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Kamloops wine industry excited to keep specialized wine licence

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July 16, 2016 - 11:30 AM

KAMLOOPS - Now that wine will be allowed on a Kamloops grocery store's shelves, local industry associations are looking forward to the economic impact.

For local wineries, council’s decision to allow wine to be sold at the Sahali Save-On-Foods is a big deal, Kamloops Winery Association executive director Trish Morelli says.

“We have no other VQA wine outlet in Kamloops,” she says. “Losing the licence would have significantly impacted the bottom line of our wineries.”

The rare licence is one of 21 in the province dedicated to 100 per cent B.C. Vinters Quality Alliance wines. Most other licences of this type are located in the lower mainland, though some are in the Okanagan, including a Kelowna Save-On-Foods. After nearly a year dormant, the licence based in Kamloops should be in use again this fall.

Now that it’s staying, Morelli says wineries are thrilled to have access to the estimated 70,000 customers which go through the grocery store on a weekly basis.

The designation '100 per cent B.C. VQA' refers to where the grapes come from and the quality of the wine. Miles Prodon, executive director of the B.C. Wine Institute, says wineries can be audited to check where their grapes are coming from. The quality is judged by a panel of experts for faults in a wine's taste.

The licence is significant to local wineries due to its specialized nature. The 100 per cent B.C. VQA wines designation means many wineries won’t qualify to be sold at the store. The licence also carries with it a caveat that any store using the licence has to carry a qualified wine. That means if a winery approaches the grocery store with a 100 per cent B.C. VQA wine, the grocery store will have to take it.

Prodon says smaller wineries can have difficulty getting into other liquor stores, and the requisite that a store with the specialized licence must take their wine is a big economic factor, even if there are only 21 locations in the province.

In the Kamloops area there are four VQA approved wineries, though Prodon says others may try for the qualification now that a new market has opened up. Morelli says she’s aware of someone interested in purchasing property and starting another winery in the Kamloops area as well. She estimates there’s about 30 people working in the winery industry locally, and that local wineries have put in millions of dollars into advertising.

“These guys have spent millions and millions of dollars to bring an agricultural tourism industry to Kamloops that wasn’t here five years ago,” she says.

Prodon estimates 17 per cent of all wine sales in the province are 100 per cent B.C. VQA wines. That percentage is growing he says, which means B.C. made wines are gaining on international wines, instead of competing against each other for a small portion of the market.

Overall the wine industry is a $2 billion industry in the province with additional impact in the tourism sector.

The licence was the source of much debate, with council initially voting against allowing its use, but they reconsidered the issue and allowed it earlier this week. The Overwaitea Food Group, which owns the Save-On-Foods brand, bought the licence from Discover Wines in November.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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