Marketing changes for peudo BC wines

B.C. liquor stores are going to change the way they display bulk imported wines that are currently being being sold as British Columbia wines, Rich Coleman, minister responsible for the Liquor Control Board, said Wednesday.

B.C. liquor stores are going to change the way they display bulk imported wines that are currently being being sold as British Columbia wines, Rich Coleman, minister responsible for the Liquor Control Board, said Wednesday.
Photograph by: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun files

B.C. liquor stores are going to change the way they display bulk imported wines that are currently being being sold as British Columbia wines, Rich Coleman, minister responsible for the Liquor Control Board, said Wednesday.

But don’t expect any other changes, Coleman said in an interview. The three major wineries involved in what has been called a deceptive marketing practice need the cash flow.

Vincor International, Andrew Peller Ltd. and the Mark Anthony Group bottle the 12 or 13 brands of imported bulk wine that are prominently displayed in government liquor stores as B.C. wines and products of Canada — labelled as “Cellared in Canada.” The wineries and the B.C. government have been accused of deceiving consumers by creating the impression the wines are actually real B.C. wines, when in fact they are bulk wines purchased for as little as 21 cents a litre. They sell for $9 to $15 a bottle.

The wines are a major source of revenue for both the wineries involved and the Liquor Control Board, but are confusing for consumers who mistake them for low-cost B.C. wines.

“If there is a perception around it, they’ve been asked to look at it,” Coleman said of the LDB. “They are going to look at it and see whether there has to be a different placement of the product in some cases, and whether it’s blended or not blended, that sort of thing.

“But I’m not totally dissatisfied with the way it is now,” Coleman said. “Our guys have to have some cash flow to build the premium wine business. There’s got to be a balance struck.”

The bulk wines, he said, are the Canadian industry’s response to similar practices in other countries.

Coleman’s response to the issue is a step forward, but not enough to distinguish the faux B.C. wines from the real thing, said Bob Ferguson, owner of Kettle Valley Winery in Naramata. Kettle Valley uses 100-per-cent Okanagan grapes in all its wines.

“What the majority of wineries want is truth in labelling,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think that is too much to ask. I am surprised that Minister Coleman couldn’t support consumer truth.”

“It’s helping the big guys, it’s helping the liquor board and it’s helping Minister Coleman meet his sales targets,” Ferguson said.

“I certainly hope this is not the end of it. When you go into a grocery store, you want to know whether you are buying B.C. apples or Washington apples. B.C. people are going to support B.C. wines, and the problem with the liquor stores is that they intentionally confuse the consumer. These wineries are not telling consumers where their products come from.”