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When Canadian wine cost too much for Canadian consumers

Canadian wine was getting better in 1984, but that didn't mean Canadians were willing to pay a premium to drink it.

In 1984, it was cheaper to buy wine imported from Europe than to buy Canadian-made product

Is Canadian wine too pricey for consumers?

Digital Archives

37 years ago
2:47
In June 1984, The National looks at how the price of Canadian wine was affecting its domestic sale potential. 2:47

Canadian wine was getting better, but that didn't mean Canadians were willing to pay a premium for it.

That was part of the problem Canadian wine producers seemed to be facing as their sales dipped in the mid-1980s.

"Since last year, the sale of domestic wine has dropped almost 20 per cent," the CBC's Kathryn Wright reported on The National on June 9, 1984.

Tony Aspler, a well-known wine expert, said it came down to the price those Canadian wine drinkers were being asked to pay.

"People will pay $5 for wine and no more, and the better Canadian wines are much higher than that," he told The National.

French wine less costly

In 1984, Canadian wine was too pricey for some Canadian consumers -- especially when comparable European products were less expensive to purchase. (The National/CBC Archives)

Wright summed up the problem a little more sharply.

"Why pay $6.95 for a bottle of Canadian white when you can get a French Bordeaux for $4.25?" she asked viewers, noting the problem extended to red wines as well.

Wright said European nations were subsidizing their wine industries, an advantage that was further buttressed by a ready supply of exportable wine due to reduced demand for it on that side of the Atlantic Ocean.

In Ontario's Niagara region, grape grower Brian Nash was advocating for Canadian governments to provide assistance.

He warned the Ontario grape industry could collapse if things didn't change.

'Niagara-phobia'?

Reporter Kathryn Wright said Canadian wine was pricey compared to competing wine from Europe. (The National/CBC Archives)

Wright said the government's options were limited, as international trade agreements made it hard to give tax advantages. The threat of retaliation loomed as well.

"But there's another problem — a view that imported wines are better wines," Wright reported.

"Tony Aspler calls it Niagara-phobia, a kind of wine snobbery that he says is outdated."

Aspler said Canada's domestic wines had been substantially improved, but consumers appeared unwilling to give them a chance.

The country's domestic wine industry would face further challenges in the years ahead, as free trade with the United States meant that Canada's winemakers would have to compete with their American counterparts as well.

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