TASTING NOTES: On liquor in grocery stores

Pares Balta Brut.  - Submitted photo
Pares Balta Brut.
— image credit: Submitted photo

After months of dialogue with retail, trade, consumers and other interested parties, the BC Liquor Policy Review report was handed in by Parliamentary Secretary John Yap with 70 recommendations on modernizing provincial liquor laws.

It looks as though the contents of the report are going to be released on a slow and steady basis, figuring that as I write this, we only know what one of those recommendations entails.

Unless you have been living under a rock over the last week or so, you’re well aware via an onslaught of media coverage that the government is looking to offer liquor sales in grocery stores, a huge step that is purportedly all about convenience.

What initially appears to be good news quickly deflates from where I’m sitting, as there are a few aspects of the official announcement that I find concerning.

First off, it had been stated that three quarters of respondents, myself included, were in favour of this step.

The thing is, everyone I’ve talked to imagined this looking like the American model, with an aisle (or part of an aisle) dedicated to wine, beer and spirit offerings. This is the convenience many had in mind.

That concept is kyboshed with the announcement that alcohol will be kept separate from grocery products, most likely a store-within-a-store.

Figuring most grocery stores are fairly close, if not adjacent, to liquor or wine and beer stores, this move really just saves a few footsteps.

There will still be a completely separate transaction and step when grabbing your wine for dinner. On top of this, and this is the big one for many, Yap recommends we keep the current cap on total retail outlets in the province.

This either means closing some B.C. Liquor Stores or, perish the thought, independent retail outlets to create space for those in grocery stores.

Your favourite wine store just a couple blocks away? It might not be there any more after this shift. That doesn’t sound more convenient to me. Also, there are way more grocery stores than liquor outlets in the province, so how will it be designated which stores will get the opportunity to carry alcohol?

Since B.C. has almost 2,400 grocery stores and about 1,100 liquor outlets (and not all of those will be closing,) odds are your local grocery store might not end up carrying liquor anyways.

For a major step that was supposed to be all about convenience, this really doesn’t seem to be thoroughly planned.

While we’re long overdue to steer the ship towards modernization, my feeling is so far we’re just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.


Let’s brighten things up a little. Here’s a wine for your weekend.


Parés Balta Cava Brut | Penedès, Spain | $19.99

BC Liquor Stores

If this traditional-method (made just like Champagne) sparkler doesn’t cheer you up, it’ll be hard to find something that does. Fresh-out-of-the-oven sourdough aromatics give way to pink grapefruit, lime leaf and marmalade elements on the palate. A good wine to always have in the fridge, and at this price it’s great for any day of the week!


As always, if you’re having trouble finding something or just want to say hi, find me via or on Twitter @KurtisKolt.


Perfect Pairings:

Kurtis Kolt teams up with City Market

Just in time for the holidays Outlook wine columnist Kurtis Kolt will be hunting the aisles of Loblaw’s City Market in North Vancouver in search of the perfect pairings to go along with his weekly wine picks.

Now, let’s get pairing:

Sure, in this week’s column I only recommended one wine, but the best thing about dry, sparkling wines is that they offer such diversity with food-pairing opportunities.

I love playing around with that fresh-baked-bread element of sparkling wines, the result of a second fermentation and extra yeast (or ‘lees’) contact in the bottle. With the sourdough note so key to the wine, grabbing a baguette would be a no-brainer and I’m thinking you should go with a President’s Choice Barbecue Seasoned Whole Chicken to make an awesome sandwich with, and slather on some PC Black Label Classic Aioli to add a little richness. You can also slice off some of that baguette and have it with a little Stilton Blue Cheese. The citrusy flair of the wine will be a good contrast to the saltier aspect of the cheese, and those bubbles will freshen that palate after every sip.

If you’re feeling a little more snacky or perhaps doing a little entertaining (‘tis the season after all), go quick and easy with some President’s Choice Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops or President’s Choice Pad Thai Spring Rolls.

Really, you don’t even have to go fancy at all. Pop the cork, open a bag of Popcorn Indiana White Cheddar Popcorn and be delighted by the combo. If that ends up being your dinner, I won’t tell.





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