Wine and Spirits for Expats Living in Vancouver
Liquor is strictly regulated by the government in British Columbia. Government-run BC Liquor operates over 200 liquor stores throughout the province, and there are many other private wine shops and beer and wine stores. The legal drinking age in Canada is 19. Canadian beer contains 5% alcohol, which is a higher alcoholic content than that of American beer, although American beer made in Canada may contain more alcohol than American beer made in the States. Alcohol is not sold in supermarkets, convenience stores, or vending machines.
BC Liquor stores are generally large and well-laid out, with a nice selection of wine, beer, and liquor. When needed, expert advice is usually available. All bottles and cans are returnable for a refund of the $0.10 or $0.20 deposit. BC Liquor recycles everything they use, including the cardboard boxes. Government-run liquor stores generally do not stay open late; most close in the early evening and none stay open later than 11 pm. Almost all are closed on Sundays. Private beer and wine stores sometimes stay open later and are more likely to be open on Sundays.
Everyone pays two taxes on most purchased items in BC, and alcohol is no exception, but it is charged at a slightly lower rate. Consumers pay 10% tax on alcohol in BC as opposed to the combined 12% tax on most other items. Compared to the States, alcohol is more expensive in BC, plus the tax is higher. An average bottle of decent but not special wine could cost anywhere from $13 to $26 or so. Hard liquor is sometimes as much as double the price it is in the States. This is one reason Canadians tend to bring alcohol back from the States (a limited quantity is allowed for people over the legal drinking age) and from the duty-free when traveling.
British Columbia has some noteworthy wineries producing some very good wines. The Okanagan is an area to the Northeast, several hours away by car, and the significant dryer climate produces ideal grape-growing conditions. Vancouver Island, to the west, also produces some noteworthy wines. BC wines are most definitely worth sampling, and wine-country tours are popular with locals and visitors alike. One useful website for more information is http://www.winesofcanada.com.
Liquor Stores and Wine Shops
BC Liquor Stores
Store Locator: http://www.bcliquorstores.com/store/locator
Locations throughout the lower mainland; Cambie and 39th Avenue location especially nice selection and newly renovated.
Fairview Cold Beer and Wine Store
888 West Broadway (Fairview)
Selection of pre-chilled wine and beer; free parking; pet friendly (free treats for pets); wide range of local BC wines.
Liberty Wine Merchants
1660 Johnston Street
Hours: Monday through Thursday 9:30am to 8pm, Friday 9:30am to 9pm, Saturday 9am to 9pm, Sunday 9am to 8pm
1289 Robson Street (Downtown)
Hours: Every day 11 am to 11 pm
Largest chain of private wine retailers in Western Canada; knowledgeable staff members; huge selection of wines.
Firefly Fine Wines and Ales
2857 Cambie Street @ 12th Avenue (Cambie Village)
Hours: 7 days a week 10 am to 11 pm
One of the finer wine and beer stores in Vancouver; terrific selection of spirits, wines, and beer, both domestic and imported.
3045 Main Street (Mount Pleasant)
Hours: 7 days a week 11 am to 11 pm
3000 square-foot store; “city’s finest selection of quality beers” (Georgia Straight); award-winning three years in a row; a comprehensive selection of liquors, ciders, meads, and coolers.
Steamworks West Liquor and Wine Store
The Village at Park Royal (West Vancouver)
900 Main Street
Hours: 7 days a week 10 am to 11 pm
Has its own walk-in cooler, and an extraordinary selection of beer, wine, and liquor; many unique wines and beers not available elsewhere.