Take a few grapes, crush them, bottle the elixir and voila…you have a recipe for some great economic success.
The British Columbia Wine Institute, which is chaired by the passionate Josie Tyabji and assisted by hardworking executive director Miles Prodan, recently sent me the results of the largest research study ever conducted on the Canadian wine and grape industry.
Commissioned by the Canadian Vintners Association, the Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario, the British Columbia Wine Institute and the Winery Association of Nova Scotia, the report, entitled Canada’s Wine Economy—Ripe Robust Remarkable, confirms the wine industry has become a large and significant contributor to the overall Canadian economy, especially in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
According to the study’s findings, the Canadian wine industry generates an impressive $6.8 billion in economic activity, making it a significant driver of the Canadian economy.
The study finds that for every bottle of wine produced in Canada, about $31 of domestic economic impact is generated, creating more than 31,000 Canadian jobs and generating $1.2 billion in federal and provincial tax revenue and liquor board markup.
In taxes alone, the industry contributes $879 million annually.
Not only do Canadians enjoy more than one billion glasses or 220 million bottles of wine produced by the Canadian wine industry each year, but Canada welcomes more than three million visitors every year through the wine economy, more than four times the number of visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, generating $1.2 billion in tourism and tourism employment related economic impact.
With over 1,600 vineyards on more than 26,000 acres of land dedicated to viticulture, Canada’s wine consumption is growing faster than spirits and beer.
And even though Canadian wine industry sales represent only 30 per cent of all wine sold across Canada, there is a significant opportunity for growth.
Here in British Columbia, the B.C. wine industry alone generates $2 billion in economic impact employing more than 10,000 people and contributing $222 million in taxes.
Some 212 B.C. wineries welcome over 800,000 visitors every year through the wine economy, and generate $476 million in tourism and tourism employment related economic impact.
As for our wine consumption, British Columbians enjoy more than 234 million glasses or 47 million bottles of Canadian wine each year.
It’s hard to believe just how far we’ve come.
I can remember the late 1980s when old grape vines were being pulled out because of NAFTA.
Yet, there were the believers. Undaunted, a few saw the potential and replanted with new varieties, confident they could produce wines that would compete with the rest of the world.
Today, because of the spirit and determination of those entrepreneurs, the Okanagan is synonymous with exceptional winemaking.
Some of the best and brightest winemakers in the world call the Okanagan home, producing the kind of product that is sought after internationally, shipping record volumes of wine around the world, and overseeing vineyards that are on the cutting edge of innovation.
The industry has also successfully leveraged federal government support, making advances in research and innovation and exploiting greater trade and market access opportunities.
Through the Developing Innovative Agri-Products program, B.C. grape producers are improving pest and disease measures and enhancing grape quality.
Under the AgriMarketing program, Canada’s grape and wine producers are implementing a long-term international marketing strategy and tapping into international markets for their top quality products.
As well, the federal government fully supported legislation which removed import barriers for Canadian wineries who want to sell directly to Canadian consumers.
While progress has been slow, in time, I trust provinces like Ontario will follow the lead of B.C. and Manitoba and allow more Canadians the opportunity to get to know and enjoy some of the great award winning vintages produced by some of our smallest and best vintners.
There is no doubt that progress on this front will support a greater demand for home-grown products, boosting the growth of wine and culinary tourism in wine producing areas, and providing an even wider range of benefits, including the creation of more full- and part-time jobs, and the generation of secondary economic activity.
The fact is Canadian winemakers, especially here in the Okanagan, are getting it right.
We owe our innovative vintners a big thanks and our highest respect, for not only contributing significantly to our national, regional and local economies, but also for making Canada and the Okanagan one of the premier wine and culinary tourism destinations for people around the world.
Congratulations to all our local wineries for the great value you add to our community and country!
For anyone interested in reading the full report, please go to www.canadianvintners.com.