But there’s hope when it comes to the big picture. We can find it in two places: In growth, and in East Asia.
Regarding the former, there is no denying that Canada’s wine industry has exploded. The average Canadian now consumes thirty-six bottles of wine per year, and wine has matched beer in popularity - largely thanks to growing Gen Y interest. In the period from 2000 - 2007 alone, per capita consumption went up more than fifty per cent.
Things are looking up on the consumer side. But production has seen rapid growth as well. Between 1996 and 2006, the number of Canadians employed in the wine industry doubled. Shipments, measured in millions of dollars spent, did the same. Growth is steady. Every year, the industry increases spending by about 12.4%, pouring cash into building wineries and cultivating land.
Sure, relative to the rest of the world, Canada may not make a lot of wine. But its industry is expanding non-stop. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in vigour.
Meanwhile, demand for Canadian wine is growing in places where before it barely existed. Canadian Jamie Paquin was able to open a store in Tokyo selling only Canadian wines; it’s frequented by both ex-pats and locals. And in China, ice wine is so popular among the expanding middle class that counterfeit bottles are being sold.
It’s this increasingly well-heeled Chinese demographic that may hold the greatest promise as foreign consumers of Canadian wine. Not only is wine’s popularity growing in China, but buyers have an eye for expensive, prize-winning varieties - and as we mentioned before, Canadian wines have been sweeping up international awards. In fact, on reputation alone, a 2009 offering from Painted Rock Estate Winery that retails for $55 at home is fetching $950 a bottle in Shanghai.
Plus, with an influx of foreign investment in the Okanagan, signs point to stronger connections between China and the British Columbia wine industry, especially. There may come a day when BC wine is as popular in Shanghai as it is in Vancouver - and selling for twenty times the price.
Canada’s imprint on global wine production is tiny, when you take a step back. But closer inspection reveals a thriving, constantly expanding industry that continues to delight both local consumers and international awards judges. And thanks to growing interest from our neighbours across the Pacific, we can expect to see Canadian wine stretch far beyond its present borders.