British Columbia

B.C. wine marketers 'worth their salt' will capitalize on Alberta's ban: experts

'Who knows? B.C. wineries may end up ahead of the game here,' marketing professor says.

'Who knows? B.C. wineries may end up ahead of the game here,' marketing professor says

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver called this his "response to Notley's pettiness," after the Alberta premier announced a ban on importing West Coast wines. (Andrew Weaver/Twitter)

British Columbians seemed more than happy to support the provincial wine industry on Tuesday, with many heading home to crack open a bottle and toast buying local.

The leader of the provincial Green Party, for one, left a local liquor store with three bottles of Okanagan wine in his arms.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday the province would boycott all wines from its western neighbour.

It's the latest move in the inter-provincial spat over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Last week, B.C. called for further review of the oil-spill risk from the pipeline expansion — a move that could delay a project Alberta sees as vital to its economy.

So Notley took a swing at B.C.'s economy. 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday her government will place an immediate boycott on B.C. wines. (CBC)

"This action will harm the B.C. wine industry," Notley said of the wine ban. "Alberta will not stand by and be the only province impacted by another province's refusal to play by the rules."

The #bcwine hashtag was trending on Twitter soon after, along with several others, like #buybcwine, #bcwinepledge, #toastthecoast and #pinotnotpipeline. 

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver posted a photo with the hashtag #BCBuysBCWine, bottles of red in hand. Many others posted photos of their wine glasses, too.

There were also hashtags in favour of the boycott, but wine drinkers on both sides of the debate seemed to agree that B.C.'s wine industry is collateral damage in a pipeline fight that was — before Tuesday — a separate issue.

Sandra Oldfield, former owner of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in the Okanagan, says she thinks local wines could see an uptick in sales in coming days, but the boost is eclipsed by uncertainty for the future.

"When a news story's hot, it's hot for a day or two," she said Wednesday.

"If someone is at a retail store and they're upset this happened and they're choosing between a B.C. wine and a California wine ... I would think you'll have a boost in the B.C. wine."

The flip side, she said, "is that it's a pretty dangerous thing for a province to blacklist one product from another province and I don't know what the long-term implications are for that."

​In 2017, Alberta imported about ​17.2 million bottles of wine from B.C. That amounts to about $70 million per year paid to B.C. wineries. About 95 per cent of Canadian wine sold in Alberta liquor stores is from B.C. 

Lindsay Meredith, marketing professor at Simon Fraser University, said "anyone worth their salt" in wine marketing will capitalize on the publicity.

"Somebody who is smart enough to motivate and set up a system of social networking, pushing the 'support B.C. wines' agenda because they're under threat from Alberta ... who knows? B.C. wineries may end up ahead of the game here."

Oldfield also said it's a shame local businesses are being impacted by a political battle happening over their heads.

"Wine has been politicized since the '20s because of prohibition. It would be nice, one day, if we could just get to a point where we're farmers farming, we make a product and we sell it," she said. "That would be good."