A Wine Controversy of Olympic Proportions

Grapes of Wrath

Blended Deceit from the Nanny State

Fake B.C. Wine Leaves Sour Taste

Honestly, the hysteria over this country’s “Cellared in Canada” provision has made me want to drink anti-freeze from China. Reading about the outrage, you would think that no wine expert had ever noticed that some BC wines are labeled with the statement, “Cellared in Canada from imported grapes,” and that it means that the wine is imported from other countries and bottled here in Canada.

So, it took a Brit to give them the what for.

In a low-key visit on her way to Oregon, renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson brought up an issue she has discussed before, that Cellared in Canada wines are a con because most customers don’t read the fine print on a bottle and are likely to be fooled into thinking that the imported juice is made from grapes grown in BC or Ontario.

Then, after a critical article in The Economist was published, the Canadian media pounced on the issue and went into full condemnation mode. The upshot of their complaints was that the provincial agencies that regulate and sell liquor in Canada are allowing three major wine producers to pass their imported wines off as Canadian with only the faintest of small print providing transparency to customers.

But the real reason this debate became so hot this year is due to the Olympics, coming to Vancouver in February. The Canadian wine industry is afraid that Olympic tourists will buy what they think is BC wine only to feel cheated when they learn the juice was imported from the US or South America. As if they won’t wonder why they paid $3-5 less per bottle than the wines clearly labeled, Okanagan Valley. My eyes may not be good, but I figured out this difference about three days after moving to Vancouver.

That may sound trite until you hear that the same big three CIC producers are “Official Olympic Sponsors”, meaning that Olympic sports fans in the arenas will be quaffing overpriced plastic cups of what they think is Canadian wine without any label to tell them otherwise. Later, they’ll tell their friends about Canadian wine they drank during the speed skating heat, and say, “Canadian wine is ok, but not something to rave about.”

This is why “Cellared in Canada” is a PR disaster waiting to happen. We can’t have the world thinking that any undistinquished wines offered by Olympic Sponsors are somehow representative of what’s grown and vinted in BC and Ontario. Being passably drinkable is inconsistent with the lofty principles of excellence promoted by both the Canadian wine industry and the Olympics. It follows that neither deception nor mediocrity should be promoted by the official sponsors.

Fortunately, in response to the public and media outcry, two of the culprits, Vincor, and Peller Estates, have offered to change the labels on their imported wines. Vincor is considering going so far as to use new language, “International Canadian Blend,” not on the back, but on the front labels. Further, officials at the Liquor Distribution Branch have offered to make sure the dubious wines are not displayed in the BC sections of their stores. No word yet from Mark Anthony.

What I want to know is what wines will Vincor, Peller Estates and Mark Anthony sell by the cup at Olympic concession stands? Will they be all Canadian or merely Cellared in Canada?

My hope is that they sell only wines 100% grown in BC and Ontario, and that they do it “with glowing hearts” even if it depletes their inventories.

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Your comments are always welcome.
Thanks for reading.

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.

2 thoughts on “A Wine Controversy of Olympic Proportions

  • October 7, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Great comments, even better questions. Kudos!


  • April 3, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Hey, thanks a bunch. I’ll check it out.

Comments are closed.