Private importation of wines in Quebec, does it really exist?

Beer, Wine & Spirits

By: Johanne Depelteau

In fact, it is illegal in Quebec. As stipulated on the SAQ website, the law states that only the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) is authorized to import alcoholic beverages.

We should therefore be talking here about private orders and not about private importation. What is private is the choice of wine to be imported that is made by a “private”, an individual or an agency and not by a state employee. It is the SAQ that imports the wine, which pays the producer, who ensures the transportation, delivery and storage of the product. The role of the agency in private importation is not to import wine, but rather to find buyers for all products ordered. The SAQ reserves the right to charge storage fees if the wine does not flow quickly enough. Everything must go through the SAQ, which also delivers the product to the customer and also takes its profit margin in addition to taxes. The consumer, the restaurateur – because they are mainly restaurateurs who buy these wines – can thus obtain original wines, wines of small producers, exclusive wines. There is in private importation a greater choice of organic wine and natural wine. And agencies specialized in this sector want, for some time, reach consumers directly and thus offer a greater diversity of products, in smaller volumes, of course. However, these wines may cost more because of the commission taken by the agency and the profit margin that the SAQ reserves. They are often 10 to 15% more expensive than the same wine if it were to be sold directly to the SAQ.

It is also possible to group together to make a private order with the SAQ. We then go through the Private Order Service, “special” version of the Company and not by an agency. The group can order crates and share them individually. It states that “the organizer can not sell the products to members of the buying group”. The group leader must provide a list of the names and addresses of the buyers and the quantity ordered by each. The SAQ then issues an invoice to each member of the group stating that the price of the products has been paid by the group leader. (See PDF Private Order Policy). The shipping, customs clearance, taxes and surcharges of the SAQ are added to the order. It is therefore an evolving market that could become interesting for the consumer, especially if we end up allowing the consumer to buy individually and not at the cashier and if we inform the public about the quality