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Apr 5, 2008 03:23 PM

LCBO Vintages- how do they choose the wines?

I often look in the Vintages section of the LCBO for reasonably priced wines to try.

Are these wines necessarily better? How do they get selected? Do wineries pay to have their wines featured? How does a wine qualify?

Just wondering if anyone knows the answer to any of the above questioned. I emailed the LCBO to find out, but nobody replied...


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  1. The LCBO has a variety of methods of stocking Vintages. I'll mention a few but there will be others I'm unaware of.

    1) They often boast about acquiring premium wines, sometimes at attractive prices, from producers who want to sell their low priced items as well. Chateau Mouton Rothschild is an example they will always mention: the LCBO claims to be a very major seller of Mouton Cadet, and they feel entitled to purchase Ch. Mouton Rothschild and its second wine, in every good vintage.

    2) They send senior tasters on buying trips to major or important wine producing areas every year.

    3) A wine producer's agent in Ontario can submit prospective wines, and negotiate a sale if the wine is of interest, and passes laboratory and taste tests.

    4) The major import agencies find it fruitful to advertise in the LCBO lifestyle magazine, in both official languages. The agencies participate in LCBO store promotions, and in public relations ventures and other lobbying, in order to get even small parcels of wine listed.

    5) There are certain wines that Vintages will attempt to get every year, such as Grange, knowing that there is an assured market.

    6) The Vintages consultants are involved in ongoing training and tasting. They can bring suggestions to the senior buyers based on what they hear in the stores.

    7) There is an effort to stock and promote the better Ontario wines (VQA) in Vintages. They seem to have some difficulty getting a broad range of B.C. wines, which may stay local.

    8) Vintages selections are limited in quantity, and most are expected to be sold in a month or two. This means that they need a constant influx of new wines, and so they are always looking for new items, or repeats of something reliable. Some consultants are very open to suggestions, and that may help in getting a particular wine in stock.

    14 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      wow- thankyou. So- the wines are limited, in general, and though not guaranteed to be great tasting, generally a good bet.

      1. re: meld_la

        Vintages Wine of the Month is usually a good bet. And good consultants can steer you to a good bet.

        1. re: jayt90

          I have to respond here. I forgot to take wine to a meeting of a social club which I'm associated with and so stopped at an LCBO store to pick something up "in a hurry".
          It was recommended by 'all 3' consultants in the store so I bought it.
          It was so bad that not 1 of the attendees (6 in total) would even take a third sip (the second was after the first damning comment - as we couldn't believe it and tried to determine what was possibly 'right' about this wine). A total 'fruit bomb', so sweet that I instantly recoiled. No acid or tannin - and at the same time tasted as if it was 'alcohol reduced' (i.e. totally manipulated) and so much vanilla in the finish that it came from oak 'injection' (OK not literally but probably a "dip'n'stir" process - certainly not from barrels).
          This product (Columbia Crest Merlot Grand Estate) was originally released in Sep 2007 and then 'slipped by again' in Feb 2008 - both times the quantity available was 700 cases.I suspect it was 're-released' as it wasn't selling and the triple recommendation was to move it off the shelves.
          Technically it wasn't faulty so I didn't return it. But it's REALLY nasty and recommended by Consultants. Hmm. Who should I trust?

          1. re: estufarian

            LMAO. Do you think the "consultants" are influence by other reviewers? Here's what I got from the LCBO site assuming it was the same wine.

            "Tasting Note
            Bursting with blueberry and currant fruit, this zips across the palate with a racy texture and refined tannins. Lingers enticingly with a hint of mocha on the finish. Drink now through 2009. Score - 90. (Harvey Steiman,, May 31, 2007)"

            I should disclaim that I am not a wine aficionado, so I do not hold any strong opinions about the LCBO. If anything the LCBO is "good enough" for me.

