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Nov. 19 - Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrates 54 Years

Nov. 12 - Vintages Release Best Buys ~ From California to Bordeaux

Nov. 5 - "Eyes Wide Shut" ~ Taste, texture and scent in motion

Oct. 29 - Tricks & Treats in Today's Vintages Release ~ Some Awesome Aussi Highlights

Oct. 22 - Perfect Fall Libations ~ Obscure varieties from Welschriesling to Semillon

Oct. 15 - Hop Scotch ~ The biggest whisky release on record

Oct. 8 - A Toast to the Turkey ~ Many whites, some reds and even a sparkling rosé

Oct. 1 - Barolo the King of Italian Reds

Sep. 24 - A Flood of Upcoming Tastings ~ but not a Vintages Classics in Sight

Sep. 17 - A Great Ontario Harvest ~ From just-released wines to a terrific new guide

Sep. 10 - Film Fest Fizz ~ Finding that Oscar-Winning Drink

Sep. 3 - Delicious Long Weekend Drinking ~ All but one under $20!

Aug. 27 - A new way of coding drinkability ~ And getting the best out of that bottle

Aug. 20 - The "New" Vintages Catalogue

Aug. 13 - Bargains Galore ~ Spirited Summer Matchmakers ~ From Boulard Calvados to Grand Marnier

Aug. 6 - Dealing with Disappointments ~ This Bicyclette has a flat tire!

Jul. 30 - LCBO Alternatives? ~ Regulations handcuff importers to LCBO warehouse

Jul. 23 - A French Sparkler & Greek Whites in Today's Vintages Hit Parade ~ In-Store Discoveries Reviews Disappear

Jul. 16 - French Rosé Rocks ~ Too bad you can't find them at the LCBO

Jul. 9 - Today's Vintages Release ~ Small in size but big in buys!

Jul. 2 - The Wines of Canada by John Schreiner ~ Interesting but a little thin

Jun. 25 - Boning Up for Canada Day! ~ ABC - Anything But Chardonnay A Best Buy ~ Trilogy of Grass-Free Sauvignon Blanc

Jun. 18 - Austria's Wines on a roll

Jun. 11 - Where there's Chardonnay there's Hope ~ 2,879 cases at Vintages! ~ Plus 79 New Items in Today's Vintages Release

Jun. 11 - Bottle of the Week
Kim Crawford 2004 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ~ Kick starts the screwcap revolution

Jun. 4 - Bodega Norton 2004 Chardonnay ~ A too-good-to-be-true Argentina gem from the General List ~ LCBO Price Book now a thing of the past!

Jun. 4 - Bottle of the Week
Codorniu Brut Clasico ~ Puts some sparkling Classics to shame

May. 28 - A Trip in a Glass ~ Fine wines to transport you to far-away destinations

May. 28 - Bottle of the Week
Zoom-Zoom-Zoomers! ~ Campari: Seeing Red ~ Setting the World Ablaze

May. 21 - Toasting Queen Victoria ~ With Discounted Reds! ~ Grab these bargains while they last!

May. 21 - Bottle of the Week
Putting a little spice into your Victoria Day Long Weekend

May. 14 - Sprouting Up Like Tulips ~ Excellent 2003 Whites at Vintages

May. 14 - Bottle of the Week
2004 Terra Boa Blanco ~ A Bargain Priced Springtime White from Portugal

May. 7 - Prince Edward County's Field of Dreams ~ Long Dog Winery - No Long Shot!

May. 7 - Bottle of the Week
For Mother's Day! ~ Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Champagne ~ A priceless bubbly for that priceless mother!

Apr. 30 - An increasingly confusing Vintages catalogue ~ Hard to find what you are looking for & plan purchases

Apr. 30 - Bottle of the Week
Rosemount Shiraz on a Roll!

Apr. 23 - The Wine Glass ~ The Key to getting the most out of your wines

Apr. 23 - Bottle of the Week
Making the Rum Transition

Apr. 16 - All we are saying is give pink a chance

Apr. 16 - Bottle of the Week
Talus 2002 Zinfandel ~ A Zinfully Good Anti-Luddite!

