Saturday, 28 January 2012

The LCBO's Vintages - Don't be Afraid!

So for those of you who live in Ontario you know that getting wine is a pretty simple task. You head off to your local LCBO and pick up your favourite wine, beer, or spirits and away you go.

As it is a provincially run government agency has its advantages and disadvantages.

So let's start with the advantages.
  1. Inventory - Most LCBO locations carry a pretty good selection of wine for you to enjoy.
  2. Location, Location, Location! - You can usually find one in every small town in the province. Even if it's in an old construction trailer. If you don't believe me just head to Gooderham Ontario.
  3. Vintages - I'll give you the full scoop on Vintages in a bit.
  4. Training - Many of the employees have a good grasp on when not to serve intoxicated public who come in. They also have a pretty good social responsibility campaign called Deflate the Elephant, which is about the responsibilities of hosting a party. You can find out some great information at
  5. Buying Power - The LCBO is the second largest purchaser or wine and spirits in the world.
Now the disadvantages.
  1. Inventory - The inventory is almost the same EVERYWHERE. And I mean the same. There is very little choice when it comes to good quality wine that is available on the world market. Part of the reason for this is because of the volume inventory that they are required to maintain. They will only buy wines that they can stock in a large portion of their hundreds of locations.
  2. Price - According to the Ontario Auditor General, the prices at the LCBO are higher than they should be. Now I do understand that the LCBO has a responsibility to the public as they are a crown organization - HOWEVER for those of us that are enjoying a good wine or spirit once in a while, or have chosen to make this a hobby or career - GET A GRIP! For more information on the report, here is an article from the Toronto Star.
So I said earlier that I was going to come back to point number 3 on Vintages.  Everytime I am rummaging through the Vintages section at my local LCBO, I always see someone who is standing there with the biggest "Deer in Headlights" look on their face. I can see what they are thinking.
"What the hell does all this label mean?" and "How come these are the pricing is all over the place?"

As a wine enthusiast, I will sometimes strike up a conversation with a person that has that deer in headlight look and ask them a couple of questions. Such as what is the occasion? How much do you want to spend? or What do you like? After a few explanations and maybe a suggestion or two, the sense of relief they express is huge. The conversation usually ends with a quick thanks and we part ways.

Within Vintages, there are all kinds of wine that are from all over the world. (That's the buying advantage I mentioned earlier.) With pricing that is often less expensive than the general listing items that they carry. So you shouldn't be afraid of checking things out. One of the things that I have done at my local LCBO is to find that one person that kind of takes care of Vintages section. Don't be afraid to ask them questions. That's what they are there for.

Personally I really like the gentleman who takes care of the Vintages at my local LCBO. He has his days that he looks like he rolled out from under a bridge, but man does the guy know a ton about wine. He also likes to bend the corporate rules and bring in more different wines that what they like to showcase.

The LCBO likes to have a minimum of 2 faces on the shelf to promote sales.
I think they have it wrong. They should be bringing in more different types of wine. Wine drinkers of the 21st century are becoming more educated than ever. Is having 2 bottles with the same label going to help sell more wine? I doubt it, but doing more to make sure you have a store that is stocked with more different wines that people want. That will do it.
LCBO Shelf with Multiple Faces of Wine Labels

Enjoy a glass.

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