Wine Law

Inaugural International Wine Law Association Conference held in Vancouver

On February 24, 2020 the Vancouver offices of Norton Rose Fulbright hosted the Canadian Chapter of the International Wine Law Association’s (Association Internationale des Juristes du Droit de la Vigne et du Vin or “AIDV”) first wine law and policy conference. AIDV was founded over 30 years ago to promote and develop wine law on an international basis.  The Canadian Chapter of AIDV, which was more recently formed, is the successor to the Vancouver Wine and Liquor Law Conference which ran successfully for ten years.

The conference was held in conjunction with the Vancouver International Wine Festival  (February 22 to March 1, 2020) ensuring that participants’ exposure to wine wasn’t limited to only law and policy.

Kudos are in order for the founding board members of the Canadian Chapter of AIDV for assembling a learned and engaging panel of high proof speakers that spanned from lawyers and industry consultants to import agents active in the trade. They even managed to bring out a representative of the BC Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch to provide a little insider’s perspective on British Columbia’s licensing regime (who listened respectfully to the panellist’s grumblings…).

The agenda for the one-day conference was dense, covering a lot of ground in a short period of time:

  • Board members and conference organizers Mark Hicken (Vintage Law Group) and Chris Wilson (Norton Rose Fulbright) provided attendees with an update on national liquor policy and international trade developments, respectively.
  • Al Hudec (Farris) gave a detailed overview of recent sales of wineries in BC, Shea Coulson (McMillan) unpacked several recent appellate court decisions from across Canada on the Constitutionality of certain aspects of liquor law and policy (namely inter-provincial trade and taxation) and Ekaterina Tsimberis (Smart & Biggar) explained how wine producing regions and trade organizations can use the Federal Court to protect their intellectual property, namely geographical indicators.
  • Not to be outdone, the non-lawyer presenters, including Bert Hick (Rising Tide Consultants), Allison Boulton (International Trade Adviser with Small Business BC), Brian Berry (Revelry Import Company) and Matt Thirlwell (Vintage West Wine Marketing) each gave practical and informative presentations from industry perspectives on licensing issues, doing business in China, and the realities of running a liquor agency in western Canada.

Though the focus of the day was certainly wine, for the most part the law and policy issues canvassed apply to the other categories of beverage alcohol as well. Many of the challenges producers, importers and retailers of wine face in British Columbia, and across Canada, are burdens shared by those in the beer and spirits sector.

The cost to become a member of AIDV Canada is modest ($225) and the conference fee itself was only $250. If you are serious about staying current on liquor law and policy in Canada, and meeting like-minded individuals, give membership some serious thought. You can pay a lot more to attend conferences where the speakers are less knowledgeable, and the attendees aren’t as social.

The 2021 conference is expected to be held in Ontario or Quebec. Visit for details. See you there.

Dan Coles
Retired bartender. Young lawyer. From the East, living in the West. Interested in British Columbia's producers and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits.