For years I have been hearing wine writers and others say that unless Canadian wines are sold in the UK or the US we will never become a well-known industry. Unless our wines are reviewed by the heavy hitters of the wine world (no need to name them here, just google World Wine Writers) then we will never amount to much of an industry. I think this is true. I also find myself saying…does it matter?
I will be the first to say that I am tired of opening up world wine atlases and finding the Lithuanian wine industry getting 3 times more column inches than Canada’s (nothing against Lithuania). Our section tends to be a paragraph, not a section, and it quite often discusses the hybrids we grow, the icewines we make and one or two founding producers. Antiquated information at best. Utterly false at worse.
I’d like to make the case that Canada should hang a much more important moniker on its wine industry than just “world-renowned”.
How about World’s Most Sustainable Wine Industry?
There are many definitions of “Sustainable” but one simple way of thinking of it is living within one’s means. On an individual basis, not such an easy thing to do. But Canada’s industry sits in a unique position on the worldwide wine scene.
We consume much more than we produce.
We have the ability to “absorb” (literally or figuratively) all of what we make and still must bring in a huge amount of exports to keep our wine drinking public happy. We can choose to ship overseas but we don’t need to. Take a look at this graph: (data courtesy the Wine Institute)
The first thing you should notice is that in order to see Canada (the far right bars) the scale should be changed (ie: we are a tiny blip). The next thing you should notice is that Canada is the only country on this graph that shows an industry that produces far less than it consumes– 50,000,000 liters production versus 334,000,000 liters consumption. The United States is flat with respect to production and consumption although it exports and imports a great deal.
You can be the greenest, most highly organic, environmentally sensitive wine industry in the world but in the end, if you have to export your product half way across the world to sell it all, are you really sustainable?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for protectionism, isolationism, or drinking only local. I enjoy wines from around the world and am very happy that these other countries make more than they consume. What I am proposing is that Canadian producers see that they are in a unique situation. Instead of seeing ourselves as so small that we cannot sustain international markets, we should embrace the small. Embrace a small industry that is wrapped by a larger wine buying nation. Instead of lamenting the fact that we are not at least a page in the next world wine atlas…celebrate. Celebrate that we are an industry that lives within its means.
Celebrate that Canada is a sustainable wine industry.