Remember when buying wine at the LCBO and other liquor stores was like buying drugs? Wines weren’t displayed – they were kept instead behind locked doors. You chose from a bleak list of product codes on a blackboard and waited for someone to return with your bottle already wrapped in brown paper from the back storeroom.
Today, the Vintages section of the LCBO is often tucked away in the back of the store, much like the adult section of video stores. However, it’s not meant to hide the elicit juice from us. Rather it recognizes that tried-and-true, everyday wine brands are stocked out front, whereas those after a diversity of experience are willing to hunt right to the end of the aisles.
The other most modern retake is that wines are now displayed appealingly in gorgeous retail displays that have long since converted from the pharmaceutical model. It just takes a walk through a large Vintages section of any LCBO flagship store, the largest ones in the province, to get a real sense of how civil our attitude toward buying wine has become.
The minute you’re through the door, warm lighting, soft music, vine-painted ceiling murals and inviting aisles of wine envelop you. Welcome to vino paradisio. As you lovingly brush your fingertips along the oak cabinetry and are lulled with dulcet jazz music, a sleepy satisfaction washes over you. It’s all good.The latest Magazine for the LCBO Vintages Release on March 29 is all about the Vintages section in LCBO stores, and 30 reasons to love it. (We need 30? I just need one.)
The reasons span from a wide diversity of wine regions and styles to highlighting organic and local wines.
Yes, it’s marketing, but it can also help us understand the strategic direction of this vital section in the liquor store, the steward of our liquid pleasures, and which wines we may see on the shelves this year.
5 Things that’ll Surprise You about LCBO Vintages:
1. It’s the high-end category of wines in the store, but you can still find wines priced very reasonably at $12 to $15
2. More than 5,000 wines from 30 countries are launched in-store in those small Vintages sections every year selected from more than 50,000 submissions that are tasted by a quality panel of experts.
3. About 125 wine brands come and go every two weeks. Most don’t come back into the LCBO if they can’t meet sales quotas. If they do, you likely won’t see them until the following year.
4. More than 300 of the 650 LCBO stores in the province have a Vintages section, meaning they have the neighborhood demographics ($$) and density to warrant such a section. The 10 flagship stores, the biggest locations like Rideau and Hunt Club in Ottawa and Bayview Village, Queen’s Quay and Summerhill in Toronto, have the largest selections.
5. The selection of Vintages wines differs from store to store, and therefore you can use our handy shopping list that shows you the stock for each wines at your closest LCBO stores, and access that on our free wine mobile app.
5 Reasons to Celebrate (and be Extra Nice to) Your LCBO Product Consultant:
1. To earn the title of LCBO Product Consultant, they must not only be exemplar retail staff, but they must also master extensive knowledge about wine, spirits, beer and other alcoholic drinks, and pass a number of rigourous exams. This also applies to Product Consultants at the SAQ, BCLDB and other liquor stores.
2. Many Product Consultants say theirs is the best retail job for wine lovers. Not only do they try thousands of wines every year, but they can also make unbiased recommendations to customers, given they’re not on commission, nor do they specialize in only a few regions.
4. Product Consultants merchandise about 125 new wines every two weeks on store shelves and displays within the Vintages section, some of which can sell out within minutes of being released.
5. Try this question with your PC: I love XXXX (full-bodied Australian Shiraz or buttery Californian Chardonnay – fill in the blank). Which wine do you love in this release that I should try?
5 More Things You Should Know:
1. More than 100 “Vintages Essentials” wines are always available in stores: this is usually a section of shelves right next to the core Vintages offerings.
2. Vintages Shop Online wines don’t generally get stocked in physical stores. You order them via the LCBO web site as most are rare or small lot productions.
3. Similarly, wines from the Classic Catalogue are ordered online and also offer rare, small lot and often the most expensive wines like top-tier Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as “futures”: you buy wines that you won’t receive for another 2-3 years until they’re released from the winery.
5. If, after searching the stores and catalogue, you still can’t find your wine, you can call the LCBO’s private order number (800-ONT-LCBO or 800-668-5144). The LCBO will attempt to find, order and ship the wine to your closest store. This service enables both collectors and restaurateurs to buy exclusive wines not in stores. However, you need to order a minimum of one case, you may have to wait several months before the wine arrives.
I’ve included a sampling below of my March 29 wine ratings, the most quoted Canadian source of reviews in the Vintages Magazine. You can access the 76 wines that I reviewed for March 29 as a text wine list with my complete tasting notes, scores, food matches and the stock for each bottle in their closest LCBO stores.
You can also see my wine reviews for March 15. You can also add my wine picks to their custom shopping list with one click and access that list on their smartphone. This is one of the benefits of becoming a VIP Member. Inventory stock numbers are usually posted online a day or two before the release based on the LCBO doing so.
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand. Liquid lovely! Juicy, fleshy bright cherries dance across your sauces. Ultra-smooth… Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Review and Rating.
D’arenberg Wines The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2012, Mclaren Vale, South Australia. Winemaker Chester Osborn has a terrific reputation for his Shiraz and Cabernet wines, but this white blend of Viognier with 32% Marsanne is fantastic! Not a lot of oak, but it combines with the fruit vibrancy to create an intriguingly rich and delicious wine. Aromas of apricot and… D’arenberg Wines The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne Review and Rating.
Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011, V.Q.A., Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. A juicy, luscious, full-bodied red with generous aromas and flavours of fleshy black plum and field blackberries. Balanced and supple and smooth. This wine has legs:… Featherstone Red Tail Merlot Review and Rating.
Dalva Colheita C. Da Silva, Btld. 2010 Port 1997, D.O.C., Douro, Portugal. Toffee, hazelnuts and dried figs with that chalky back of the throat dryness. Love colheitas, my favourite style of… Dalva Colheita C. Da Silva Review and Rating.