If you live in British Columbia, Manitoba or Nova Scotia, raise a toast to the enlightened politicians who rule over you. In those provinces, consumers face no legal or regulatory barriers to mutually consenting commerce with wineries elsewhere in Canada. Their consumers can buy wine from anywhere in the country, either in-person or online. It is a guaranteed federal right but one which many provinces resist.
Some background here is helpful. In Canada, reforming regulations and laws that harm consumer choice is a Sisyphean task. But the effort was helped two years back by Dan Albas, a federal MP from Penticton, deep in the heart of B.C. wine country.
Albas, introduced Bill C-311 in 2012 (since passed by Parliament) that amended a 1928 federal law prohibited transporting "intoxicating liquors" across provincial borders. That law, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, sprang from post-Prohibition era requests from provincial governments that feared booze and wanted more control over alcohol sales. That meant wine could not be transported across provincial borders by consumers; technically, those consumers broke the law.
The Albas amendment changed that for wine. And earlier this year, the federal government further amended the 1928 law to include beer and spirits to the list of items now allowed across provincial borders. The only caveat is that wine, beer and spirits must be intended for personal and not commercial use.
Thus, the federal government has corrected a Prohibition-era policy. But most provinces, with the exception of B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia, still attempt via law and regulation to control the flow of alcoholic beverages after they leave the vineyard, brewery and distillery.
For example, in Ontario, no law or regulation prevents consumers from importing wine from another province. But as Vancouver lawyer Mark Hicken has noted at www.winelaw.ca, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has a "policy statement" that forbids Ontarians from importing wine except where personally carried. Hicken doubts the policy, lacking legal force, would stand up in court.
In Quebec, consumers can bring back nine litres of wine from some other province, but cannot have wine shipped to them.
Alberta was already wide-open after the Albas bill passed in 2012. Albertans could transport wine across a provincial boundary or have it shipped. Then, in a fit of political protectionism, the province pared back its regulatory allowance. By policy decree, Albertans are allowed to import as much as they want for personal use "as long as the liquor accompanies the individual."
Newfoundland and Labrador has the most protectionist policy and enforces it. The province allows residents of the Rock to carry in just 1.14 litres--less than two bottles. Newfoundlanders who dare import wine from another province may be subject to a sting operation. FedEx, for example, recently suspended all its inter-provincial wine shipments after it was charged for transporting B.C. wine into Newfoundland and Labrador.
Given federal changes in 2012 and 2014, no federal law or regulation prevents Canadians from "importing" wine (beer or spirits) from another province for personal use. Insofar as some provincial governments attempt to block the free flow of goods between provinces, they act contrary to the practice and spirit of free trade. That's troubling in a country created in part to encourage wide-open commerce across provincial boundaries.
Canadians have always been "allowed" to grow, sell, buy and transport grapes, barley, and hops--some of the ingredients used in the creation of wine, whisky and beer--right across Canada. So it was odd that consumers were forbidden from shipping the end product if manufactured in another province.
The federal government, at least, has corrected its 1920s-era prohibition for consumers who want to transport or ship beer, wine and spirits. But for the full effect of that change, Canadians must apparently wait for most provinces to embrace the examples set by Nova Scotia, Manitoba and B.C.
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Flickr: macieklewRed wines should always be uncorked hours before serving or decanted to show their best. The vast majority of red wines do not need to be opened to "breathe" or decanted to show their best. In fact, I would estimate only 15-20 percent of all wine produced today should be given air before serving. The wines that benefit from aeration tend to come from specific places and are made in relatively small quantities. The vast majority of red wines can be simply opened and immediately poured to be fully enjoyed.
Flickr: xavi talledaYou can tell if a wine is "corked" by smelling the cork. A corked wine is spoiled by the cork but it doesn't really smell like cork. A good cork will smell woody with only a slight wine tinge and is virtually indistinguishable from a cork that actually spoiled a bottle. Wine is corked by a compound called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) which is transmitted to the wine by infected corks. But the wine itself doesn't smell a lot like cork, more like wet newspaper or damp basement, and you certainly can't tell anything from smelling the cork. The only information a cork can provide is to confirm the brand of the producer, vintage year and make sure it is sound and not dried out indicating poor storage.
