John Skinner
November 14, 2013 | Wines of Canada | John Skinner

Growing the Canadian Wine Brand

Having started our vineyard /winery from scratch in 2004 we have been in the industry for almost 10 years but truly been in the Canadian wine business approaching 5 years. The domestic support of our industry is remarkable. I feel an amazing connection with our customers in Canada, which I think is directly correlated to our common aspiration for this industry. Their confidence in us reaffirms our commitment to aim as high as possible to realize our full potential.

To really get better and attain a higher profile for our industry we need to get our wines beyond our borders. This will provide context beyond regional comparisons and really inform us of our position in the world market. In order to have our wines written up by the international wine writing elite our wines generally have to be available in their domestic market. To that end, I've sent our wines to London three times to events and for review and now feel it's time to get a toe hold in that market. I had a wonderful conversation recently with David Gleave MW owner of Liberty Wine in the UK who gave me some very helpful insights about how Canada should approach growing our brand internationally. He began by telling me our first priority must be to create a national identity and establish a beachhead in the worlds two dominant wine centers, London and New York. Dispell the myth that Canada just produces ice wine by showing the breadth of our industry and it's diversity. Refrain from doing regional promotions ie Okanagan or Niagara until the market is fully educated and aware of what we are producing. Another friend told me the story of New Zealand wines. He said "25 years ago there was a Kiwi on every corner in London trying to sell wine and no one would talk to him. Now every list in London needs a Kiwi wine". I was delighted to hear this. I think our Canadian industry will grow on the backs of the small premium producers and we are the pioneers. I'd like to see us unite nationally. Pick a group that agree on the mission, and get out there. I'm not entirely sure how you pick the group but that's not important. What is most important is that we send our best and we make a splash. Perhaps one day every list in London will need a Canuck wine!


Alex's Gravatar
@ Dec 16, 2013 at 3:12 AM
I find some of the problems with getting recognition of Okanagan wine abroad are the fact that there is no single varietal or style representative of the region, the cost of the wine (though Kiwi wines face that too) and the small production quantities of most Okanagan wineries. There's no doubt the quality is there in the Okanagan, but when looking to pair with distributors or retailers the basic cost of the wines is relatively high compared with wines from much more recognized countries and the small winery size means the supply just can't feed larger retail chains. Boutique and on-trade is the way to go so there can be a soft sell from a knowledgeable staff person or sommelier, but even then it's hard for the consumer to get any iconic understanding of what an Okanagan wine is because the varietals and styles are so varied. There is no doubt you're right about the industry growing on the backs of small, premium producers, and it will be very interesting to see how it takes shape over the next couple of decades.

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