            1. re: Apprentice

              Given that the WS comes out a good month before its date, this suggests the wine was reviewed about a year earlier.
              Of course, the LCBO is notorious for reproducing notes on entirely different wines. This was extensively written up on the "Hecula" product:


              Of more interest (to me at least) was the Masseto 2001 (a 100-point wine). The tasting note for that wine was attached to the 2000 release here - which sold out totally. When the 2001 arrived they didn't repeat the 100-point tasting note - so it was available in quantity!

            2. re: estufarian

              Interesting. I too bought this wine; but, I bought it based on the Steiman review below.

              I drank it in September 2007. (I keep notes). It was sweet, gooey, and caramelly in a most off-putting way.

              Anyhow, in my experience, the consultants recommend lots of bad stuff. And, so do, apparently, wine experts like Harvey Steiman.

        2. re: jayt90

          What a wonderful theory!
          But being a Government organization, they also produce forms to accompany the listing request.
          Here's the link to the form required for listing (courtesy of the Vintage Assessments site).

          Take a look at the scoring system. More points are gained (40) under " How much is being spent at the LCBO [for promotion]" than anything else (it gets double any other category). Packaging also gets 20 points. That leaves 40 points (out of 100) for 'market' and organoleptic assessment (20). NOTE: The points are awarded by the LCBO!
          That's the 'rules' for the general List. I don't know what the criteria are for Vintages, but I presume they're not that dissimilar as nothing seems to be published.
          Yup - 20 points (maximum) for how it tastes - out of 100!!!!!

          Try and find a decent Saké (at any price) in the system. Everything sells out immediately - yet no replacements. How about 'real' cider?
          The Ontario offerings pale (maybe 20% - I don't have the statistics handy) in comparison to the listings in Alberta. What we get instead are offerings such as 'Yellowtail Reserve' and 'Yellowtail Sparkling'.
          Some credit is due however - things are much better than 10 years ago, but it's my experience that the choice has narrowed in the last few years. And with only 20% of marks available for 'taste' that's not really surprising!

          1. re: estufarian

            "the LCBO claims to be a very major seller of Mouton Cadet, and they feel entitled to purchase Ch. Mouton Rothschild and its second wine, in every good vintage."

            Actually... it works the other way around... buy a few dozen containers of this, then one is allocated 24 cases of this.

            "They seem to have some difficulty getting a broad range of B.C. wines, which may stay local."

            This has more to do with inter-Provincial trading restrictions than anything else.

            1. re: estufarian

              Estufarian, the sake selection is a particular peeve of mine. I often go the summerhill store and the "best" sakes they had were a 300 ml bottle of Masumi Karakuchi Ki-Ippon (a daiginjo) for $12.95 and a Hakatsuru Dai Ginjo 300 ml bottle for $8.80. And that's it (if you don't count the usual headache inducing dreck). Both are "OK" but not outstanding.
              I drank my last good bottle two weeks ago and am now in waiting mode.

              While in general I am not displeased with the wine selection, I wish they would be more consistent with some of these specialty products. Note that I like wine, understand wine, and am a bit of a wine guy, but hardly an afficionado (i.e. I like to think I know a good wine from not-so-good wine, but can't afford to collect).

              1. re: bluedog

                Hey Bluedog does the LCBO have a means of notification when Sake is released? Is it in their magazine?

                1. re: Apprentice

                  Releases are 'mostly' in their biweekly catalogues, although occasionally it's an "In-Store Discovery".
                  These can be found on the website (if you know where to look).

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Thanks estufarian. They had a few good ones last year and I stocked up on what I could afford at one time (which wasn't much), but have not seen anything in months. It may have a been a short-lived fad...and that's the problem. I'd be happy to buy a few $20-$30 bottles every few weeks but can't afford to buy a few cases the few times they have them: its not the cash, but the cash flow...

            2. Hmmm.... Vintages isn't looking so good any more. I guess I'll pick wines a different way.

              From this website, I've tried a few cheap and cheerful suggestions- Italian reds, in particular, which I've always by-passed because they're so cheap- so far so good, and definitely not Vintages selections...