This three part special feature will take you on a journey inside the LCBO’s Vintages section. We will look at what exactly is in Vintages, who works there and how to navigate it easily. The Vintages section is probably one of the most exciting and literally to some, terrifying, aspects of the LCBO experience. We will prove that Vintages is a great area of the store to shop for bottles under $20.00 which will impress the heck out of your friends. We will explain what to look for and some secrets to making Vintages work for you.
While this feature is tailored to our Ontario audience, anyone will enjoy the experience and might learn a tip or trick for their own store wherever you might be.
Demystifying Vintages – Part I
So austere, so formal, so mysterious.
The automatic doors slide open as you approach the store with a sturdy mechanical whoosh. You press on confidently marching towards old faithful. That bottle of wine with a playful name you can never remember, something about a penguin or duck, always pleases but never wows. Always in stock, and at least fifty bottles are lined up neatly on the shelf waiting for you. You were probably first introduced to it one night your friends were over for dinner and someone proudly burst in to the kitchen announcing "the wine has arrived" with bottle in tow. Since then you’ve memorized the location of that bottle at your local liquor store, moving past row after of row of beige steel shelving. Like a carefully choreographed ballet you grab the non-descript red or white by the neck, turn on your heel toward the cashier. Air miles card and a twenty dollar bill in hand of course. But each time you turn toward the cash you catch a glimpse of a cave like area at the back of the store, big letters staring down at you from overhead…VINTAGES.
Almost museum like, with dark stained wood, soft lighting, and carefully designed shelves presenting the labels at optimal angles. Wine bottles meticulously arranged in groups by country. The floor dotted with wicker baskets overflowing with bottles of Chateau Pont Allerieux du Whatever
, and other names you dare not pronounce for fear of showing your lack of wine knowledge or because you’ve already forgotten basic French from elementary school.
Relax. Not all Vintages look like the one described earlier, but if they did who cares. Some LCBO stores only feature a shelf or small wall of product, some none at all. Stores like Summerhill
(which spills out in to the aisles in every direction) are very impressive beasts indeed. You’ve probably visited Vintages in the past. Most likely around the holiday season looking for that impressive bottle with an equally impressive price tag for your boss or that friend who’s “in to” wine.
There is no dispute that Vintages contains some seriously pricey offerings, look a little deeper you will find bottles exceeding a thousand dollars. But, if you’re anything like us, you prefer a mini vacation or new LCD TV over a bottle of wine. So what exactly qualifies as a Vintages product and what does it cost. We're sure if you posed the same question to someone in the marketing department at the LCBO you would get a rather lengthy answer, but here is what it boils down to.
To be considered for Vintages there has to be something unique about the wine. That’s it. This could mean it was a small production from a particular producer or classic Bordeaux, maybe an unusual grape. It could be a special series from a winery or the LCBO just managed to get their hands on a limited quantity of something tasty. There are certainly some staples that are constant or make a regular appearance. One example of these is the 2005 Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
, it’s a featured product always available.
The most important thing, if you take nothing away from reading this, the most important thing to remember is that there are literally hundreds of bottles under $20.00 and some of them are simply outstanding. The weekend this part of the special feature was written, nosnob.com picked up 15 bottles of wine under $20.00 at Vintages (for research purposes of course, cough cough).
Your assignment should you choose to accept it. Cross the imaginary line on the floor and take a quick tour of your local Vintages. Take note of the wide range of prices and grab a copy of the free Vintages magazine. We will be talking about it a little later on.
In Demystifying Vintages – Part II you’ll meet the Product Consultant, your new best wine buddy. Who are they, and what makes them qualified to give you advice. Also, a few tricks to getting the good affordable stuff.