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Save-On… wines?

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Recently, the Abbotsford Save-On Foods on Sumas Way began in-store wine tastings to promote their new wine section. The section has been open for approximately two and a half months, and has become very popular with residents of central Abbotsford. Back in March of 2017, the B.C. government changed its liquor laws to allow alcohol in grocery stores, the only catch being that all grapes must be grown within B.C., and all farming and production must adhere to the standards of the British Columbia Wine Authority.

The question here is whether or not allowing liquor into local grocery stores is a smart move. Alcohol still carries a reputation as a leading risk for cause of death, especially in young adults. The number of young people drinking and driving has seen a decline over the years, thanks to media campaigns such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), but it is a practice we unfortunately still see. Issues such as these become more likely when alcohol is more readily available, which is exactly what happened when grocery stores started carrying it. It is also valid to point out that local liquor stores will see a significant decrease in sales if Save-On and other grocery stores continue to sell liquor. Save-On Foods will certainly not suffer without wine sales, but B.C. liquor stores and private businesses alike will have difficulty competing with them.

All this is more than enough to convince any shopper that the convenience factor may not be worth the risk. When the liquor laws initially changed, I must admit I had been a bit skeptical. However, the Sumas Way Save-On blew me away with not only their selection, but also their presentation, attention to detail, and commitment to local wineries. If liquor is to be allowed in grocery stores, this is the way to do it.

Store associates were able to provide a bit of background information on their new section. While Sumas Way is the 15th Save-On to begin selling Vineyard Quality Assurance (VQA) wine, it is considered their flagship, the biggest one in the fleet. Nothing I saw there gave me reason to doubt them. The wine selection in the Sumas Save-On dwarfs what is available at any other local liquor store in Abbotsford. Which is made even more astonishing by the fact that every wine is VQA certified, and grown and fermented in B.C. You can find bottles from over 160 wineries across the province, which is only a fraction of what is available in B.C. More impressive still is their attention to detail. Wineries are organized in alphabetical order, and meat and cheese pairings are made available, with staff who are qualified to help you make the correct choice. Prices per bottle range from under $15 to nearly $500, with the most expensive selections under lock and key. The store has begun to offer regular wine tastings to promote the existence of their wine sections. These are usually held on either Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays.

This is an experience you would not find at your local liquor store. The selection is too vast and organized to be compared to other businesses. The section is also patrolled regularly by staff, and all shoppers purchasing wine are asked for ID at checkout. This effectively keeps liquor out of the hands of minors. All staff are “Serving it Right” certified, and can therefore handle the issues presented by the sudden accessibility of wine in Save-On stores. Their training and knowledge is based on the premise of keeping liquor sales safe.

While the presence of alcohol in your local grocery store may pose some element of risk, it is also an integral part of shared meals such as romantic evenings, and family gatherings. A system such as this could be of great benefit to students and young people if it continues to be handled with safety and responsibly in mind.

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