Text Size:-+

Feeling the Pain of Canadian Wine Lovers

I like to complain a lot about the state of wine shipping laws in America. It's a backwards system that favors the kleptocratic state-run monopolies and their distribution chain cronies (or is it the other way around?). And don't get me started on HR 1161, one of the worst pieces of legislation to hit our House of Representatives in recent memory.

Of course, we Americans like to think we're on our own in both good times and in bad, but any wine lover who's spent time in Canada knows that things are just as bad up there, if not worse. As bad as some states are, the selection of wines that even the most ridiculously corrupt liquor control boards stock vastly exceed those found in their Canadian counterparts.

And then there are those Canadian laws which say it's literally illegal to take alcohol across state lines. Nevermind sticking it in a box and shipping it. Walk across the border with a bottle of wine and you're technically in serious trouble, though prosecutions aren't all that common.

I got to thinking about all this the other day while reading (and commiserating with) a story about a guy who is going to protest these Canadian laws by (gasp) walking from British Colombia to Alberta with a box of wine under one arm.

I could completely empathize with his frustration at the inanity of the laws that mirror our own here in the US, and which prevent wineries in one part of the country from shipping their wine to citizens in another province.

Perhaps the most striking part of the story, however, was not the resemblance and commensurate levels of stupidity of our laws, but the quite honest admission of Canadian government officials that these laws were a sweet source of revenue that they were loathe to give up.

Our American politicians prefer to talk about the perils of letting alcohol fall into the hands of our youth, while sidestepping the vast amounts of money that flows into state coffers from state-run liquor stores, and into politician's pockets from distribution companies.

In any case, I'm raising a glass to Mr. Terry David Mulligan, and his efforts to point out the stupidity and rapaciousness of such laws.

Read the full story.

Comments (11)

Andrew Giesbrecht wrote:
05.10.11 at 7:16 AM

As an amateur wine-lover, residing in the Great White North, I know this pain firsthand. American's may have some terrible laws, but with the varying Provincial Liquor Commissions in Canada, it's almost as if they don't WANT us to taste many of the great bottles that are available in Ontario or British Columbia. (I'm from the Prairies).

I bring back a couple of bottles every time I visit the west coast, because the variety out there is SO much greater than what's available in our local stores. Depending on the coverage, Terry David Mulligan may become a folk hero, similar to greats like Louis Riel, Rosa Parks, and MLK.

Maybe I exaggerate a little bit. Ok, maybe I exaggerate a LOT. But I really enjoy my wine.

An excellent post!

Tom wrote:
05.10.11 at 7:37 AM

State government reps in Virginia and Pennsylvania have both admitted that they'd lose significant revenue with privatization of alcohol sales, so it's not exactly a new revelation.

Alder wrote:
05.10.11 at 7:43 AM


Yeah, I'm sure that folks in the US have admitted the link to revenue, too. In my experience they're just not nearly as forthcoming about it, and most of the "justifications" that are made to kill proposed bills in various state legislatures that come up to reform these systems from time to time are focused on "moral values" rather than the "sweetheart economics" of the status quo.

Eric Nelson wrote:
05.10.11 at 11:11 AM

yea liek you said many of these state laws are in place to help certain in-state wineries and distilleries monopolize their home ground

Rob wrote:
05.11.11 at 11:56 AM

Wow, and I thought our laws were ridiculous. Once again, bureaucrats make life more complicated in order to line their own pockets. It's nice at least that Canadians are honest about it, rather than claiming to "protect the children," as American politicians seem to like to pretend to do.

John Clerides wrote:
05.15.11 at 4:10 PM

The problem Canadian goverments have is they only look at the revenues generated by monopolies and not the antiquated rules and rulers running them. This Thursday the Georgia Straight will publish an extensive article on the British Columbia's laws, lets see what the fallout is.

Christopher Robinson wrote:
05.15.11 at 11:44 PM

Wow, thank god I live in Hong Kong which has no restrictions at all, has wines from everywhere and is completely duty free. There are flights every day for those looking for a lifestyle change!!

Frank Haddad wrote:
05.16.11 at 7:20 AM

We in British Columbia also have a 123% markup and duty on wines as well, to make the math easier $100 US cab becomes $223 dollars. A plug if I may for http://freemygrapes.ca/links.shtml, who are working to change the shipping laws in Canada

Krissu wrote:
05.16.11 at 9:23 AM

Great post! I am in the process of moving from Ontario to British Columbia to pursue a wine career. I had to pack the contents of my wine fridge into my camper van to enjoy on the road since I couldn't ship them. That meant drinking them much sooner than expected due to the vibrations of the road - I was worried they wouldn't survive the trip cross country. While I've enjoyed draining each bottle it would have been more ideal to ship from one province to the next. I guess technically we still broke laws by driving them across four provincial boarders but it is too late now!

Andrew Giesbrecht wrote:
05.16.11 at 10:00 AM

Well, Mr. Mulligan made it across the border. Check out the article from the Calgary Herald.


Ed wrote:
06.28.11 at 3:13 PM

"Our American politicians prefer to talk about the perils of letting alcohol fall into the hands of our youth..."

In other words, the "What about the children?" argument. To that I say: What about the adults?

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets US 2014 Vintage - Early, Fast, Eventful Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries Vinography Images: Vineyard Reflections The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.