It’s a plan that has the potential to bring about the most important change in Ontario wine buying since Prohibition was repealed in this province on Oct. 23, 1924.
On that date the Ontario Temperance Act was buried forever and a new regime was born. The LCBO has held a monopoly on sales of alcohol in Ontario since that time.
But now, after so many failed attempts and shaky grassroots efforts, there is the greatest hope and chance that the LCBO could be forced to relinquish its monopoly in favour of private wine stores in Ontario.
A campaign was launched last week, a soft launch that will grow in intensity as the weeks and months go on, by the Ontario Wine Council called MyWineShop.ca (www.mywineshop.ca/).
It advocates for an unlimited number of private stores in Ontario that would be permitted to sell whatever wines they so choose.
Let’s say you are businessperson and want to open a wine shop. You would apply for a licence (one per person, no chain stores would be permitted and no wine manufacturers would be allowed to apply) and stock your shelves with the wines you think you can sell.
The point is: Choice. Freedom of choice to sell what you think will sell.
Wine Council president, Hillary Dawson, says her group, which represents most of the wineries in Ontario, has been in discussions with the government for a long time about private retail wine stores.
“We have developed a model we think will work,” she said.
The point of the campaign, which asks consumers to show their support by getting in touch with your local MPP and letting your voice be heard, is to show the government that consumers want more choice in their wine buying in Ontario. Just like in B.C. (600 private stores as well as government-run stores), Alberta (totally privatized), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and most of the free world.
The problem in Ontario, says Dawson, is there aren’t enough opportunities “to get our wines to market.”
She points to the numbers: Only 200 different VQA wines make it to the shelves a year at the LCBO/Vintages when thousands, 120 different wines every two weeks, are produced in the province. The only outlet for those wines is direct to consumer sales or they have to get in their cars and drive to the winery.
Dawson acknowledges that the wine council’s plan is all-inclusive, in that there are no restrictions on what retailers can stock their shelves with, she believes that stores will find plenty of space for good Ontario wines.
She said the only way the plan would work, because of free trade concerns, is to open it up to all wines from around the world. The idea for 100% VQA-only stores, such as they have in B.C., is not part of the concept.
“But that wouldn’t stop someone from having 100% VQA wine in their store. That would be great,” she says.
Dawson says she has met with the Ontario minister of finance several times and showed him the wine council plan. He hinted that it would help a great deal if the government knew there was support from consumers for private stores.
And that is the point of mywineshop.ca. There are buttons to build your own wine shop and how you can help get your message across to your MPP.
So, if you are in favour of change, in support of freedom of choice and greater selection of Ontario wines (and all wines) I would urge you make your voice heard at mywineshop.ca (www.mywineshop.ca/)
Here are the WIN wines of the week:
Rennie Estate Winery Gaia 2010
($55, for sale only at Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville, 92 points)
This is pretty exciting stuff, an extravagant wine made in the appassimento (dried grapes) style that is gaining favour in Niagara, and made from 100% Merlot with all of the fruit dried for 57 days.
The result is this extraordinary wine that has a meaty, hedonistic nose with layers of highly extracted black fruits, maraschino cherry, spice, chocolate and Espresso notes that are revealed in layer after layer.
It is big, literally big, at 16.5% alcohol, but is backed up by a wall of lush, layered fruit, tannins and acidity to bring it somewhat into balance.
It’s best to let this simmer down in the cellar for a few years. Would make a great Christmas gift for the wine geek in your life.
Trius Chardonnay 2011
($14, LCBO, 87 points)
The Trius family of wines has undergone a makeover with a sleek new look to the brand.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of the wines under winemaker Craig McDonald.
This afforadable tier offers honest VQA wines at an affordable price.
The 2011 Chard shows citrus, stone fruit and some sweet tropical notes on the nose with just a whiff of vanilla and spice.
It’s a touch creamy on the palate with citrus, pineapple and peach flavours to go with oak vanilla and butterscotch notes.
Trius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
($15, LCBO, 88 points)
A nice nose of blackberry, cherry, tobacco leaf, cassis, sweet oak spice in a forward, inviting style.
It’s smooth on the palate with blackberry-cherry fruit, cedar and touches of tar and licorice.
Rick Vansickle is a veteran journalist, wine reviewer and publisher of Wines in Niagara. His reviews appear each Friday in Bullet News. Previous reviews are archived under “Grapevine” tab on the Bullet News home page, under Wines in Niagara. Rick can be found on the web at www.winesinniagara.com.
Click here to visit the Wines in Niagara ARCHIVE, where Rick’s past stories and wine review’s can be found.