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Canada set to open borders for wine

Many Canadian wine drinkers could be free to transport wines across provincial borders for the first time in their lives, if a new law passes as expected.

Members of the lower house of Canada’s parliament have unanimously approved the new law. Dubbed Bill C-311, it paves the way for direct wine shipments across the country’s provincial borders for the first time since 1928.

Currently, wine sales are strictly controlled by Canada’s provincial governments via liquor control boards.  

The country’s Senate is expected to approve Bill C-311 over three separate readings. If it does, it will be given royal assent and could become law by the end of June, according to Dan Paszkowski, president and CEO of the Canadian Vintners Association.

‘Members of Parliament are listening to consumers on this one,’ Paszkowski told Decanter.com, adding that it is ‘somewhat ridiculous’ that Canada’s wineries ‘can ship to Texas but not to Quebec‘.

Based on examples from similar laws in some US states, Paszkowski believes Canada might only see 1% of total sales, or around 30,000 cases per year, shipped direct from winery to consumer. But, he said that ‘for some smaller wineries, that’s a very important sales opportunity for them’.

‘It will also help them to build their brand across the country,’ he added, in a market dominated three-to-one by imported wine sales.

However, negotiations with provincial governments will be crucial in implementing Bill C-311. Liquor boards oppose the bill and Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia say they already allow wine lovers to carry one case across the border with them.

‘The next step is to work very closely with the provinces,’ said Paszkowski. He is hopeful the provincial governments will agree reasonable quotas.

Written by Chris Mercer

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