> Challenging times for B.C. wine industry - report

Challenging times for B.C. wine industry - report

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Andy Hira, 778.782.3286; ahira@sfu.ca
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.3210; marianne_meadahl@sfu.ca

January 13, 2011

While B.C.’s wine industry has flourished and become a major tourist attraction over the past decade, a new Simon Fraser University study shows the industry’s long-term success faces numerous challenges.

Study author and SFU political scientist Andy Hira says those vulnerabilities need to be addressed. “Market forces threaten the continued growth of the industry, which has flourished after public policy changes were brought in following the 1992 NAFTA free trade agreement,” says Hira.

“Not only is the number of wineries increasing, so are the costs of inputs such as land. A recession in B.C. could threaten many of the gains made in the past decade. Meanwhile, the industry is set up for a limited market, namely B.C. itself, and still finds it challenging to compete with cheaper imports.

“The question for the future is, can B.C.’s wines improve their quality and value to expand their markets or are we at the peak for the wine industry now?”

The 62-page report, The Wine Industry in British Columbia: A Closed Wine but Ready for Harvest, is already drawing industry response. Ingo Grady, director of sales for Mission Hill Family Estate winery, one of the oldest and most established in the Okanagan Valley, says the findings are thought provoking and has invited Hira to meet with the region’s industry stakeholders. "This needs to be discussed beyond the realm of academia," he adds.

John Schreiner, Canada’s most prolific writer of books on wine, calls the conclusion pessimistic. “The report argues that without a “cluster policy” – which is another way of saying without a lot more cooperation among all of the stakeholders – the vulnerabilities noted could lead to major problems in the industry.”

The study is part of a $3.4 million Genome Canada grant and included more than 50 interviews with winemakers, suppliers and public support institutions to the Okanagan wine industry.

Hira says attention to policy at the federal and provincial levels is “severely needed in order to address the possibilities for future growth.” Further research, he says, could help to design policy reforms and move the industry towards continued success.

In the coming months Hira and other researchers will compare B.C.’s industry with those of other wine producing regions, including Italy, Chile, Australia and Spain, to see what lessons can help improve B.C. wine’s competitiveness.

Experts from those countries will make presentations to the industry this summer. Details will be posted on Hira’s website, www.sfu.ca/~ahira



Comment Guidelines


The BC wine industry is very young compared to many of its competitors. Other countries new to the wine industry have the advantage of lower taxes, cheaper labor, and a more consistent wine friendly climate.

Buying local products are usually only attractive because a close proximity typically provides a fresher product, and less importantly a contribution to the local economy. Wine is not perishable and has a high cost to weight ratio making it highly profitable to export.

I prefer wines from Washington state for these reasons. BC's wine industry has to focus on continuing its QUALITY products, as this will builds its current reputation of quality wines. Unfortunately not all of the VQA wines are deserving of the label, nor the sticker price. The good news is there are many small ma' and pa' wineries that produces great wine at great prices. The locals rejoice!



Ben, the NZ wine industry is young, faces higher labour costs, higher total taxes and, in all regions, a far more difficult climate to that found in the Okanagan. I know this through working in this industry in multiple regions in NZ and within the Okanagan.

The NZ wine industry, though facing harder times at present, is still growing total exports and earnings. This is becuase it operates in a free market not under protectionist law. It also has a product that is easy to understand and can compete on price.

The Okanagan producers some great dry wines but, you are right in saying they are generally overpriced and under delivering.

The BC wine industry has had it easy for way to long and needs to wake up and smell the roses. Hopefully, for all I know within it, it does not fail but I hope intervention is taken so that it becomes world known for dry wines. Currently Canada is only known internationally for icewine (predominantly from vidal), which IMO is always out performed by riesling and supported by a hideous range of icewines from zweigelt and other odd balls; the best examples of these are usually dry (zweigelt in Austria at least).

This report has the potential to boost the industry to new heights if it can be used properly.

Go the Okanagan,



This is a really pressing issue for the department of Political Science? Meanwhile in Egypt...

Sierra Rayne

A critical review of this report can be found at the following link: http://sierra-rayne.blogspot.com/2011/02/review-of-wine-industry-in-british.html