NSLC Cuts Their Mark-up on Locally Grown Wines

The Nova Scotia wine industry gets a shot in the arm from the most unlikely of source.

Cheers! Nova Scotia winery owner Hans Christian Jost welcomes the NSLC’s bold move.

It just got easier to buy high-quality wine made from Nova Scotia grapes. This week, the NSLC announced it would cut the mark-up on Nova Scotia-grown wines by 70 percent—great news for lovers of terroir-based wines. (Terroir is the French term for the land, climate, soil and geography creating a regional character of wine.)

"Nova Scotia-grown" means wine must contain a minimum of 100 percent provincially grown grapes. This goes hand in hand with the new logo from the Winery Association of Nova Scotia. When you see a lobster claw holding a glass of wine on the foil around the cork of your wine, you know it is truly local and has met standards for grape ripeness and winemaking procedure, such as a limit on how much sugar can be used.

In most cases, the best, award-winning Nova Scotia wines have not been for sale at the NSLC. This is partly due to lack of availability—small production from a limited acreage—but it's also a winery business decision. Historically, with the 133 percent mark-up imposed by the NSLC, it's not been worth it for companies to sell these wines via the government monopoly.

Local wineries sell their wines at a much higher profit at their own stores or at the Farmers' Market and they typically sell out each vintage easily.

So, if they are already selling all these wines and don't make enough to distribute province-wide, why sell them at the NSLC, even with the reduced mark-up?

The answer, according to Hans Christian Jost, lies in the future. "This has been their boldest move in support of the industry, ever," says Jost, who knows the history of Nova Scotia wine as well as anyone. His father founded the winery in Malagash in 1983 and Jost has worked there since he was a child. "It will encourage a local wine culture, increase overall sales and help develop our wine route, which will result in increased sales in restaurants, more acreage of vines and more wineries."

This will take time, since there may not be enough current production of Nova Scotia wines to meet demand once the wines are distributed province-wide. It's hoped the more attractive business model will inspire more investors to develop vineyard land and open new wineries. It's already happening in the Gaspereau Valley, with properties like Pete Luckett's and the new Benjamin Bridge and L'Acadie Vineyards.

WANS recently unveiled an aggressive plan to increase production drastically during the next two decades. Not coincidentally, this fits nicely with the mark-up change.

Sean Buckland, who works in marketing for the winery association, says, "We are interested in growing the production from 400 acres to 1,000 by 2015 and need the assistance of the NSLC to help with marketing and selling of the added production."

Another benefit is distribution. "It's costly to ship wines to places like Yarmouth, Shelburne and Cape Breton," adds Sean, "and the NSLC would provide service for the wineries to actively pursue restaurants and consumers in those remote areas."

It makes sense. Now, wines from Kingsley Brown's Cote St. George vineyard near Antigonish, which has no winery store, can be available to local restaurants. And, hopefully, Domaine de Grand Pre, St. Famille and other wineries that have resisted listing most of their wines at the NSLC, due to excessive mark-ups, will now be available to more Nova Scotia oenophiles.

"Buying local" is a current foodie trend, and this new mark-up policy should help bring it to the Nova Scotia wine industry.

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