I've obviously been paying close attention to Bill C-311, the legislation that amends federal regulations surrounding the inter-provincial shipping of wine. But I'm no lawyer or lawmaker, and so I've had a tough time wading through where Manitobans are left standing when it comes to bringing back wine from other Canadian provinces and/or having wine shipped directly to them.
With Bill C-311's Royal Assent, Ottawa has passed the buck to the provinces when it comes to the shipping of wine for personal use. The decision as to what constitutes a quantity for "personal use," as well as whether to allow individuals to order wine online or directly from a winery to be shipped to their home, is now province-specific.
Thankfully, MLCC senior communications co-ordinator Susan Harrison provided clarity (and quite frankly, I'm impressed with the MLCC's progressive stance on an issue where they could have taken the stick-in-the-mud approach).
"The MLCC has never been opposed to Bill C-311's objective of ensuring consumer access to Canadian wines," Harrison said, qualifying that "Manitobans already have comprehensive access to Canadian wines through our Liquor Marts, our special-order service and through existing personal exemptions."
Those personal exemptions were for bringing wine back with you from a trip. Before Bill C-311 was introduced, Manitobans had no restrictions on how much beer, wine or spirits they could bring back with them on their person from another province. "If, however, a Manitoban wanted to direct order a case of wine from a winery in (for example) B.C., they were, by the Federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, required to place their order through the MLCC," Harrison said.
It's in the area of direct ordering -- buying wine from a winery and having it enter the province unaccompanied -- where the difference is notable. "Bill C-311 has also lifted the restriction of having to come through the MLCC if you wish to order from a Canadian winery," Harrison said.
"At this time, there are no restrictions on quantity, again providing it is for personal consumption only. If a Manitoban discovers a great Canadian winery while on vacation and it's a wine that we are unable to carry, they now have the ability to easily obtain that wine for themselves."
Obtain by what methods?
"With Royal Assent, our Act now allows for Manitobans to directly purchase wine for their personal use from Canadian wineries and have it shipped to them (via an authorized shipping company, not Canada Post) without having to go through the MLCC," Harrison said.
Bingo -- you can now order directly from a Canadian winery and have it shipped to your house, providing it's for personal use only. To my knowledge, the MLCC is the first of the provinces to come right out and say so -- a gutsy move in the face of the unknown.
"We will be monitoring to see if the change affects us," Harrison said. "It is unclear at this point the impact that Bill C-311 could have on MLCC's revenue, which is returned annually to the government," Harrison said, used for "the funding of provincial programs in the areas of health care, education and social services.
"We can't speak for other provincial liquor boards, but no doubt they will be paying close attention as well."
We're already pretty lucky here in Manitoba -- according to Harrison, Manitoba has more Canadian wine listed than any other province, other than B.C. and Ontario. Liquor Marts and private wine stores are staffed with people who are passionate about Canadian wine and who can help consumers make educated choices about buying Canadian wines of all sorts. And that's something you can't get via an online ordering system.
Rather than cutting into the retail market, Bill C-311 fills a void. It will help foster curiosity about Canadian wine, giving Manitobans the option to buy from Liquor Marts, private wine stores, or reach out to smaller Canadian wineries and order directly. In addition to helping smaller wineries in the Okanagan Valley and the Niagara Peninsula, we can more easily pursue wines from Quebec's Eastern Townships, Nova Scotia's food-friendly Tidal Bay white wines, and discover complex Prince Edward County Pinot Noir and more.
Many wine writers, tradespeople and enthusiasts in this country have long hoped for a strong, united Canadian wine scene. If other provinces follow Manitoba's lead, that ideal will be much closer to reality.
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FLAT ROCK 2008 "RIDDLED"
(Twenty Mile Bench, Ont. -- $24.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A blend of 71 per cent Chardonnay and 29 per cent Pinot Noir, this Ontario sparkling wine brings bread dough, red apple, mineral and lemon notes on the nose. Light-bodied and crisp, the "Riddled" highlights the red apple and citrus flavours, with secondary peach and mineral notes. It's a great Canadian bubbly to celebrate the change in Canadian wine legislation. 89/100