Wine clubs to TO?
I am wondering if anyone has ever done a monthly wine club that will deliver to TO? If possible, I would like to avoid a specific winery.. I would love a club that would deliver a different monthly wine from a different global region.. not just one winery and not just Ontario only. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.
Arthur Cellars wine club. Based in Oakville, mainly imports from Southern France, especially good Langdoc whites, some Champagne, plus good Rhones. No Canadian, No fees. Delivery to your door. Has a slightly sweet taste. Good value on the whole.
Aaah! Wine Clubs – one of my favourite topics. Time for a rant again – and I’ll try to keep it relevant.
This is Ontario, so start by assuming it’s illegal and 90% of the topic is covered. Another 9.99% says you have to get a licence or permit of some kind and do nothing to contravene the Government monopoly. Plus we’ll have many regulations, which we won’t publish, so we can put you out of ‘business’ any time we choose.
And we’ll ensure that any agreements that Canada (The Feds) enter into won’t be honoured by Ontario as we can’t enter into International agreements as we’re just a Province!
So we have the AGCO ( Alcohol & Gaming Commission Of Ontario - right there it says that wine is just like lotteries – probably more true than not as it’s almost a lottery who qualifies for a licence).
So, to the details – assuming there’s been no new ‘regulations’ since I last investigated. I gave up my subscription to the Ontario Review, which publishes all LEGISLATION, since most changes only change through regulations that aren’t published.
Two sets of rules – one for Ontario wineries; one for the rest (slight exception; occasionally other Provinces get variations).
ALL imports (including from other Provinces – with minor personal exemptions), are required to be ‘imported’ through the AGCO. Even ‘so-called’ Private Importations’ MUST be ordered through the LCBO – who take their various cuts. Registered (i.e. Licenced) Agents follow this procedure and are limited (by Regulation) to the amount of commission they can charge. For clarification, even listings on the LCBO shelves include this commission, assuming they are obtained through an agent (most are). IT IS ILLEGAL TO BRING WINE INTO ONTARIO FOR RE-SALE UNLESS BOUGHT ‘THROUGH’ THE LCBO.
So, any attempt to import for ‘direct sale’ to consumers still pays all the Provincial tariffs.
Accordingly, any entrepreneur looking to make money in the wine business receives a maximum legislated ‘margin’. There is nothing to stop an importation being ‘directed’ to a purchaser (i.e. it does not reach LCBO shelves) and agents often do this for clients, both private and restaurants. BUT it is at their own cost – i.e. they bear the cost of the sales force. They can bring in unordered product ‘on spec’ (with limits – e.g. the stock must be kept in an LCBO-controlled warehouse; total quantities are limited; maximum number of days in warehouse; samples must be submitted for lab analysis; each order must be submitted through LCBO – who actually do the ordering; etc.) and these products can only be ordered by the case (although I believe that the regulations ‘currently’ do not specify the size of a case – so theoretically one can bring in a case of 1 bottle – as long as it’s separately packaged; and a new regulation could be introduced tomorrow to change the minimum!).
So, for practical purposes, offering a wine club with shipments to the consumer is a high-cost process, with no additional revenue – so most people with the ability to ‘import’ don’t even try to attack this market.
So why/how do people still enter this market? Incidentally VERY few do!
They have to ‘find a way’ to make money outside these parameters. I’m not privy to any specific companies’ private books – so I’ll just ‘speculate’ on how it might be done.
1. Charge a membership fee UNRELATED to the value of the wines distributed (but please pay the HST!).
2. Provide a ‘free’ magazine (or newsletter) that you can’t opt out of. This magazine would be published by a separate company and the ‘Wine Club’ charged for this publication (hence, siphoning money off to a separate company).
3. Set up a separate ‘Management Company’ who administer the orders and/or shipping and/or web content etc. Or maybe pay a fee for each order processed. Again lots of money gets siphoned out.
4. I think you get the point – no more examples necessary.
NOTE: The above doesn’t necessarily apply to Ontario wines – there are many more ‘legal loopholes’ for those.
There are also a myriad of regulations that need to be complied with (or ignored at your peril). But the number of Inspectors is limited, so it is feasible that an ‘innocent’ could accidentally breach regulations for years without being caught. An example of one of these is that if an agent arranges for a winery (say) to ship a ‘case’ of mixed wines (e.g. a case of 6 different vintages of the same wine might be an attractive offering), then the alcohol content of each wine must be the same (there may be a wiggle factor – the alcohol content on a label is allowed to vary within limits) – AGCO regulation! I have no idea how a wine Club would get around this if they’re mixing red and white – which tend to have different alcohol levels.
I was unaware of the Buying Club mentioned by Demeter, so checked out their website. Clearly they are attempting to sell wine – although I couldn’t find any details of what wine!
But I was intrigued by this comment on their website, which warns me what might happen if I did find out what wines they are offering:
“You agree not to monitor or copy, or allow others to monitor or copy, the website pages or the content included herein. You also agree not to "frame" or otherwise simulate the appearance or function of the website.”
I guess I’ve technically contravened that by copying the rule!
And the Toronto Star used to run a Wine Club with Ontario Wines. It didn’t last long – didn’t make money (and there’s a lot more ‘slack’ in Ontario wine pricing).
There are two kinds of wine club
Tasting clubs like Winetasters of Toronto and the Spanish Wine Society that hold tastings, dinners and so on. One of the regular contributors here is a director of the former and they do really good events although I much prefer their parties and dinners to their formal blind tastings.
The other sort is buying clubs which is more what you are after. Probably the best known of these is the Opimian Society (http://opim.ca), technically they are sort of hybrid as they also do tasting and events but in the main they are a private buying cooperative.
There are many "wine clubs" in the GTA but I most don't deliver wine. They usually conduct tastings and social events. Maybe you will find what you are looking for here http://torontowine.com/clubs.htm
But back to the monthly wine - one option for that would be the wine of the month club at www.winerytohome.com