For the last few hundred years… winemakers have dutifully harvested, crushed, pressed and fermented their juices into delicious wine in pretty much the same way. Recently however, a revolution has begun in Canada.
“Do it yourself ” Winemaking Centers have begun to spring up all over. These specialized retail establishments allow customers to make wine from wine kits on their premises. From humble beginnings, “on-premise” wine-making establishments have grown rapidly in Canadian Provinces from coast to coast.
In Quebec, this exciting industry has been experiencing rapid growth for years and is spearheaded by the C.C.W.A. (Canadian Craft Winemakers Association). Vin Go owner Mark Eagle is President of the Quebec chapter of the CCWA. He has a lot of experience with “on-premise” winemaking, having assisted 1000’s of customers in Ontario, British Columbia and now back in Montreal where he was born and raised.
Owner/Operator Mark Eagle
A message from CCWA Quebec President Mark Eagle
Mark Eagle, Viviane Grégoire, Joëlle Boisvert, Anik Vigneault, Frank Raposo, Josee Cholette, Jean-Francois Chartier, lors de la dernière réunion de l’ACVA (29-10-2012).
The Craft Wine Industry in Quebec
From my point of view, anyone running an Urban Winery in Quebec is a true pioneer. Other provinces have forged ahead to make small wine industry business thrive but Quebec has been a little slack. The CCWA is a business association representing all stakeholders in our craft wine industry: manufacturers, distributors, retailers and suppliers. The CCWA’s principle undertakings to our members include: advocacy and regulatory interventions as well as market, retailer and infrastructure development.
Recently the CCWA has merged with the two key Provincial Retailer Associations (FGO – Fermenters Guild of Ontario and the ACVQ – Association Canadian des Vinificateurs de Quebec) to form a pan-Canadian association representing the interests of our emerging business community from Coast to Coast. The long and short of it folks is that the CCWA’s mission is “to promote the growth and prosperity of Canada’s consumer wine industry”. And they want to ensure a secure, sustainable industry in Quebec. Good business for everyone — supply and demand. But, you can’t really understand the situation here in La Belle Province without understanding what is happening in the rest of the country
Here is a short history of Urban Wineries in Canada. Making wine on location started its roots in Ontario in the mid-1980’s. In the beginning there were no rules or legislation, but in 2001 the Feds came up with a DIY Permit when they changed the excise tax law. The Feds were wise as they saw this as a means to promote a new sustainable industry across Canada. This permit authorized registration of DIY Wineries in each province but it was left up to the provinces to fine tune how they wanted to regulate the business. In 2001, Ontario and B.C. came up with their regulations to legalize and tax the product. Recently, New Brunswick, P.E.I. Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan and Manitoba has done the same.
But the history is a little different here in Quebec. The ACVQ – founded December 2001, over the years have made several approaches and have also participated in meetings with various government officials to clarify the legal status of winemaking centers in the Quebec market. The Quebec Government (for most likely monetary reasons and just plain lack of interest) had been ignoring efforts on the part of the Quebec group (ACVQ) who did try to advocate for regulation. In reality, what was happening was, the ACVQ were being completely rebuffed by the SAQ and the Regie d’Alcohol de Quebec. But, in the spring of 2011, Quebec’s ACVQ voted to join the CCWA, and did so officially on August 1, 2011 and since then more headway has been achieved.
The ACVA voted in Mark Eagle as President in 2011. Eagle had been involved in the wine making industry both Ontario and B.C., before deciding to invest in the business in his home territory, Quebec. Once opening his store in Montreal’s West Island, Eagle decided to take on the Quebec challenge as he had already been involved in the Canadian Craft Wine Association (CCWA). He restructured the organization by having members elect a secretary, a vice president and at least six others. These members are all store retail owners or Reps for the juice companies (kit suppliers). Eagle says, “I’m impressed by the progress we have made in such a short amount of time. With our new Quebec council in place, we continue to focus and move forward…To know where you are going though, you have to know where we have been. Let’s not forgot the many people who have championed our cause here in Quebec since the mid – 90’s. Including ACVQ founding member Yvon Boisvert (Cuve a Vin, Montreal). I think it is so apropos that Yvon’s daughter Joelle, (a long time employee in the family business) is now a board member of the CCWA – Quebec (ACVA). As we say in English – she is carrying the torch.” Eagle also added, “As things move forward, it will be good for business thus, those of you who enjoy making your own wine will benefit.”
The following is Mark Eagle’s outline of the issues that will lead to benefits for the Quebec consumer:
DIY Wineries in New Brunswick and Ontario will be less likely to lure consumers out of our province which is good for our economy – buy local folks – it’s good for everyone.
It is in line with Quebec’s entrepreneurial mandate to promote small business — more businesses, more jobs — all good for the economy.
Here are some of the unclear issues that need to be thrashed about and worked through:
It is unclear why the Regie d’Alcohol de Quebec (RAQ) rebuffed previous efforts on regulation in Quebec. The Quebec Government brings in nearly 3 billion in profits from the SAQ. Could it be that the RAQ consider that Urban Wineries will be a threat to those profits?
Conversely, the CCWA doesn’t want to compete with the SAQ. It feels that small business development will expand options for Quebec consumers that are already securely enjoyed by those in other provinces.
Microbreweries already exist throughout the province of Quebec and are doing exceedingly well, so the precedence for the local production of alcoholic beverages already exists.
Federal Law has already legalized self-service (DIY) Wineries across Canada… so Quebec officials now need to be clear on how it wants this business to continue operating in our province.
Currently, the CCWA provides a broad range of services, in both official languages to its growing membership and includes: a state of the art web-site; monthly newsletter; professional quarterly trade magazine; cross-Canada marketing campaigns through radio, Facebook, Twitter and social media channels; and other beneficial services.