Reviews in Category: Editorials (Clear Filter)

How to Identify a Great Wine

Date August 17, 2011 | Chuck | Editorials & How To Series

Likely the most frequently asked question: " What makes a wine 'good' ". Like most great questions, the answer can be slightly subjective, but overall everyone will agree that there are 5 cornerstones in which newcomers and critics alike look for, even if they don’t realize it.

Wine Cornerstones

The 5 cornerstones of wine tasting


What we’re going for is balance. When all five cornerstones are present and not overpowering each other or your taste buds, balance has been achieved and thus, making it a great wine. It’s important to realize that just because a wine is balanced, it doesn’t mean you’ll like it, but odds makers will say it stands a greater chance.

How to Taste Wine

Date August 14, 2011 | Chuck | Editorials & How To Series

Based on our previous article “How to Smell Wine”, we all know how important your sense of smell is when judging wine. However, there are still some very important aspects of wine that you can only assess by tasting it. So, lets continue to find out what your mouth can tell you, but your nose cannot.

The Basic Maneuver:

  1. After swirling the wine, take a small sip and let it roll around your entire mouth to make contact with all your taste buds.
  • Try: Bouncing the wine up and down with your tongue
  • Try: Chewing the wine
  • Try: Inhaling air through a puckered mouth while looking slightly down

The main goal here is to force the aromas into your nasal passage. Mouths will Mouth-off about:

  1. Astringency
    • Derived from tannins, which produce a drying sensation that you can only feel in your mouth (particularly on your teeth and gums).
    • Can be simulated with a mouthful of very strong black tea
    • Not to be confused with bitterness, which is a taste. Tannins have no flavour.
  2. Body/Mouthfeel
    • A feeling of weight and richness in your mouth
    • Think: full body, thin, watery, etc...
  3. Alcohol
    • Produces a hot sensation on your tongue
    • Serving a wine too warm will emphasize the alcohol sensation
  4. Finish/Aftertaste
    • How long the flavour persists after swallowing

Once more traveled, you may be able to tell the following aspects of the wine from tasting it:

  1. Grape Variety
  2. Country of Origin
  3. Fermentation Techniques Employed

Notes/Tips: · Sweetness is our weakest sense of all the tastes. · Bitterness is the highest. · Use taste to confirm the aromas you smell. · Remember to give your taste buds a rest between sampling, as they get tired.

How to Smell Wine

Date August 12, 2011 | Chuck | Editorials & How To Series

Your sense of smell is by far your biggest asset when assessing wine. Food scientists have identified over 200 aromas in wine; your tongue can identify 4 main flavour groups (sweet, salty, bitter and sour) while your nose is able to comprehend well over 10,000 aromas.

What to do:

  1. Pickup the glass by the stem
  2. Swirl it 3 times (increases the surface area and removes any old evaporating vapors from the glass' bowl)
  3. Put your nose deep into the glass and inhale gently for 2-3 seconds (for some, 3 one-second bursts works nicely)
  4. Identify and take note of some aromas (these may change as the wine opens [or warms] up)

What we're Smelling for:

  1. Intensity
    • Mild
    • Moderate
    • Aggressive
  2. Aromas
    • Fruity
    • Spicy
    • Floral
    • Vegetative
    • Earthy
    • Woody
    • Nutty
    • Caramelized
    • Chemical
  3. Flaws
    • Sour
    • Moldy
    • Cork Taint
    • Oxidized
    • Vinegar
    • Sulfide
    • Brett


Aroma vs Bouquet

The terms Aroma and Bouquet are often used interchangeably but there's a distinction between the two: · Aroma is used to describe the one-dimensional smells that make themselves very apparent on the first few sniffs. · Bouquet is used to describe layers of aromas perceived in the wine. The wine's bouquet does not develop until after fermentation.



Practice makes perfect

A professional taster is continually adding to his or her smell vocabulary. Remember, you can't identify a smell if you've never experienced that smell before. Use our About Grapes page for help on identifying some of the aromatic characteristics of the varietal you're accessing.




