While I am not a political animal by nature, I must admit that the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement has caught my interest.
Why? Because an 18-page document issued in July that outlined expectations for the NAFTA negotiations did not include even one word about wine. That’s surprising, considering how much wine crosses the borders of Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Because of its temperate climate and assistance from the Canadian government, British Columbia has become a hotbed of grape growing and winemaking, especially when it comes to varietals with which Americans are familiar. Most of Canada’s famed “ice wines” come from Quebec, where the climate is colder.
Yet because the Canadian government has given Canadian wineries advantages in their domestic marketplace, there are not nearly as many bottles of Canadian wine shipped to the United States as there are American bottles shipped to Canada. It’s not even close.
Part of that has to do with production levels, of course. But when American wine does make its way to a Canadian supermarket, it’s sold in a separate area away from the main checkouts, while Canadian wines are easily accessible on regular shelves in the main shopping area.
In Quebec, the restrictions are even more onerous. There, the provincial law requires wines sold at other than government-run outlets to be bottled in the province. In other words, if you want a bottle of American-made wine, you have to make a special trip to a Société des alcools du Québec outlet.
With Canadian wine being made in much more limited quantities than U.S. wine and enjoying advantages at the retail level, it can make finding Canadian wine here in the U.S. a real challenge. Wines & Vines has an excellent report on this topic, which you can read here.
The NAFTA negotiations will take months, and wine is certain to come up at some point simply because of the amount of revenue involved. Hopefully, the negotiators will find a way to protect America’s wineries while allowing more Canadian wine to flow into the United States. That would be a win-win for wine lovers.