Wine in Grocery Stores is a Step Forward, But Leaves Out Small Wineries
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Wine in Grocery Stores is a Step Forward, But Leaves Out Small Wineries

At least it should be better than the status quo.

Wine will be available in grocery stores on October 28. While that’s an exciting development relative to Ontario’s strict alcohol regulations, the full implications remain unclear.

While wine is offered in some form in many Ontario grocery stores, there are important details to appreciate about the existing Wine Rack and Wine Shop locations. These stores don’t belong to the government, and while they offer wine in grocery stores, the products they offer come from specific brands. The Wine Rack is owned by international wine conglomerate Constellation Brands, and the Wine Shop is owned by Andrew Peller Limited. The fact that these large companies own these shops is not a problem. The issue is that these two grocery store kiosks only offer a handful of VQA labels among other International-Canadian blends (which are largely made with foreign grapes).

The changes that will be taking place in October will hopefully allow Ontario wine consumers to see more variety on the shelves of our grocery stores; there are over 150 wineries in Ontario and the grocery store kiosks only provide access to five. The problem with the current system is that many of the best Ontario wines don’t make it to the vintages shelves. When a winery decides to do business with the LCBO, they access a larger market but are forced to take a smaller cut of the sales for a bottle of wine. The concern is that smaller wineries will see no benefit in selling through the grocery stores. While we should see more brands on the shelves of our grocery stores, it doesn’t seem likely that we are going to see bottles from small producers on the shelves of our local No Frills in the near future.

Until then here is what you can get from your local vintages shelves.

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2013 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer – Vintages 302059 – $17.95 – ****+ –

Dear Gewurztraminer, why do you insist on breaking my heart? I know there isn’t much left of you after a couple of very cold winters, but isn’t there some way we can compromise? Why do you have to go away? You keep teasing me with bottles like this delicious wine from Cave Spring. You bring me a bouquet of roses when I first pour you in my glass, and then you take me on a tropical vacation somewhere warm with flavours of candied ginger and lychee. With your perfect acidity, you leave my palate clean, almost as if you were never there, but I will never forget you.

2014 Chateau des Charmes Gamay Droit – Vintages 346742 – $17.95 – ****+ –

This is my favourite vintage of this wine is recent memory. This wine is meaty and a little big on the mid palate. You almost forget that you’re drinking what is supposed to be a lighter red wine. Gamay always brings a conundrum to the table—do you drink the wine right now because it tastes good? Or do you wait a few years to see how it matures in the cellar? There is no wrong answer to this question. This wine should hold onto its youth with bright fruit for a few years in the cellar, but will evolve into something interesting over the next decade. Pair this with virtually anything from salmon to chicken to duck to steak.

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2014 Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay – Vintages 268342 – $19.95 – **** –

Wines at this price point are some of the most important ones coming out of Ontario right now. I have no issue getting a friend or family member to bring a $20 bottle over for dinner. This is a perfectly balanced bottle that brings roasted pineapple and vanilla to your glass. The finish is clean thanks to nice acidity but leaves hints of vanilla on the palate.

2013 Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir – Vintages 997353 – $29.95 – ****1/2 –

The concentrated flavours on this wine are red cherry and liquorice. There is an elegance to this wine that almost contradicts itself because the cherry and raspberry flavours are so concentrated. Coming in at just $30, this wine offers fantastic value. Share this bottle with only the best company at your disposal, and enjoy this with lamb, beef, or duck.

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