Give your nose a break when smelling a variety of wines or the same wine over and over. Your sense of smell can become 'tired' just like a muscle. · If the bottle's label indicates an aroma but you just can't pinpoint it, the aroma may no longer be present. If the wine is a few years old, so is the label. The wine matured, the label did not. · Don't try and smell a wine while in a kitchen full of other aromas. Try to be in a neutral place. · Avoid wearing perfume or cologne



How to Look at Wine

Date August 9, 2011 | Chuck | Editorials & How To Series

The first step in enjoying a glass of wine is examining it visually. Knowing how to read a wine using visual keys can tell you many things about it’s past, present and future. What does the color tell me? What are ‘legs’ I hear everyone talking about? Read on…


What to do:

  1. Pickup the glass by the stem (fingerprints are ugly and the heat from your hand will warm up the wine)
  2. Give it a few swirls (2 or 3) (looking for viscosity)
  3. Tilt it sideways against a white napkin or piece of paper (lets us see the gradient)
  4. Stand it back up (check out those legs)


Taking a Closer Look:

As you look at the wine on step 2 and 3, note the following: The color can indicate the grape type, check the About Grapes page for help on matching the color to the grape. If the wine is dark, chances are it was a warm growing season. This is a result of a high grape skin to juice ratio. Cooler temperatures produce wines with lighter hues due to unripe or diluted grapes. Red wines get their color from the grape skins steeping in the fermentation tanks with the juice (remember, red grapes can make white wines too) therefore, if the wine is extremely dark, you may say the winemaker chose a longer steeping time, which can also increase flavor. As reds bottle age, their colors lighten and become more ‘brick’ or ‘amber’ like. Also with bottle age may come sediment, it’s harmless. Once you get to step 4, you’ll notice the film on the glass where the wine swirled up to is breaking apart and streaming down the glass. The streams are called ‘Legs’ or ‘Tears’. Legs indicate the alcohol content in the wine. The more legs...the higher the alcohol content.

Talking about wine Ice-Breaker:

Did you know that with age, red wines become lighter while white wines typically become darker?



Chilling Out: Wine Serving Temperatures

Date August 3, 2011 | Chuck | Editorials & Wine Basics

Regardless of the wine you're serving, the temperature should be warm enough to allow the natural flavours and aromas to shine, yet cold enough to be refreshing and subdue some overly eager tannins and perceived heat from a wine with a higher alcohol content. Read on to find out the ideal serving temperature for your favourite wine.

Fact: Most people drink their reds too warm and their whites too cold. We've said this before: "drink what you like". I'll add to it and say "drink what you like, and how you like it". If you've been drinking your whites straight out of the freezer in a chilled glass for years, there's probably a good reason for it: that's how you like it. To that I'll say: Freeze on!


If your Red is Too Warm:

  • It may taste unbalanced
  • You'll feel more heat from the alcohol
  • Tannins could overpower the fruit

If your White is too Cold:

  • Fruit flavours will be muted
  • Acids may be sharper
  • Bitterness may be emphasized

If your Sparkling is too Warm:

  • It will erupt from the bottle on opening and you'll lose a good portion
  • The above point is sad enough


Average Fridge Temperature: 3°C (38°F)

Average Room Temperature: 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F)


Here's our table of suggested serving temperatures

Wine Style Celsius Fahrenheit
Sparkling & Dessert Champagne, Prosecco, Ice Wine 5-8 40-45
Light-Medium Bodied Whites Sauvignon Blanc, Soave, Viognier Pinot Grigio 10-13 50-55
Rosé White Zinfandel 10-13 50-55
Light Bodied Reds Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Gamay 14-16 57-60
Full Bodied Whites Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio 14-16 57-60
Medium-Full Bodied Reds Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Malbec, Chianti 16-20 60-68


Tip: a bottle sitting in an ice bucket for 20 minutes will drop about 10°C (20°F)

I am not a hoarder. I think.

Date March 23, 2011 | Sean | Editorials & Special Features



I am not a hoarder. I think.


Nothing gives me more satisfaction than pitching and heaving bags and boxes of unused stuff from my home. But when it comes to shrinking my wine cellar – logic gets a swift kick in the pants.