Apr. 9 - Don't be screwed by a bad cork ~ Screwcaps are the answer

Apr. 9 - Bottle of the Week
2003 Mouton Cadet Blanc ~ Canada's best selling white Bordeaux

Apr. 2 - From Fizz to Pop ~ Putting some zip into Spring

Apr. 2 - Bottle of the Week
Underberg the Ultimate Digestif! ~ Only a full bottle will do!

Mar. 26 - Canada's #1 Wine Festival 27th ~ Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

Mar. 26 - Bottle of the Week
Smooth & Satisfying ~ A Luxury French Brandy at a Great Price!

Mar. 19 - German Classics for Easter

Mar. 19 - Bottle of the Week
A liqueur that Grows on Trees!

Mar. 12 - Ontario's Vinous Peaks ~ Great quality directly from the wineries!

Mar. 12 - Bottle of the Week
A Special Treat for St. Patrick's Day

Mar. 5 - Today at Vintages ~ Chardonnays starting at $8.95!

Mar. 5 - Bottle of the Week
Cynar - A One-of-a-Kind Aperitif

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The "New" Vintages Catalogue
© Michael Vaughan 2005
National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
Saturday, August 20, 2005


All listings are automatically linked to the LCBO database)
If there is a product that interests you, just click on the name below and you will instantaneously connected with the LCBO database. The product will appear in blue and all you have to do is click on the name again and then the next screen will provide details along with the store search. Just click on store search. The number of bottles in each store is updated nightly. Call the store first to see if stock still remains (each store phone number is listed).

Vintages began twenty-six years ago. The catalogue was easy to use and advertorial free. In a desire to make Vintages profits grow, in May 2002 twice-monthly releases were introduced. These were combined in a single glossy monthly catalogue. Today 39-months later, the Vintages catalogue returns to the single release format, which now happens every two weeks rather than once a month.

It all sounds relatively harmless, but in the words of one disgruntled supplier, it is nothing but a huge cash grab. “The LCBO has become a giant vacuum cleaner sucking our marketing budgets dry. They know exactly what we’ve got to spend and where we spend it. Now, they want it all! We’re charged for everything from in-store sampling to LTOs and shelf extenders - if I fart in one of their stores, I’m afraid I’ll be billed."

If you think that all those colourful bottle shots on the front, back and inside have anything to do with quality, you are wrong. It costs $1,800 to get a single position on the two-bottle front cover. This jumps to $2,200 in October and $3,000 in November and December. Depending on the month, it is $1,500, $1,700 and $2,000 for each of the three-bottle back cover. And so it goes. By doubling the frequency of catalogues, which now only have a shelf life of two weeks, the real cost of Vintages advertising has doubled.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Importers now feel coerced into advertising with the possible threat that Vintages will not buy as much, perhaps nothing at all, if they don’t cooperate. One importer, who was solicited by Vintages to buy two upcoming release ads, politely replied that they didn’t have the funds available. A week later the agent was asked to reconsider this decision given the large volume of pending Vintages orders. The ads were placed.

It is shameful how low the LCBO has stooped in adopting what basically amounts to big buyer “extortion.” This would not be so terrible if there were alternative places to sell imports, but there are none. Other than privately owned Ontario wine stores, which can sell 90% import-based blends, the LCBO has the only import shelf space in town.

Getting down to today’s release, the first section is one of the soon-to-be-paid-for Vintages thematics  entitled “Café Europa: Your table is waiting” featuring 23 items, some good, some not so good.  While such sections look fine, they confuse customers because similar wines now appear all over the catalogue, not in one place! German wine lovers, for instance, have to play catalogue hopscotch with similar German entries, which now appear on pages 7, 11, and 26.

Ditto for the Vintages putting name of the producer before the name of the wine. In the past all Australian Shiraz were grouped together and then were sorted by producer. Now they appear helter-skelter on different pages sorted by producer rather than grape variety, which is great for the brand but challenging for the customer.

