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March Wine Madness: Taxes, Control, Lawsuits & Happy Hours

March Madness appears to be infecting the wine business this week as a number of interesting stories hit the news:

Taxes. The British government introduced measures this week, as part of its Budget, which would reduce taxes on beer but increase them on wine and spirits. The Wine & Spirit Trade Association is questioning the legality of this discrimination, particularly in the light of applicable EU laws. Here in Canada, Wines & Vines ran an article today pointing out that British Columbia is one of the most heavily taxed jurisdictions in the world as it relates to the wine business. A hefty 11% of the total economic impact of BC\’s wine industry relates to taxation (the numbers are 6.3% in WA and 2.4% in OR). As noted earlier, the sales tax rate on BC wine will go up from 12% to 15% as a result of the return to the PST on April 1st. In addition, the non-BC part of the wine business faces much higher rates of taxation … so the overall impact would be significantly greater than the numbers quoted.

Control Crumbling? Pennsylvania is one of the few U.S. states that retains \”Canadian style\” government control over its liquor distribution system. However, it appears the control era may be close to an end in this state as the Governor\’s privatization initiative passed critical votes this week. If the measures pass, Pennsylvania would join the rest of the free world in having a normal private system for the retail of wine and other alcohol

Parker Sues Galloni. The world of wine reviewing meshed with the legal world this week as it was reported that Robert Parker\’s Wine Advocate is suing his former reviewer, Antonio Galloni. See the NY Times, Robert Parker vs. Antonio Galloni, and Dr. Vino\’s blog, Parker sues Galloni, for all the details. In one interesting but odd twist, the Wine Advocate is asserting as part of the law suit that Galloni is not entitled to use its \”proprietary\” 100 point rating system on his new wine review site.

Happy Hours. A fun read in the Vancouver Sun this morning as columnist Pete McMartin takes down BC\’s outdated \”nanny state\” approach to liquor regulation: Absurd Ban on Happy Hours Sends This Drinker to Seattle.   

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