Thursday, February 19, 2009

Study Suggests Canadians Becoming Major Winos

By Julianna Hayes
Canadians may consume beer and maple syrup by the gallon, but it appears we’ve also got a hearty appetite for wine.

According to research conducted on behalf of VinExpo, France’s huge international wine fair, Canadian consumption of wine increased by almost 27 percent between 2003 and 2007. During that time, we polished off more than 454 million bottles. And we’re apparently unstoppable. The report predicts we’ll have guzzled another 595 million bottles by 2012.

In fact, the Canadian wine market is growing at a rate three times the world-wide average.

Perhaps we’ve been draining the barrels and tanks to see us through the harsh winters. Or maybe it’s an indication of a looming social problem. Whatever it is, our humble native land is now to be reckoned with when it comes to global wine buying power.

It’s the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak economy – at least for the world’s wine producers, including those at home. They’ve no doubt been sweating the consumer-wide belt-tightening, particularly given that wine – while it might help get you through a tough day – isn’t exactly a necessity.

The study, titled Current Trends in the International Wine and Spirits Market and Outlook to 2012, contained some interesting observations. For example, importers were the big winners when it came to our insatiable thirst. Foreign wine sales soared by almost 30 per percent with consumers soaking up 32 million cases in 2007.

That makes little old Canada the sixth largest importer of wine in the world – and that’s nothing to sniff at. Plus we’re expected to knock have knocked back another 37 million cases by 2012.

France remains the number one supplier Canada-wide, but just narrowly edges out Italy. This isn’t the trend, however, in B.C., where Australian imports lead the sales, but its hold is slipping slightly. Next in line on our soil are U.S. wines, mostly from California, then Italy and Chile. French wines are in a distant fourth place.

While these figures might be discouraging to local enthusiasts, domestic wines are no slouches either. Sales of home-grown products shot up almost 17 per cent and in B.C., our locally made wines have a pretty strong hold on buyers. That’s excellent news for regional producers. And though an official from VinExpo admits the organization doesn’t have a crystal ball given the volatility of the current economy, the forecast is bright.

The condensed version of the study supplied to us media types raises more questions than provides answers, at least for me. It doesn’t say why Canadians are thirsting more for wine and what exactly it is that they crave. It doesn’t provide average price points or outline emerging consumption trends based on wine styles or varietals.

For example, it would be of interest to me to know if a good chunk of those 454 million bottles we recycled were simply [yellow tail] or if consumers were showing more imagination with their buying habits. I’d be curious to see which varietals wine enthusiasts are beginning to embrace and if they are willing to spend more to try them.

I’m also wondering if the slower growth in terms of domestic wine sales is due to lack of availability or if buyers continue to believe anything imported is superior as a rule.

The full report – at almost 300 pages and includes a CD-ROM – could contain some of those questions. But I’m not willing to fork over the 1,000 Euros to find out. One thing is certain though, plenty of market-hungry importers will cough up the cash in hopes of flooding our shelves with product that will find its way into to the Canadian consumer’s selective heart.

Incidentally, VinExpo runs June 21-25 this year in Bordeaux, France. Check out for details.

And speaking of upcoming events, check out the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, which this year celebrates British Columbia as the feature wine region for the first time – in anticipation of 2010. Tickets for signature events sell out fast, so if you intend to go, you’ll want to book early. In the coming weeks, I’ll spotlight some of the go-to events that shouldn’t be missed.

Wine Notes

Mission Hill 2006 Reserve Shiraz
Aromas: Chocolate, black cherry, white peppercorn, smoked meat, herbaceous, flinty chalk, coffee bean
Flavours: Savoury, herbal, black cherry, pepper, chalk, smoked meat, cocoa bean, expresso
Body and Finish: A savoury, racy fresh palate with good mid-palate weight, peppery, slight hot finish
Overall Impression: Elegant for its price point, more European in style. Not a fruit bomb
Would I Buy It? Yes
Cellaring Potential: Drinkable now with food, cellar up to five years
Score: 89
Price: $22
Availability: BC LDBS, VQA shops, private retailers

Sumac Ridge 2007 Pinnacle (White)
Aromas: Honey, butter, spice, orange rind, mineral, grapefruit, tropical fruit, ginger and floral notes
Flavours: Citrus, apple, spice, mineral, ginger, butter, herbal, olive, floral, lemon oil
Body and Finish: Fresh entry with mouthfilling and butter texture on the palate and some zip on the finish
Overall Impression: Quite complex, robust, yet has some zip. Drink well chilled
Would I Buy It? Yes
Cellaring Potential: Drink now
Score: 89
Price: $25
Availability: VQA shops, private retailers

Fairview Cellars 2007 Sauvignon Blanc
Aromas: Gooseberry, fresh grass, lemon peel, grapefruit rind, mineral, green apple skin
Flavours: Cut grass, mineral, white grapefruit, lemon, spice, herbal, apple skin and a touch of salt Body and Finish: Racy, lemony, zippy entry that dances on the tongue…finish is fresh and lingering with a hit of saltiness that makes this wine sing
Overall Impression: Quintessential version, loads of racy acidity, all that you want front this variety. And this was just a barrel sample
Would I Buy It? Absolutely
Cellaring Potential: Drink when its released
Score: 91
Price: $TBA
Availability: Winery, private retailers

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