Vancouver wine: The Love/Hate list

With Mr. Winecouver being a born & bred Vancouverite, he’s had his blinders on regarding the Vancouver wine scene. Upon meeting Miss Winecouver, his horizons were progressively widened due to her well-traveled viewpoint on what a great wine city should have to offer, as well as trips together to France & Australia (to drink at the source). Here’s what he loves and hates about the Vancouver wine scene. Perhaps her list will follow soon?

Love: The non-government Retail community

He says: We have stores like Marquis Wine Cellars, who pride themselves on knowledgeable staff (of which I agree) and have an owner who’s active on social media (@MarquisWineCell). Add Firefly Wine stores to the social media bent as well (@FireflyVanMRidg). VQA stores such as Taylorwood Wines specialize in the local production at cellar-door prices. Everything Wine is filling the megastore niche and has become a destination shopping trip for us.

Love: Restaurants that know & love wine

He says: It’s not just about food, and restaurants know they have to compliment their culinary offerings with wine choices and savvy to match. In particular, we have wine-focused eateries such as Salt Tasting Room & Uva Wine Bar where the fluids can easily outshine the solids.

Love: Wine education options

He says: Check out Fine Vintage LTD or The Arts Institute. Not every metropolitan city in the world can offer WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) training to the the prestigious Diploma level. We’re lucky to have this available at our doorstep. Add to that the ISG (International Sommelier Guild) training options, and Vancouver is a great place to be a student of wine at a professional level.

Love: The Okanagan wine region

He says: Four hours of driving from Vancouver and you end up in one of the best looking wine regions in the world. A valley full of lakes, planted with vines and orchards from the valley floor running up the hillside – could it be more picturesque? The Okanagan produces some great wines and I always look forward to a long-weekend adventure, meeting wine industry folk, discovering new wineries, new wines, and re-stocking our humble little cellar, err closet.

Hate: The BC Liquor Distribution/Disillusion Board

He says: There’s so many reasons to dislike/hate these guys. Vancouverites pay the highest markup in Canada for wine, an astounding 123%. Wait, ponder, and repeat that to yourself again. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-THREE PERCENT. Add to that archaic personal duty exemptions when crossing the border (after 48 hours and no matter how long you’re gone thereafter, you’re allowed two 750 mL bottles of wine); add to that how difficult it is for distributors to list new wines for import; add to that the hoops and cash needed to get a liquor license to open a store. I could write a book…

Hate: Sticker shock at the register

He says: Again, it goes back to the LDB. With 123% markup on a bottle of wine, it’s very costly to drink decent-to-good quality wine, and almost impossible to drink the best of what the world has to offer (unless you’re fairly rich). Contrast this with Australia where you can buy unmarked clean skins for $5-10 a bottle; the US has Costco as the biggest buyer of Bordeaux wine; in the UK, Tesco-bottled Premier Cru Chablis sells for £13 a bottle, which you can barely find here for under $40 Cdn. My wine habit is making me poor.

Hate: Sticker shock at the restaurant

He says: Take the mythical $20 Euro bottle of Premier Cru Chablis. Add 123% markup to cover the motherf*%ing greedy government’s share, and then another 100% to make the restaurant some profit. That mythical $20 Euro bottle just cost you $90 or so dollars when dining out. I don’t blame the restaurateurs; they have to make money somewhere to survive/profit and the markup on food is not enough to keep them in the black.

Hate: Lack of selection

He says: Another one to chalk up to the BC LDB. Let’s say you’re a wine enthusiast and you want to try one of the world’s great Rieslings from Australia. So, you head to the BC-government bottle shop hoping to find a bottle from the Clare or Eden Valley. Sorry, sucker. One of the great varietal examples of the world cannot be bought from our Government stores. Yet, the LDB buyer feels it’s a necessity to have 83 bottles from South Africa and 13 bottles from Israel. I’m not saying those countries don’t deserve to be on our shelves, but when you’re excluding one of the world’s greatest examples of Riesling, you can’t be said to have the publics’ interests in mind.