Flickr: UmbriaLoversWine is always overpriced in restaurants. Many restaurants in North America grossly markup their wine in order to make up for the thin profit margin on their food. But there are other restaurants who take a more modest markup in order to provide the best experience for their guests. In Europe, wine is an essential part of the menu and many places you are likely to find decent wine for the same price or little more than soft drinks or mineral water.
Flickr: e_calamarThe French invented sparkling wine. The French may have perfected sparkling wine in the Champagne region but they didn't invent it. As the myth goes, monk Dom Pérignon discovered how to produce sparking wine by accident as fermentation returned to bottled wine producing bubbles. But the truth is sparkling wine was made in England some 19 years before Dom Pérignon produced his first cuvée. And it had more to do with glass blowing technology than winemaking. The good monk did introduce the key elements of the Champagne style, however, such as blending different grapes and vintages to produce a consistent product and the use of cork and metal foil to seal the bottles for secondary fermentation.
Flickr: [cipher]Taking a month off drinking will detox your liver. Many people this time of year take a break from consuming alcohol thinking they can detox their system and get back to normal. But a story recently in The Independent claims otherwise. In fact, a Doctor is quoted saying, "Detoxing for just a month in January is medically futile. It can lead to a false sense of security and feeds the idea that you can abuse your liver as much as you like and then sort everything else with a quick fix." So it is much better to take a day or two off alcohol each week than a month off each year to maintain better health.
Flickr: The ConsortiumYou need a cellar to store your wine. As you will soon learn not all wine gets better with age. And you really don't need a wine cellar with pristine storage conditions to store your wine. Any closet that does not vary wildly in temperature throughout the year, is free from light and vibration will do fine for wine even stored for decades. All you need to do is make sure the wine is on its side in a rack or box disturbing it only when you are ready to consume. You should only invest in a wine storage unit or rent a wine locker if you collect a lot of wine that benefits from aging (see slide 9).
Flickr: alex ranaldiThe correct serving temperature for red wine is "room temperature." This was actually not a wine myth when it got started back in the 19th Century when a room was heated to only 63° F (17° C) or less. Today central heating commonly heats rooms to over 70° F (21°C) or more. So serving red wine at "room temperature" today is quite a bit over what is should be. Heat changes the aromas and makes the alcohol more pronounced in flavor so even red wine should be slightly chilled in most homes without a cellar. Just put the bottle in your refrigerator 15-20 minutes before serving to be closer to cellar temperature.
Flickr: pedrosimoes7Wines that smell like wet horse or manure are spoiled. This myth might generate a fair amount of comments but there are aromas in wine that in moderation add complexity. These aromas are caused by a bacteria called Brettanomyces, commonly referred to as, "brett," which can make a wine smell like a just ridden horse or a fresh barnyard. If brett is too pronounced these aromas change to nylon or vinyl that are clearly faults. But a little horse or manure is often prized in some wines, particularly from Burgundy.
Flickr: Tim PattersonAll wine gets better with age. Almost all wine today is made to be consumed within the year it is bottled. Red wines might last up to four years without decline while rosé wines, with few exceptions, should be consumed within a year of the vintage. Most white wines should be drunk no more than two years past the vintage. But as I mentioned in point 10 there are a minority of wines that benefit from aging past these rules of thumb, particularly red and some sweet dessert wines.
Flickr: moonlightbulbYou need to know a lot about wine to "appreciate it." Like food, you know really good wine when you taste it. You don't need a culinary degree to appreciate a good steak and likewise don't need to know much about wine to be blown away by the aromas and flavors of a really good bottle. For some of us, these experiences drive us to learn more about wine but this is not a prerequisite to appreciate wine. Drink what you like and look for more of the same.