in our epicurian lives since moving to Ottawa has been to adapt our wine-buying habits from what they stock at the SAQ to the LCBO. They are both huge global wine buyers, and both feature great choices, but the balance is completely different. The SAQ, in Quebec, is still completely dominated by French and Italian wine, and even at small Express locations you can find a few excellent bottles and many good budget choices. The LCBO, on the other hand, is much stronger in “New World” wines – bottles from California, elsewhere in the US, South Africa, Canada, and particularly Australia are stocked in huge quantities, while the French shelves are limited and feature pretty boring staples.
That’s not to say the LCBO is bad; not in the least. Pick up any wine magazine in the past 5 years and you’ll come across articles decrying the fact that the stodgy French industry often doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the advances in quality control and consistency that are found elsewhere in the world. The problem isn’t the wine – it’s more subtle than that.
“New World” wineries are much more heavily invested in consumer marketing than the French industry (though don’t be fooled, France’s grip on tradition is it’s own kind of marketing). In a spectrum, then, consisting of Little Penguins and Yellow Tails and a dozen varieties of Wolf Blass wines, it can be tough to sort out the wines worth drinking from the rest.
One of the more pleasant surprises in this context have been the wines from South Africa’s Fairview winery, in particular their Goat Roti but also the more basic Goats do Roam. If you can get past the cheeky names, inside you’ll find very nice wines. Proof positive that some of the “marketed” wines are just as good, dollar-for-dollar, as anything you’d get from Italy or France.