Canadians can toast the holiday with bubbly, but face spirit shortage

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continue to grow in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians will have champagne to pop this holiday season, but finding their favorite foreign wine, beer and hard liquor may be tougher as shipments are held up by recent flooding and global supply chain bottlenecks.

Wines from Australia, New Zealand and South America are the likeliest to be in short supply, retailers said, as most come through Vancouver, which was cut off from the rest of Canada last month by floods that crippled road and rail access.

Global shortages of glass and aluminum, along with "challenging" growing conditions in some countries, are also delaying some wines and spirits from getting on shelves, they said.

"We do have certain products that are temporarily out of stock," said Beverley Ware, spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC). "It really is an evolving issue. It might be a beer from Europe one week and a wine from New Zealand the next."

Christmas will still be bubbly, defying expectations of a champagne shortage, she added. "Champagne doesn't seem to be an issue at the moment."

Canadian alcohol sales are largely controlled by provincial distributors and retailers, like the NSLC and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Earlier this month, a number of those boards warned consumers to shop in advance for Christmas, saying the British Columbia floods, and subsequent shipping backlogs, could exacerbate shortages of some wines and spirits.

Canadians are big fans of imported tipple. In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, domestic wines top sales charts, followed by wines from the United States, Italy and France. In Nova Scotia, Australian wine is No. 2 after domestic.

Shortages vary by province and Canadians have plenty of options if their favorite drink is not in stock, said retailers.

"We encourage customers to be flexible about choice and take the opportunity to try something new," said Nick Nanos, chief supply chain officer for the LCBO, Ontario's liquor distributor and retailer, in a statement.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Richard Chang)

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