News / Edmonton

Some Edmonton retailers worry B.C. wine ban could send consumers running for the border

But others say the ban will be a good opportunity for wine fans to sample alternatives to 'overpriced' B.C. bottles

Sunterra Market manager Irene Jensen believes the recent ban on wines from B.C. could eventually trickle down and affect consumers once bottles run out.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Sunterra Market manager Irene Jensen believes the recent ban on wines from B.C. could eventually trickle down and affect consumers once bottles run out.

Less than 24 hours after the province announced a ban on B.C. wine, retailers in Edmonton are already getting frantic calls from customers asking staff to pull their favourite British Columbia bottle off the shelf.

“I‘m personally surprised it started already," said Irene Jensen, the manager of Sunterra Cellar, who said she'd fielded about five to six calls as of Wednesday afternoon, from customers worried their favourite B.C. wines might sell out.

The province announced the ban Tuesday in response to a pipeline dispute with B.C.

Jensen herself worries the ban on wine imports from our western neighbours could eventually result in a smaller selection for consumers, who might eventually opt to drive to B.C. to pick up their favourite bottle.

"Quite frankly I do think it will have a trickle down effect as far as sales go,” she said. “I think it’s sort of a shame that the average Joe consumer is kind of eventually going to suffer for it."

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission says there are currently about 160,000 cases of B.C. wine in Alberta warehouses, which is expected to last about 30 to 35 days. Once those dry up, the real impact of the ban will be seen, Jensen said.

“We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that it can be resolved before that,” Jensen said.

If not, she says she’ll be looking at the Niagara area in Ontario to support Canadian products.

Dix Richards, a manager at BIN 104 Fine Wine and Spirits, agreed that the effect of the ban will trickle down.

“It could affect us two ways. One is that people decide to boycott the product and it sits there forever. Two, if there’s a particular product that a customer wants, we obviously can’t bring it in,” she said.

“My concern, for sure, I believe that restaurateurs and the agents that sell us the wine are really going to suffer,” she added.

Don Thierman, owner of Premium Wine Liquor Beer Imports, isn’t terribly worried about running out of B.C. wine at his warehouse because he sells high end products to boutiques and restaurants, which tend to move slower.  

“If you can still order it as a store or a retailer, it’s not going to affect us … I think it’s going to hurt the guys in B.C. because they’re losing customers,” he said.

Jensen tends to agree, but also sees a silver lining. The ban could “open up some consumers' eyes” to what she sees as more reasonably priced products.

While she said she wouldn’t call B.C. wines overrated, she would definitely call them “grossly overpriced”.

“I really do think it’s it going to hurt B.C. in that you’ll find consumers turning away from their products,” Jensen said.  “If anything, they might get a better deal. It might be worthwhile for Albertans to cross the border.”

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