Nova Scotia

N.S. wineries ensnared in Prohibition-era rule

An anti-bootlegging law from the 1920s is choking wine sales from Nova Scotia, vintners say.

An anti-bootlegging law from the 1920s is choking wine sales from Nova Scotia, vintners say.

A federal law prevents local wineries from selling their product outside their respective provinces. Only provincial liquor control boards can move alcohol across borders.

"We just lose a whole lot of business and opportunities to make sales because of it," said Suzanne Corkum, with Sainte Famille Wines near Windsor.

Under Canada's Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, Corkum and other vintners cannot send a case of wine to a customer outside Nova Scotia. Even carrying a bottle of wine across a provincial border is illegal.

"We get a lot of people … fly in and they come here and they enjoy the wines and they say, 'Can you ship a case to us in B.C. or two' and we can't do it," Corkum said.

Most months, she said, the winery receives an out-of-province request for a $200 case of wine every week. But in the summer that jumps to one request a day.

At Bishop's Cellar in Halifax, there's a lot of buzz around Nova 7, a lightly spritzed white wine from Benjamin Bridge. A national industry magazine recommended it as a good wine to enjoy on election night.

"We've had some requests for it," said Matt Rogers, general manager of the wine store. "[It's] another example of how direct-to-consumer, if these laws were struck down, we'd be able to get this product across the country."

Currently, people outside Nova Scotia who want to order wine from the province must do so through the liquor board or agency in their province.

It seems the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. doesn't like the idea of loosening the regulations.

"Why don't I support it? Because it isn't milk and cookies that's being sold here. This is a restricted product and it has an impact on society, on those who abuse it. That's the public policy choice we've made in this country," said spokesman Rick Perkins.

For now, Nova Scotia vintners say getting more customers in the door is their only way to boost sales.