Hate: The Okanagan wine industry

He says: Yes, it is a bit schizophrenic to love the wine region, but dislike the industry. Here’s my gripe: too many brand new, shiny wineries charging exorbitant prices for wines made from new plantings. Really, $50 for your Meritage when the vines are less than 5 years old? Do you know what great wines I could buy from around the globe with that money (even with 123% markup)? I know, the Okanagan land prices are stupid expensive (more than $100K per acre in the prime growing areas, or $150-200K for an established acre), but stop preying on the insecure buyers who need to own “the latest local fad”. Or, maybe people get what they deserve…

Hate: No BYOB dining options

He says: One of my favorite memories of Australia was going to a Thai restaurant for dinner carrying 6 bottles of wine from the bottle shop across the street. All the whites were properly chilled, and upon arriving at the restaurant, kept cold in their fridge and brought out upon request. Bottle handling, glassware, and service were all included no-charge. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see this happen in Vancouver.

Summary:

So, that’s my list. Did I miss anything?

There are more things I hate than I love about the wine scene in Vancouver. I’d have to say that I’m far more passionately enraged by some of the negatives than the positives as well. If you’re an aspiring wine professional, surely you’ve had your eye on leaving Vancouver for the greener grass of a city with far less government interference. How about Portland, where you’re less than an hour away from one of the best Pinot Noir producing regions in the world? Or Adelaide, where you have prestigious education options, cheap wine, and vineyards surrounding the city?

Let’s not kid ourselves: Vancouver, and BC in general, could do with a change regarding government wine regulation. Four of my six negatives can be directly tied to them. How can we as consumers, or humble bloggers affect change?

11 comments to Vancouver wine: The Love/Hate list

  • hi,
    You forgot the most important region. Germany

  • Loved it, I can’t believe our markup is 123%!!! I’m trying to encourage my friends to “drink local” and drink BC wine but some of the prices are crazy! I totally agree with you about new vineyards charging $29 for acidic new whites, ridiculous! We have some amazing wines in BC, it’s too bad it’s so hard to sell BC people on them sometimes!! Thanks for that article! I’ll check out UVA and Firefly soon…

  • Done! Mind adding Winecouver to your page’s favorites?

  • Sure done! Have bookmarked your blog too! :)

  • It’s worth repeating: we pay way too much for wine in BC. I don’t mind paying taxes at all, but it’s gone beyond unreasonable with wine. I could taste twice as many wines if I lived anywhere else in the world.

  • Marus

    You’ve summed up my feelings exactly!

    Btw, new to your site and love your banner at the top. Gordon’s is one of my favourite wine bars in the world and I’ve enjoyed a few glasses of their old wood tawny before :)

    • WCVR

      Ah, Gordon’s… bought a beautiful bottle of Burgundy there before settling into a night of Port sampling. What a place. Shame it’s so crowded and claustrophobic!

  • Hello and belated congratulations on the combining of your wine cellars!

    I’ve been meaning to write for some time now but always seem to get wrapped up in my own busy-ness. I enjoy reading your posts. It’s obvious to me that you put thought into your writing–I really appreciate that. And, while I may not always agree with you on your opinion and/or evaluation of a wine, I’m glad you use your educated and adventurous palates to help others in our small corner of the world enjoy more wine.

    Cheers,

    Kathleen

    • WCVR

      Hi Kathleen,

      Thank you very much for your note and congratulations. Of course, wine tasting is subjective, biased by personal preferences and other factors. So, we understand if our reviews/opinions might not agree with your assessment.

      That said, our goal is to help Vancouverites branch out to something new rather than staying with the same old producers that they’re comfortable with. Hopefully over time, we can help increase the number of wine enthusiasts out there, which is a fun goal to have.

      Hope to bump into you soon.

      Cheers!

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