Local wineries see increase in sales to Alberta with upcoming ban

Local wineries see increase in sales to Alberta with upcoming ban


By Vanessa Broadbent

Oliver Chronicle

While Alberta’s ban of B.C. wine may stop sales in the long run, local wineries are seeing an increase in sales currently.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced last Tuesday that the importation of B.C. wines will be banned in protest of the B.C. government’s decision to continue reviewing oil-spill risk of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Jan Nelson, Director of Sales and Marketing at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver, said that the winery sold more wine in Alberta on Wednesday than they ever have before.

Nelson credited this success partially to Alberta buyers wanting to stock up before February 14 when the ban will be in effect.

“Retailers and restaurant buyers are wanting to buy inventory before they run out,” he said.

The ban will only affect wine going into Alberta for commercial use after February 14; anything already stocked in warehouses, or scheduled to be there before the 14th, or being brought in for personal use, is safe.

But with that supply going quickly and no word on how long the ban will last, Nelson is unsure of what this means for Tinhorn Creek’s ongoing sales to Alberta.

“We’re selling through our inventory in Alberta faster than expected,” he said. “If it’s short-lived then we will have seen a bump in sales, but if it’s long-lived, I’m not sure what will happen.”

About 15 per cent of Tinhorn Creek’s sales volume is in Alberta, so if the ban is long-term, the vineyard will have to seek a new market to make up for the decrease in sales.

For smaller vineyards that don’t ship as much product to Alberta, like Osoyoos’ Moon Curser Vineyards, the ban hasn’t come with a large change in sales. But Chris Tolley, the vineyard’s winemaker, said that it has paused their push in trying to grow an Albertan customer base.

“We’re in the state of trying to make an entry into the Alberta market,” Tolley said. “Our agent has put a fair amount of work into establishing our brand and that’s all gone to waste.”

The ambiguity over how long the ban will last makes working around it more difficult.

“It’s the uncertainty that’s a problem for us,” Tolley said. “I didn’t see this happening, I can’t believe it’s even come this far.”

But if the ban does stretch into the summer, Tolley is expecting to see a few more Albertan customers coming to taste B.C. wine.

“We’ll see more people coming out and buying B.C. wine because it’s a rarity.”

Nelson is hoping for the same. He predicts that plenty of British Columbians are willing to step up and drink local wine.

“I’m sure we’ll find a loving home for wine that is not sold in Alberta.”