Ontario Wine Culture

The recent Ontario budget contained a proposal to give cities the flexibility to allow public consumption so you no longer have to risk fines and be clandestine about enjoying a glass of rosé during summer picnics. istockphoto.com photo

Both the federal and Ontario provincial budgets offered some good news for wine lovers and the Canadian wine industry with changes aiming to make it easier to get your favourite bottle of wine.

Feds Eliminate Wine Barriers in Our Borders

The federal government is aiming to modernise the prohibition-era Importation of Intoxicating Liquor Act by nixing its requirement that sales of alcohol from one province to another be done via provincial liquor authorities. The government and wineries across the country are hoping it will kickstart a Canadian wine culture and boost business making it easier and cheaper for Ontario wine lovers to buy a case of B.C. Merlot directly from their favourite B.C. winery and have it shipped to their door and for wine lovers outside of Ontario to be able to do the same with their favourite Ontario Riesling. The government started the process by introducing legislation to eliminate the last federal barrier to interprovincial alcohol sales. But it will be up to the provinces to introduce their own legislation to implement these changes thanks to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling from last April that determined provinces have the authority to restrict alcohol imports.

Ontario’s Baby Steps Towards Alcohol Modernisation

With major spending cuts to the Ministry of Environment, social services and post-secondary education Ontario’s budget was a regressive step back for many. But for Ontario wineries and wine lovers it brought some positive news checking off a number of small items from their wish lists. There’s plans to expand the number of places you can buy wine by allowing its sale in convenience stores and adding more grocery stores—a trend the previous government began in 2014 by allowing VQA wines into farmers markets and some grocery stores two years later and a proposal to give cities the flexibility to allow public consumption so you no longer have to risk fines and be clandestine about enjoying a glass of rosé during summer picnics in Trinity Bellwoods Park. But in the mean time they’ve already changed the first call time so you can enjoy a mimosa with your 9 am brunch, and permitted bars and restaurants to advertise happy hour drink specials. For wineries it eliminated serving size limits for tasting rooms and paused a tax increase of about three percent that was scheduled for April by the previous government. The overall effect is a loosening of historical puritan and prohibitionist attitudes towards alcohol that have long been out of touch with modern Ontario and a signal of more modernisation to come.

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