's certain groups salivating at the prospect of making money on weed.  There already are "dispensaries" that sell medical marijuana, but it's all a joke.  You don't need a doctor's note at all.  I know people that said they just walked in, listened to a short spiel, signed something and from then on can walk in and buy it.  Now the Liquor Distribution Branch is trying to get in the game.  I think the government isn't going to go for than one though.  I think they're going to hike the license for the dispensaries to the moon, but keep their hands clean. 

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