This is a short guide to the unconventional approach to licensing wineries that BC has adopted. In most jurisdictions, it is possible to read through the winery licensing requirements within the applicable laws ... in other words, it is fairly easy to discover what the requirements are for obtaining a license. However, in BC, this is not the case. There are some requirements listed in the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. However, the most onerous requirements are imposed by the Liquor Distribution Branch, which may not have the statutory jurisdiction to regulate the manufacture of wine.

 License Requirements.

The branch of government that issues licenses for wineries is the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB). The LCRB does this under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. The conditions in the Act for issuing a license are relatively short and are contained in the Liquor Control & Licensing Regulation. In summary, those requirements are:

  • Applicant must own or lease the facility being licensed.
  • Must have winery equipment (fermentation tanks/barrels, filtering equipment, secure storage area) adequate for production of at least 4500 litres of wine per year.
  • For new applicants, must intend to ferment at least 4500 litres of wine per year. For renewals, must have actually done so each year. Although there is some latitude on this for things such as crop failure.

While those are the statutory requirements, there is more detail on the LCRB's policies in the Manufacturer Handbook which sets out the Terms & Conditions of a winery license.

Practical Requirements.

One would think that once your winery is licensed, you are in business. However, in BC that is not the case. In order to actually operate your winery business in BC, you are also required to enter into a contractual agreement with the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). This is not straightforward. The LDB categorizes all wineries in BC as either "Land Based Wineries" or "Commercial Wineries". Commercial wineries operate under less stringent conditions than Land-Based wineries but do not enjoy all of the regulatory privileges available to the latter category.

Land Based wineries must satisfy certain conditions (the type of which you would normally expect to see in a statute or regulation). For example, land-based grape wineries have to satisfy the following (there are similar requirements for fruit wineries):

  • Your wine must be made from 100% BC grown grapes. In other words, you can't use grapes imported from Washington, California or elsewhere.
  • You must have at least 2 acres of vineyards at your licensed winery site and use those to produce wine.
  • At least 25% of the grapes that you use must come from land owned or leased by you.
  • You must use "traditional" wine-making techniques.
  • You may buy wine or juice from other LB wineries but not from Commercial wineries.
  • No common ownership with a Commercial winery.

If you are interested in more detailed information regarding starting a winery in BC or upon the regulatory/compliance requirements for wineries, you may wish to subscribe the the BC Winery Compliance subscription which is available on our related web site, Alca Intelligence (consulting and information services for the liquor industry). The subscription provides detailed information on this subject including regulatory requirements from the LCRB, LDB, Agricultural Land Commission and other important aspects of the finances and taxation of wine production in BC.