Monday, July 1, 2013

Why does Canadian wine get no respect in the world?

So I'm on the winespectator site the other day, and I notice that they have virtually no information on any Canadian wine. Given how good many BC wines have become (and I'm sure Ontario has good wine too), that seems odd to me.....almost prejudicial, in fact. Frankly, it pissed me off.

On the weekend I'm walking through Safeway and I see a magazine on the shelf called "MacLean's Wine in Canada". Hmm. OK so I pick it up and thought it might be interesting to check it out.

One of the introductory articles mentions how much success Canadian wine has been having at competitions and how many world renowned wine critics have been praising our wine. Renowned English critic and author Jancis Robinson has chronicled the steady improvement in Canadian wines. "In her latest testing, her highest praise went to Okanagan's offerings, both whites like chardonnay and dry Rieslings, and especially the 'strapping' reds from the semi-desert of the South Okanagan. Okanagan vines, she's written, 'almost punch you between the eyes with their frankness' ".

The article continues: "The problem is, few people outside Ontario and B.C. have the opportunity to get smacked with the fruits of the Canadian winemakers' labour. Canada has just 11,000 hectares of wine vineyards, compared to more than 34,000 in New Zealand, which has a population slightly smaller than B.C. and a ripping export business - the 11th highest by volume in the world".

Hmm. New Zealand, which has less people than B.C., clobbers Canada in the export business? Why would that be?

Sandhill Wines winemaker Howard Soon makes the point that New Zealand has more sheep than people. "If they get the sheep to drink wine, New Zealand's got it made, domestically. They have to export because they have few people and lots of friggin' wine."

OK, so that's a fair point; New Zealand makes more wine than their population could possibly handle, so exporting it is clearly paramount to the success of their industry.

So since Canada has more people, that means we don't need to export our wine? It seems so. In 2010, Canada exported a paltry $28M, and $12M of that was ice wine.

I had always assumed we were just getting overlooked by the world, but is it possible that it's our fault? Would the world embrace our wines if we'd just get them into their hands? Not being a winemaker, I can't definitively answer that, but the evidence is compelling.

On, many people (presumably Canadians) have lauded our wines, and admonished the site in the comments sections for overlooking them. Lots and lots of complaints. And I mean lots. Then I got to a response from the site, which basically said (and I'm paraphrasing a bit), "we'd be happy to include your wines, if you guys would just f**king send them to us!!!".

That seemed so odd until I thought about it. We've been to some huge wine stores in California, Vegas and Florida, and there is no sign of ANY Canadian wine except for the occasional ice wine. We've had dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Vegas with a wine list that takes about a month to peruse, yet there are no Canadian wines on the list at all, to my recollection. I just always assumed that was due to their prejudices, but I'm beginning to think that our wineries need to rethink their strategies and reach out to other countries. If we are having success with wine critics and in competitions, why on Earth would we not be able to successfully sell our wines to other countries?

That seems like the $28M question, doesn't it?

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