‘Cellared in Canada’ erased from Canadian wine labels

B.C. winemakers applaud new Canadian wine-labelling rules

Sawmill Creek Wines, with is part of the Artisan Wine Co., produced this wine, which notes on its label that it was "cellared in Canada"

B.C. wine industry insiders are pleased that the Canadian government earlier this month banned the use of the term “cellared in Canada” (CIC) on wine labels to indicate international blends that are blended and bottled in Canada but do not contain juice from Canadian grapes.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) change, they believe, will stop confusion on store shelves between the lower-priced CIC wine, which is often sold in one-litre jugs, and wine made from 100% B.C. grapes, which is often perceived to be of better quality.

Wine that contains primarily a blend of international wine but also some Canadian wine, and is bottled in Canada, now must be labelled “international blend from imported and domestic wines.”

Wines that are primarily made from Canadian wines but also include international wines must be labelled “international blend from domestic and imported wines.”

The word “Canada” will be removed from those bottles, except perhaps as part of an address or to say the producer is “a Canadian-owned company,” as Mission Hill Family Estate’s sister company Artisan Wine Co. does on its bottles.

“We don’t anticipate any business impact but it’s difficult to speculate,” Jay Wright, president and CEO, Arterra Wines Canada, told Business in Vancouver.

Arterra, Andrew Peller Ltd. (TSX:ADW) and Artisan Wine Co. are the three wineries in B.C. that make wine previously labelled CIC.

“We are proud to have worked together with our industry partners and peers to ensure greater clarity for Canadian wine consumers,” Wright said.

The campaign to get the CFIA to ban the term CIC has ramped up during the past decade and gained ground in mid-2015, after a partnership between the University of British Columbia (UBC) and B.C.’s wine industry received a $630,000 grant from Western Economic Diversification Canada to help strengthen co-operation in the industry, increase B.C. wine exports and develop a global identity for the B.C. wine sector.

A wine-leaders forum took place in the Okanagan, in conjunction with UBC and Bordeaux, France-based Kedge Business School, and a committee formed, where members identified what many considered misleading phrasing on labels for international blends that were bottled in Canada.

“Allowing CIC on labels doesn’t do us any good when we export,” said Elysian Projects partner Sandra Oldfield, who was on that committee as an owner of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards – a venture that she sold to Andrew Peller Ltd. last year.

“No CIC winery representative decided to sit on the committee so it was pretty frustrating for the producers,” said Oldfield.

“It’s hard to decide things about CIC wines when the makers of CIC wines are not sitting in the room.”

CIC producers, CFIA representatives, winery owners and industry organization representatives all met in Penticton in November 2015.

Everyone at the meeting, according to Oldfield, agreed to change the wording for international blends bottled in Canada.

“The CFIA said they had to go through the motions of their normal formal processes,” she said.

“But it was a foregone conclusion that the change would happen. The only reason why it wouldn’t pass would be if the CIC producers were going to stand in the way of it, and they weren’t going to do that.”

The CFIA dutifully consulted a range of stakeholders, including consumers, industry associations, businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations in a June 2017 survey, and found that 81% of 886 participants supported the change.

The agency then announced on March 12 that the new phrasing was going into effect for newly bottled wine.

B.C. winery owners now are eager for the B.C. government to change regulations to put in place recommendations that the industry voted in a 2016 plebiscite to support.•