“Vinmonopolet” – A Monopoly On Alcohol Sales

Some forty years ago this writer remember seeing people queuing up in droves in front of “Vinmonopolet’s” store near his school long before opening hours, carrying plastic buckets and empty bottles of all sizes, mostly large. There had been a story in a local newspapers that morning that surplus wine held in big barrels was on sale. It was April 1st. Nobody I know ever admitted to having been in that line.

Vinmonopolet – The Wine Monopoly – is a government owned company that holds the exclusive license to selling wine and spirits, even beer over a certain strength, to the public in Norway. Ostensibly it was set up to help curb alcohol consumption and is a legacy of the pious protestantism that once held sway over the populace. Not too much of that piety left, but the Wine Monopoly stays.

The modern version is actually one of the largest wine retailers in Europe, employ top notch vignerons and sommeliers, offering a superb selection of wines and spirits from all over the world. But it is expensive. Ridiculously expensive, primarily because of very high excise taxes imposed “to keep consumption down”, according to the double standards of the government enjoying the ever increasing revenue.

The reality is the opposite, of course. Norwegians are famous for their binge drinking and anyone and everyone uses any opportunity to get hold of some moonshine or smuggled spirit for a fraction of the price. So much so that nobody really considers either a crime, even though it is.

Marius Tokle certainly doesn’t think so…