B.C.-wine labelling changes on the horizon

Industry waits for Victoria to implement recommendations from 2016 plebiscite

Mike Klassen is executive director of the BC Wine Appellation Task Group, which lobbied to have the British Columbia Wine Authority hold its plebiscite | Chung Chow

When the British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA) held a plebiscite in mid-2016, there was much excitement that industry-supported recommendations would quickly become provincial regulations.

Close to two years later, only three of the 10 recommendations that passed have become law. Provincial government staff is working on implementing four more of the recommendations while three others have so far been shelved.

The three regulatory changes that the previous Liberal government implemented were that:

•B.C. wines that have an approved sub-geographical indication on the label, such as Golden Mile Bench, also must have the larger geographical identifier, Okanagan Valley, on the label;

•future votes on new sub-geographical regions will also be open to grape growers who do not produce wine; and

•wines produced in a proposed new sub-region no longer must consistently demonstrate specific distinctive characteristics linked to the terroir.

The B.C. government earlier this month announced two new pots of money for the B.C. wine industry. Its Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is spending $150,000 to promote wine and food tourism while the Ministry of Agriculture is spending $100,000 to create and promote April as B.C. wine month.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if in B.C. wine month, they enacted the rest of these recommendations?” said Mike Klassen, who is executive director of the BC Wine Appellation Task Group, which lobbied to have the British Columbia Wine Authority hold its plebiscite.

Ministry staff are also working to implement plebiscite recommendations to:

•establish new geographical indications;

•identify sub-regions as the basis for new sub-geographical indications;

•have a flat fee for small wineries to be part of the BCWA; and

•ban the use of unregulated geographical indications on wine labels.

So far three other recommendations have been shelved. They include:

•requiring all wineries to be BCWA members as a condition of having a winery licence;

•changing the required branding on labels for wine that has not met the British Columbia Vintner’s Quality Alliance (BC VQA) standard to “British Columbia wine” from “wines of distinction”; and

•requiring all wine made from B.C. grapes to be either BC VQA or “British Columbia wine” in order to put the phrase “wine of British Columbia” on the label.

One recent wine-labelling change that B.C. winery owners are happy about came on March 12, when the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency banned the use of the phrase "cellared-in-Canada" from wine bottles.