Playhouse Wine Festival: Day 1


A fitting first image. As the floatplane glided down into Coal Harbour, my window framed the Vancouver Convention Centre, site of tens of thousands of bottles of wine ready and waiting to entice tens of thousands of tasters. At the heart of the Festival pulses the International Festival Tastingtaking place in the middle of a week of minglers, seminars, dinners, lunches, brunches, grazing, trade events and one very special gala auction.

I started off Playhouse week at the Wine and Liquor Law seminar, an annual event in conjunction with the Festival. Aimed at attorneys, the day-long seminar covered current event topics of interest to those in the wine trade, including new regulations and licensing structures. Approximately 50 attendees (mix of lawyers, winery owners, retailers and other interested parties) sat through informed sessions and lively discussions, the most active regarding last week’s surprise announcement that the BC government plans to raise $700 million by privatizing liquor warehouses. Speculation was in overdrive as to what this would mean for the industry, and ranged from comments that it was a political ploy to predictions that this is the beginning of the end of the government’s monopoly on our liquor system. Only time will tell how/if this will affect British Columbians. Program Co-Chair Mark Hicken, one of the most-informed and studied voices regarding liquor legislation in Canada, brought us up to speed on the developments over the past few days. One of the most interesting points he pointed out is that Minister Coleman has thrice stated through the media that the province will eliminate the confusing and archaic variable discounts and implement a “level playing field” for all businesses that sell liquor in the province including a single consistent wholesale price. Also to note is Coleman’s strong remarks that grocery store liquor sales are “not on the table”. Keep an eye on Hicken’s for the latest details over the coming weeks.

Interesting discussions were also centered around establishing new appellations in BC, carving out distinct and official subsections within our currently existing prescribed Geographical Indications (GI’s). As it stands now, BC VQA wines can only officially use one of the prescribed GI’s of British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley or BC Gulf Islands. It’s no secret that there are special terroirs and specified regions worthy of note within the lengthy Okanagan Valley: Naramata Bench, Skaha Bench and Golden Mile come to mind. Discussion regarding how and when these (or other) new GI’s will come about, how it would affect wineries and consumers and the pros and cons of such change were at times heated and always passionate. Obviously there is such a range of soils and climates from Kelowna down through Osoyoos that some ‘official’ recognition should be established. How that is going to occur is still waiting to be written.

Other sessions included an update on interprovincial shipping laws and implications for wineries, retailers and consumers (Catch up on Bill C-311 on; an overview of the licensing scheme for BC’s liquor industry; the policy debate regarding special orders; third-party internet marketing of wine; and the economics of producing wine in BC.

Informative, current and educational, the Wine Law Seminar was a crisp snapshot of where our industry sits today, and where we are headed in the near future.


The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival  is one of North America’s largest and greatest celebrations of wine. This year from February 27 to March 4, the theme country is Chile and the focus is Cabernet(s). EAT will be on site for the whole week, with daily posts, DRINKs, tweets and updates live from the festival.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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