British Columbia

Imported wine, cider now allowed on B.C. grocery shelves

Effective July 8, imported wines may be sold on grocery store shelves where licensed, according to the Attorney General.

Effective July 8, imported wines may be sold on grocery store shelves where licensed

B.C wine is pictured for sale at Save-On-Foods grocery store in Richmond British Columbia on Thursday July 11, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As of this week, locally made B.C. wines and ciders have lost their exclusive spot on the province's grocery store shelves.

B.C. regulations previously provided two options for grocery stores to sell wine. Under one option, grocers could sell B.C. wine on grocery store shelves. Under the the second option, both imported and domestic wine could be sold in a separate liquor store inside the grocery store.

The U.S. filed complaints with the World Trade Organization over the first option, the so-called "wine on the shelf" system, alleging it gave B.C. wine makers an unfair advantage. 

Then, in October, during negotiations surrounding the trade deal between Canada, the United States and Mexico known as CUSMA, Canada and the U.S. agreed that wine sales on B.C. supermarket shelves would no longer be limited to just offerings from within the province. 

B.C.'s Ministry of the Attorney General said the policy came into effect this week, starting July 8. This means imported wines may be sold on grocery store shelves where grocery stores are licensed to sell wine.

It said it is up to each individual grocery store to decide whether or not to choose to sell imported wines, calling it a "business decision." 

Previously, only B.C. wines were permitted on grocery store shelves under the grocery store liquor policy. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Supermarket chain Loblaw, which has 10 stores in British Columbia licensed to sell wine, said it was "excited about the new direction."

It says domestic and international wine will be available to B.C. customers "in the next few months."

On the other hand, Save-On-Foods' vice president of innovation Brenda Kirk said the chain will continue to curate its selection from B.C.

"Our interests when we first got into the wine business was to really build on the B.C. wines and we've done that," Kirk said. "That's our story going forward."

With files from Micki Cowan