The pandemic was tough on BC wineries.
And now inflation is dealing another blow.
The federal government recognizes this hardship and has created the Wine Sector Support Program to provide $166 million in short-term support over the next two years.
"As the operator of a small winery in BC, the new Wine Sector Support Program will be very helpful in offsetting some of the every-increasing costs our industry has been facing over the past few years," said Erin Korpisto, general manager of Stag's Hollow Winery in Okanagan Falls.
"I urge all wineries to submit their applications during this small window of opportunity (deadline is Aug. 12) in order to qualify for the funding to be distributed later this year."
Wineries can apply at:
The support is a grant, so the money doesn't have to be paid back, but it will be treated as income come tax time.
There are 370 wineries in BC which could qualify for money, along with almost 200 in Ontario and a smattering in Quebec and the Maritimes, so $166 million over two years may not work out to massive amounts for all those who qualify and apply.
However, anything helps in times of need.
Most of BC's wineries are in the Okanagan with others in the Similkameen, Thompson, Lillooet, Fraser, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Kootenays.
The amount of grants for individual wineries will be determined by an as-yet-unspecified formula based on total litres of eligible wine production.
That would mean less for smaller wineries, more for bigger wineries.
The BC wine industry was on a roll until COVID hit.
"While between 2015 and 2019 BC wine tourism grew nearly twice the rate of overall tourism in the province prior to the COVID pandemic, in 2020 we saw a 80% drop in visitors," said Miles Prodan, president of Wine Growers British Columbia (formerly the BC Wine Institute).
"There is so much potential in the BC wine industry, and this Wine Sector Support Program is critical to recapture that growth for BC wineries."
Besides the drop in wine tourism due to the pandemic, BC wineries are now also facing a labour shortage, delays because of supply chain disruptions and increased cost of doing business because of inflation and the escalating price of everything from equipment and bottles to supplies and property.
Wine made from 100% Canadian grapes is the highest value-added agriculture product in the country.
The industry is labour-and-capital-intensive and supports a complex value chain including vineyard operations and supply, winemaking, research, transportation, retail, tourism and hospitality.
In BC that means an overall annual economic impact of $2.8 billion, annual economic impact of $609 million in wine tourism revenue, $163 million in wages and 3,912 jobs.
Plus, wine is a bragging right for BC tied to glamour, good times and beautiful weather and scenery.
"Wine Growers British Columbia is calling on all BC wineries to apply now for the program," added Prodan.
"The more BC wineries supported by this program, the more resilient and able to thrive our industry becomes. Together, we are stronger."