Over the past few weeks I have been asked several times for recommendations for wines that can be obtained from the local liquor store. The truth is I can’t really suggest any particular wine as I don’t tend to favour any particular winery. Instead I usually select my wines from the Vintages section at the LCBO. I do this for a couple of reasons. First the LCBO has a rule whereby in order for a wine to appear on the regular shelves it has to be available on an ongoing basis. This restricts the suppliers to only the largest producers; those who often purchase grapes from a wide variety of growers thus increasing the risk of producing an inconsistent product. Also because these wineries have become so well-known, some of them over-charge for the quality of the product produced.
The challenge with the Vintages section is that many of the wines brought in are in limited supply with new releases appearing every 2 weeks. The wines are often from estate wineries that produce smaller and limited volumes. Thus if you are seeking wine from a specific winery you may go months or even years before it reappears on the shelves. I have found that I have been very rarely disappointed in any of my Vintage purchases. What I focus on is the grape varietal or the region the wine comes from rather than who the vintner is.
I find the LCBO’s Vintages magazine, a bi-weekly production that identifies and provides reviewer notes and comments about the various wines being released, to be very informative. It provides the necessary details I need to assist me with my purchasing decisions. Helpful information includes the name of the vintner, varietal(s), tasting notes, suitability for cellaring, and of course, the price. If you have questions or need assistance in making a decision as to which wine to buy, the staff are very informative and helpful.
The price of wine in the Vintages section is no more expensive than those found on the regular shelves but dollar for dollar I find them a better value. Personally, I am a big fan of Italian Barolo, Valpolicella and Chianti; French wines from the Rhône and Bordeaux regions; Rieslings from Germany’s Mosel region; Spanish wine from Rioja; and a wide variety of wines from Ontario and BC.
Due to COVID-19 there have been challenges in the liquor stores receiving many of the wines they expected; or if they have received the wines they are sometimes of a lesser quantity than anticipated. On more than one occasion during recent months have I been unable to acquire many of the wines I was hoping for. One week the liquor store received only two of the seven wines I was looking for and on another occasion they received none of my desired selections.
These are challenging times.