Letters: Can I import to Sweden?

I saw your blog and I thought that you might be the right person to ask about wine import.

I live in Sweden but found a sparkling wine and a cider in Canada that I love. Do you know how to import it to Sweden or where I can find the best prices for that? Thanks.

-- Jill Estblom

Dear Jill:
As you undoubtedly know, Sweden has a long history of making it very difficult to import alcoholic beverages because of its generations-long high incidence of alcoholism and alcohol-related crimes.

In recent years, however, things have gradually been changing under pressure from the European Union seeking rules of fair competition. Some stores are open later as well as on Saturdays. Wider wine selections are on shelves. Beer taxes have been reduced and wine taxes are being targeted for reduction as well.

This sits well with some Swedes, but others worry that it will spark a flare-up in the nation's dark history of alcohol abuse. That situation was so bad that until 1955, Swedes had to have ration cards to buy liquor. Relaxed importation standards didn't come along until 1997.

And last June, the European Court of Justice ruled that Sweden's government monopoly on importing alcohol was an unjustified bar to the movement of goods. However, a Systembolaget official said the court's ruling was "not very important."

Which leaves you right back at square one. The government retains its monopoly on imports, so you'll have to try placing an order for the Canadian products through one of the regulated stores. Obviously, while I don't recommend breaking laws, it probably isn't all that difficult to have friends abroad purchase products for you, then ship them as personal goods. Technically that wouldn't be importing alcohol from a dealer. But you'd better check your local laws before doing that.

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