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Mar 29, 2007 03:02 PM

Wine pricing in Nova Scotia [split from Canada]

[Note: This post was split from the Canada board at: You may want to read the original thread for context. -- The Chowhound Team


Hey Greg:

Thanks for the comments! I hope you have a great experience.

I've written an indepth article on the Nova Scotia tourism industry that I'm hoping to publish in The Halifax Daily News, my old stomping grounds. I'll quote two relevant paragraphs here to indicate why I blame the NSLC for high wine prices in restaurants. Before I started writing about food and wine, I ran a wine agency in the province, so I have some knowledge of liquor corporation policies (although the NSLC is far better today than it used to be).

Here we go:

"Consider this: Wine Access magazine recently declared that Deinhard Lila Sekt was Canada’s best cheap sparkler. Last year, it cost $13.99 in BC; $13 in AB; $12.95 in ON; and $19.18 in Nova Scotia, (where it’s since been delisted, or removed from shelves). A more expensive winner was Ruffino 2001 Riserva Ducale Oro, which sells for $39 in AB, $43 in SK; $44.50 in ON; and $57 in Nova Scotia. The delicious Caymus Conundrum runs just $29 in Ontario and Quebec, and $39.21 in Nova Scotia.

"If you don’t think that’s price gouging, then look to Alberta, where private wine stores aren’t shackled by outdated liquor laws. (In Nova Scotia, legislation prevents the handful of private wine stores from undercutting the NSLC). Veuve Cliquot Brut sells for $61 in Ontario and Manitoba; $73 in Nova Scotia... and $43 in Alberta’s many Costco stores!"

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  1. I agree that the NSLCs pricing on wines above $25 or $30 runs higher than other provinces. Hopefully that will get fixed one of these days. But how can one justify a restaurant charging a 190% markup of their own? When I see a $15 wine on a wine list for $40 or $42 I don't blame the NSLC, I blame the restaurant. And remember, restaurants have seen the former license surcharge fee disappear recently, yet I don't recall prices going down.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Greg B

      As a former restaurateur, I couldn't agree more. I can't think of one good reason to mark up wine by 190 per cent. Doing so will kill wine sales, and that's the easiest way for restaurants to increase their check averages. Not to mention the thought that wine makes food taste better, so smart restauranteurs should want to sell a bottle to every table.

      And just to clarify, della Nonna isn't guilty of this transgression. They mark up their best value wines by a straight 100 per cent. If memory serves, the Nipozzano that we enjoyed cost $42, and the NSLC charges $22 and change.

      But if you read the paragraph in question again, you'll notice that I was careful with my words. The moderating phrase was: "and if travelers find the prices high."

      I'm not suggesting that Nova Scotians will find high wine prices at della Nonna, but tourists or business travelers from Canada and the US might.

      1. re: Smartlikestreetcar

        I don't know that other retailers would be able to justify a 100% markup.

        However, I do believe that restaurants have to pay an up charge on wine. They have to pay more than consumers pay.

        Maybe someone can verify.

        1. re: frenette

          Hi Frenette,
          A Boston Hound here, although I own a couple of acres in Belliveau Cove. I've never heard of such a thing. They actually charge a higher rate for a by-the-case buyer simply because they're a resto?


          Obtw, I still await some good lookin' N.S. Hound to take pity and reply to my OP regarding The Kilted Frenchman.

          1. re: frenette

            There used to be a surcharge on licensee sales but that has been gone for a year or so. They pay the same retail as anyone else. There are some incentives if they buy in bulk.

            1. re: Greg B

              Greg's right, the surcharge has been gone for some time. And most restaurants need to mark wine up in the 80 - 100 per cent range to make it worth their while, when you consider the costs associated with decent stemware, storage and cooling, staff hours and training.

              The problem with many restaurants is they don't offer value for the markup, offering cheap glasses, poor storage conditions, poorly trained staff, and shitty selections.

              Alas, Harp00n, I know how to find the Kilted Frenchman is, but I haven't eaten there. It's billed as a steakhouse, but I don't eat red meat when I can avoid it.

              1. re: Smartlikestreetcar

                Hopefully that will change somewhat with the announcement this week of changes to regulations that will allow restaurant customers to bring their own wine and have it served to them with the restaurant collecting a corkage fee (assuming the restaurant chooses to allow the practice). Also, a very civilized change will allow a customer to have an unfinished bottle of wine purchased at a restaurant recorked to take away. Progress...

                1. re: Greg B

                  I think one problem with wine prices at restaurants in NS has been uneducated Nova Scotia diners. Hopefully as the clientele becomes more sophisticated wine consumers, restaurants will be forced to become more sophisticated in how they retail wine. The smart restaurants will source unique products that have good quality/price ratios. Often these would be bought from Private Wine Stores, who are smart enough to put out some lost leaders for their restaurant clientele or the restauranteurs will buy product via off the shelf methods (agent stocking programs). That is, at least until agents can sell directly to restaurants like they can in Ontario. Ultimately its in the consumers hands. Nova Scotia consumers have to stop paying $45 for Wolf Blass Yellow Label at restaurants. Until they stop restaurants will continue to overcharge. They also have to recognize paying 100% markup at Seven, Onyx, Gio etc. where they invest in glasses, linen and service is less offensive than the Shoe Shop which invests in none of that.

                  1. re: WINEWOLF

                    I think the education piece has a long way to go. I understand the service aspect of it when I go to a Gio versus the Shoe -- though Victor seems to think what he offers there is good, strangely -- but to expect the average consumer to be able to differentiate between the huge number of wines out there is a bit much. I like wine, though I'm no expert, and when I go to a restaurant like O'Carroll's whose wine list is totally from a private store I don't recognize anything and it takes a real sales job to make me buy from that list. I know what I drink at home but I don't generally spend much time at the private stores and I an hesitant to spend $40 on something that I've never heard of.

                    1. re: Greg B

                      Believe me, Greg... I understand that sentiment completely. No one wants to pay good money for bad wine. And it's way to easy to buy bad wine in Nova Scotia.

                      But what if you went to a restaurant that employed a certified sommelier, who actually tasted every wine on the list, took some time to discover your preferences, knew which wines best matched which dishes, and brought appropriate glassware to the table?

                      Just as you're willing to try a entrée you haven't tried before because you have confidence in the chef, you'd have faith in the wine steward to take equally good care of you. And wouldn't that heighten the experience? To be absolutely blown away by an incredible food and wine pairing that makes the meal more memorable than you've ever had before.

                      That's probably one thing that Winewolf would like to see. If you don't recognize the wines on a list, you do know enough to trust the sommelier to take care of you, and you can learn from a professional.

                      Just FYI, I wrote four blog posts about creating a Tourism Renaissance in Nova Scotia that largely focused on food, wine, and restaurants. As with all blogs, start with the oldest post first, from June 4. (I've tried adding a link, but so far it isn't working... so the site is in my profile, and then just hit the dining out link along the side).