Fraser Valley residents are ditching their beer mugs for wine glasses, according to data from BC Liquor Distribution Branch.
For the first time in at least three years (the data only goes back that far), consumers spent more on wine than beer in B.C. Liquor Stores located in the Fraser Valley Regional District.
Wine sales have grown over all three years, with 1.34 million litres being sold in 2011/12, an increase of more than six per cent since 2009/10. Over that time span, beer sales have dropped 8.3 per cent, with 3.42 million litres sold in the Fraser Valley last year.
That's allowed the money spent on beer to finally slip behind that spent on wine. In 2009/10, consumers spent $15.30 million on beer and $14.63 million on wine. The numbers have now flipped. Last year, $15.86 million worth of wine was sold in the Fraser Valley. That compares to sales of $14.31 million of beer.
The Fraser Valley has thus become one of 11 regional districts around B.C. where more money is spent on wine than beer. Those include all Lower Mainland areas, Victoria, the Central and North Okanagan, and parts of Vancouver Island.
But beer remains king in much of the province. It still tops wine in 17 regional districts, including the Koote-nays, parts of the Okanagan and Vancouver Island, and all areas north of Kamloops.
Kim Murphy, the owner of Sardis Park VQA BC Wine Store, attributes the shift in drinking habits to an influx of former city dwellers and more education about wine.
"We're getting a lot more people from the city moving out here, and these people are more educated and more culturally aware," she said. Younger drinkers, she added, are growing up with more wine knowledge and the desire to immerse themselves in the culture.
"The younger generation is starting to appreciate wine more," she said. "I don't think the younger generation is guzzling beer anymore."
Jeremy Sibly, a part owner of Chilliwack's Old Yale Brewing Company, sees something similar happening in the beer world. While overall sales might be slowing, he said craft beers are seizing more and more market share.
Sibly said the beer industry is now where the wine business was 20 years ago. Once, he said, a wine drinker's only choice was red or white. Now there are dozens of artisan and specialty wines to choose from.
"People are starting to look at the beer they're drinking and thinking, we should have more than two or three choices," he said. "People wouldn't imagine going into a nice restaurant and seeing two or three wines on the menu.
"Beer is getting there," he added. "I think that beer sales will pick up as peoples' palates develop."