Upcoming Sale at Vintages
It’s pretty hard to sell something that nobody knows you’ve got!
Michael Vaughan 2002
Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
National Post • Saturday, February 16, 2002
was 28-years ago that the LCBO opened its first Vintages outlet.
In those days it was called the Rare
Wines & Spirits Shop and was initially located in a spartan third floor
room at 43 Freeland Street (before it moved to an upscale freestanding Market
Street location across from St. Lawrence Market).
was the brainchild of LCBO Chief Commissioner General George Kitching.
It was he who personally traveled the globe in search of the best. At the
time, there were 168 wines on the list, 22 under $6 a bottle and 33 between $6
you may wonder where I found this information, but I have been a huge Vintages
fan since day one. In fact, I
wrote the first feature on the store along with reviews of its wines in 1974 for
Toronto Life Magazine as their contributing editor and wine columnist. It’s
amazing to see that a 1967 Riserva Barbaresco could be had for $4.60, 1967
Chateau Figeac at $12.80 or a great 1969 Beaune Clos de la Feguine for only
to see this March 1974 Toronto Life feature.
would have believed that Vintages would have become such a successful venture
today? Of course, it’s not
without its shortcomings. With the
great Vintages sale looming only two weeks from today, I tried to figure out why
the LCBO has had to take such drastic measures to reduce its enormous inventory.
answer to this problem is really quite simple.
For years now (at least a decade) I have been begging for a comprehensive
list of the Vintages products! I
have never received one. Nobody has
ever received one!
one might think that a company that makes about a billion in gross profits might
be able to provide prospective customers with a list of products it has for
sale. Not a fancy catalogue, just a
plain old list, detailing, for instance, all the items available and where they
might be purchased - on the General List, in Vintages, etc.
isn’t rocket science, nor is it very costly. It certainly would go a long way
in helping wine fans and licensees know what’s available, thereby creating
sales. After all, it’s pretty
hard to sell something that nobody knows you’ve got.
on to the upcoming sale, which features over 400 products, discounts start at a
paltry 3% (Southbrook Winery Cassis Gift
Pack reduced from $29.90 to $29.00). For
Bordeaux fans, they start at 7% (1997
Chateau Montrose reduced from $89.95 to $84.00) and soar to 50% (1997
Chateau Leoville Las Cases from $199 to $99). Most discounts, however, range
from 15% to 25%.
previous sales, however, many of the items are not of a “Bin-End” nature.
No sir, given the massive Vintages inventory, the cutting knife has come
out for this one. Not only are
there brand new previously unreleased products hitting the sales shelves, but
also a slew of products from the Vintages’ secretive “Licensee
This latter initiative was launched last year and initially offered an
exclusive portfolio of special products to a select group of licensees (i.e.
restaurateurs). Most of these wines were originally destined to appear in
upcoming Vintages releases. Naturally, some wine agents were unset to find their
wines “hijacked” into this program after the fact without any prior
notification. The exclusivity
provisions were subsequently altered giving selected restaurants five months
before the remnants would be silently thrown to the faceless masses via the
tip off came in this month’s Vintages catalogue.
A check of several of the supposed “Previously
Featured” headings revealed that most had never been formally
released or even announced. None
were presented to LCBO consultants for evaluation.
ruffling of feathers has spread to uninvited licensees who are upset that they
don’t have access to these special Vintages programs. Now don’t get me
wrong, I think that it’s great to get these wines tasted by licensees. Bottom
line, however, is that Vintages has an obligation to offer all wines to all
customers on a first-come, first-serve basis. When excess demand exists, the current Classics lottery
system ensures fair distribution.
for what to purchase, the deeply coloured Meridian 1998 Syrah Paso Robles
is a definite best buy at $27 and an incredible bargain at only $18.
This wonderful, fruit forward Syrah leans in a Zinfandel direction.
I was thrilled by this very accessible, quaffable effort, which has been
aged in French oak for 18 months. It soars on the nose - spicy, gently earthy,
coconut-tinged, ripe black cherries and French vanilla ice cream - all of which
are carried over on the palate. Up
until recently, there were some 168 cases in the warehouse (plus store
inventory), meaning that there should be lots left.
already mentioned, some three dozen sale items have never seen the light of day.
Take the 168 cases of Rosenblum
2000 Rustridge Vineyard Napa Zinfandel, which is being reduced from
$38.90 to $29.90. I was told by the
LCBO that this wine (identified by its CSPC code #711051) was released on May 6,
2000. But that is not correct - it
was the 1997 vintage that was released at $32.85, not the 2000. It
appears that this is a new shipment, which was initially diverted to licensees.
to figure all this out is enough to drive one to drink. CSPC numbers are often
changed and older numbers reused. I have spent two days on the telephone trying
to sort out what’s what. The LCBO now has list available. For those wanting to
know more - release dates and a better idea of quantities available Press
and confusion reigns. I was
initially told that over 400 products are in the sale, but once the duplicate
CSPCs are netted out, it looks like 361 items. Surely the time has come for
Vintages to simply produce a comprehensive weekly (or at least bi-weekly with
their Vintages DICE report) list of all goodies available.
And while they are at it, how about a simple website search engine?
The SAQ has had one for years!
Wednesday, March 20th, Vintages presents its Burgundy
2000 Preview tasting. More
than 100 white and red Burgundies will be available for sampling and on-site
ordering. Seven houses are
participating: Bouchard Père et Fils, Bouchard Aîné, Joseph Drouhin, Louis
Jadot, Antonin Rodet, Louis Latour and Domaine de la Vougeraie. Tickets are
$55.00. Attendance is limited to
200 persons and no tickets will be available at the door (Arcadian Court, 8th
Floor, Simpson Tower from 3:00 - 6:30 pm). To order call 416-365-5767 or
toll-free at 1-800-266-4764.