The Alberta wine market in 2020

In English, we have a saying: “Hindsight is 20/20”. It means that when we look back at what’s happened, we usually see it far clearer than we did in the moment. While 20/20 has come to mean perfect vision colloquially, in truth it refers to normal sharpness when standing twenty feet away from something.

Nonetheless, we could think of 2020 as the year of hindsight, or we could think of it as seeing something clearly that’s before us. Or maybe some of both. How does the wine and liquor scene look in Alberta at this moment in time?

Some numbers

Before we interpret our current situation, here are some of Alberta’s liquor business numbers:

  • 205: number of government liquor stores when Alberta privatized in 1993
  • 1500: number of private retail liquor stores in 2018
  • 2,200: average number of products available in a store in 1993
  • 39,789: number of total listings on December 31, 2019, which breaks down to:
    • 27,129: number of wine listings including:
      • Red: 15,113
      • White: 6,495
      • Rose: 1,066
      • Other: the rest
  • $611.99 million: wine sales in Alberta for 2018-2019 (up from 609.42 million previous year)
  • 11,260: number of restaurants in 2018
  • $11 billion: annual restaurant sales in 2018
  • 2: number of professional wine education certification programs (WSET and ISG)
  • 463: number of importers and distributors (including beer-only and liquor-only)

Alberta sophistication

We may be thought of as a frontier province: a meat’n’potatoes eatin’, cow russlin’, whisky drinkin’ bunch of rough nuts. But with the 1993 privatization came savvy. Over time, Alberta drinkers have had more access to more products because more people select those products to both import and resell. This has meant more creative and diverse business models and more healthy competition. And because a liquor monopoly aiming to serve multi-millions across an entire province doesn’t make the buying decisions, smaller amounts of more premium wines flourish. This has led to a more knowledgeable average consumer having more diverse experiences through multiple relationships. Alberta also doesn’t face the competition of home-grown wine, so we are free to source the best in the world for its price.

Despite the slowdown

As you may or may not know, Alberta has seen economic struggles since oil prices fell in 2014. Our inability to build pipelines hasn’t helped us economically, either. That all said, the average individual take-home income (as of 2016) is still 18% higher than the Canadian average at $70,200 (vs $57,000 nationally).

Of our 4.37 million people (as of 2019), 2.415 million are in prime wine-drinking age (25 to 64), with another 377,844 up-and-coming in the 18 to 24-year-old age range. Projections put us over 5 million people in the next seven years.

So, here’s to 2020 and sharing more wine with you and our fellow Albertans!

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