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Wine Wars in Two Hemispheres

February 21, 2018 – There’s quite a brawl going on between two western Canadian provinces involving wine.  Down in New Zealand, consumers are up in arms over Australian Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine and Oil Don’t Mix

The province of Alberta has banned the sale of wine from British Columbia.  The ban is in retaliation for British Columbia delaying the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.  The pipeline moves oil from Alberta to Burnaby on the coast of British Columbia.  The B.C. Premier John Horgan wants to restrict the future flow of bitumen through the province.  Alberta needs access to markets where it can get a better price for its oil.

Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley retaliated by suspending talks to buy B.C. electricity then about 10 days ago announced the Alberta government would immediately stop purchasing wine from British Columbia.  All wine enters the province through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) and Alberta is B.C.’s wine industry’s biggest export market.  In 2017 B.C sold approximately 17.2 million bottles of wine to its neighbor worth about Cdn$70 million.

The spat continues.  The Globe & Mail reported February 20 that British Columbia is formally challenging Alberta’s ban on its wine through the Canadian Free Trade Agreement dispute settlement process.  A lot of jobs are at stake in both provinces and, after all, Canada’s Federal Government approved the Cdn$7.4 billion pipeline in 2016.


New Zealand Wine Drinkers Up In Arms

New Zealand has become an international powerhouse with its exports of sauvignon blanc so much so that its biggest wine company is angering the locals with a little bait ‘n switch.

With exports earning NZ$1 billion a year, of which 80 percent comes from sauvignon blanc, Montana Wine company, claiming to have been the first to develop Marlborough sauvignon blanc back in the 1970s, is substituting Australian sauvignon blanc for the domestic market in bottles retailing for under NZ$10.

With the price of New Zealand grapes rising, Montana had been trialing the use of Australian grapes since February 2017.  Besides sauvignon blanc, they have been using Australian pinot gris, pinot noir, chardonnay, and merlot and cabernet for domestic consumption, according to the U.K. Guardian.  By law, the wine’s origin must be on the label and this is accomplished by putting “Wine of Australia” in very small type on the back of the bottle next to the bar code.

New Zealanders love their sauvignon blanc and are understandably outraged by this sneaky switch to Australian wine which is considered inferior.  Other well-known New Zealand wineries have been doing the same thing and the natives are mad at them too.

Exports are safe, for which we are grateful as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a favorite.  Any company that exported wine with a falsified origin would be in a world of trouble.