These changes seem to be aimed at supporting giant wine producers who have tons of cash to spend on LCBO programs. It also means that top shelves are littered with dozens of paid-for facings - space that, at one time, the LCBO set aside for free for its best. Many questions arise. Do we really need 30 top shelf facings of the three brands of French Rabbit? If the 1-litre Tetra Pak is ecologically sound, why did the LCBO bother bringing in environmentally unfriendly, poor value, French Rabbit in 750-ml bottles at the same price?

Appearing on the front cover of today’s release catalogue is my best buy white: Lurton 2003 Terre Fumées’ Colombard (680603) at $10.95. Tasting a bit like a Sauvignon Blanc, it comes from the southwest France and is designated as a Vin de Pays du Comté Tolosan. It is made exclusively from Colombard grapes grown on the Gascogne foothills of the Pyrenees, which is famous for Armagnac. This perfect unoaked summer pick-me-up with 12.2% alcohol, has attractive, ripe melon-lemon aromas and very dry and medium-light bodied on the palate with refreshing, lemon and juicy melon flavours .

Happily, my best buy from New Zealand is back: the screwcap edition of Kim Crawford 2004 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (975672) at $19.95. If you enjoy great Chardonnay, spend a few dollars more on Domaine Jean-Pierre Sève 2002 ‘Terroir’ Pouilly Fuissé (681056) at $29.95, which is at its peak of perfection. The lovely, complex, nutty, lemon meringue nose is followed up by solid, lingering, dried ripe lemon-Anjou pear flavours - great for white meats.

As delicious, well-priced Pinot Noir is so hard to find, my first red recommendation is Rodney Strong 2001 Pinot Noir (954834) at only $19.95. This stunner from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley will knock you out with its slightly smoky, juicy, ripe black cherry flavours. Put down a case to enjoy over the next six months.

If you are looking for something to evolve, don’t miss 2001 Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels (597104) at $16.95. The rich, complex Rhone sleeper comes from the Costières de Nîmes region. It is pumped with 14% alcohol and has lots of gently earthy, smoky plum flavours with lingering bitter chocolate and cassis notes. Good today, it will be even better a year from, especially when served with a rib steak.

Last but not least, it isn’t often that I get excited about Canadian sparklers, but Jackson-Triggs 2001 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Méthode Classique (587691) at $24.95 is worth a detour. This blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir has a light straw colour and fine, bright, ripe lemon nose with hints of lees. On the palate it is very dry and refreshing with ripe lemon-melon flavours. Made in the traditional Champagne method, it has an excellent mousse and was aged in the bottle for 25 months on the lees (contributing to the texture and complexity) before being disgorged.

Other just-released recommendations/buys are available to supporters of the not-for-profit Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada (or FBTI for short). To become a supporter (a limited number of openings are currently available) click here. This gets you our Vintage Assessments newsletter for free, along with FBTI weekly updates, plus our 2006 Agent ID Guide & Ontario Winery Guide, as well as, access to our 11,000+ wine/spirit database.

To see this period’s 224 LTO and AirMiles selections (until September 10) click here

2001-2002-2003-2004-2005 Tasting Note Database
Our tasting note database from December 31, 2000 to July 2005, covers every Vintages release product for the past 55 months. There are more than 9,000 notes in the database data. Just enter the name of the product, supplier name or CSPC number. Or you can search by type of wine, country of origin, even wine agent! Nothing could be easier. Also you can get information on the agent by clicking on the agent’s name, as well as current LCBO store inventory by clicking on "Check LCBO Availability", which will automatically tell you the number of bottles at LCBO as of last night.

To use our Tasting Notes Database: click here

** For All Visitors **
Vintages Releases
 To see the complete list of upcoming 91 products from the
August 20 release
, including 7 In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

To see the complete list of upcoming 102 products from the
3 release, including 19 In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada 2005
Prior written permission is required for any form of reproduction
 (electronic or other wise) and or quotation.
Contact Michael Vaughan at