I consistently get asked the same questions about my wine collection. What do you do with all those bottles, and do they ever go bad? I will admit that I do take too much pleasure from looking at row after row of bottles waiting to be uncorked. All arranged neatly, labels up, necks out, foils shining in the light. My own private army of soldiers ready and willing to take on any occasion or menu I may throw at them.


Every “collector” (hoarder) has a different philosophy on purchasing wine. Mine is to drink it. But that doesn’t always go according to plan. The three bottles in the accompanying picture were, at one time, some of my best finds and favorite wines. They have each passed their peak and were unceremoniously poured down the drain. Tragic indeed.


That doesn’t hold true for all wines, some age longer than others. Some can’t age at all. These particular bottles could take a little aging but were really constructed for immediate to near future enjoyment. But I do so hate depleting my army.


So remember, store your wine at around 55 Fahrenheit (12 Celsius, eh), in a low light and low vibration environment. Be kind to your wine and drink it.


Wine Shield

Date August 11, 2009 | Chuck | Editorials & Product Reviews

We're frequently asked: "What's the best way to save half a bottle of wine?"
Using a special gas that wine bars use is obviously out of the question, so next we suggest pouring the unused amount into a smaller bottle. What this does is attempt to reduce the amount of oxygen that can surround the wine. As this method isn't perfect and requires a few differently sized bottles, the people at Wine Shield have developed a disc that slides into your original wine bottle and sits on top of the liquid forming a barrier between the exposed wine and the bottle's oxygen, thus delaying the Oxidation process which eats away at your wine's freshness.
We found that the product does indeed help.  Swirl the bottle a few times after dropping the shield in to get it to lay perfectly flat.  Continue to use a cork or screw cap and refrigerate the bottle as you normally would.
Find them at the websites below:

$1.99 - are you frigging kidding me!?!

Date May 25, 2009 | Sean | Editorials & Special Features

I’m in sunny California this week and of course had to check out Trader Jo’s to see what the wine situation is out here. California Merlot for $1.99 – nope that isn’t a typo – one dollar and ninety-nine cents. Of course I purchased a bottle and rushed back to the hotel, which apparently is some kind of purgatory because I do not have cork screw! The front desk does not have a cork screw! None of the frightened guests on my floor have a cork screw (they get so edgy when you bang on their doors demanding sharp objects)! At this point your wondering how I am without bottle opening implements...the FAA and airport security are so damn picky about these things. I don’t have high expectations, but I’ll take one for the team. $1.99, WTF. 1.99 Wine

Tangley Oaks Merlot Returns!...however...

Date April 7, 2009 | Sean | Editorials & Events

I've just been informed that On April 11, 2009 our Ontario readers are in for a big treat.  The Tangley Oaks Merlot (2005 Vintage) returns to the LCBO.  You might remember the rave reviews we gave the 2003, if not click here.  We haven't tasted it (yet) but I'm being told that it's equally as good as the last batch.  However, one thing has changed.  The price.  Last time around it was available for $17.95, according to the latest Vintages mag it's going for $21.95.  Unfortunately it won't be officially reviewed by, but if you don't mind breaking the $20 limit by $1.95 you won't be disappointed.  ENJOY! From the LCBO Website: A Merlot from Napa that bountifully displays the virtues of this misunderstood grape. Filled with cherry, espresso, spice and toast aromas and flavours, this wonderfully balanced wine will cellar 2-4 years or enjoy it now with grilled lamb or gourmet sausages.

Gourmet Food and Wine Expo 2008 Picture Tour

Date January 28, 2009 | Sean | Editorials & Events attended the Toronto Gourmet Food and Wine Expo in November 2008. 


We had a great time trying new wines and talking to wine makers.  This event attracts thousands of visitors over 4 days and is held in downtown Toronto.


The atmosphere is warm and friendly and the drinks flow freely. The food component of the show is somewhat limited considering it’s the “Food and Wine Expo”. But who cares, if your like us you didn’t go for the food.


As usual the show was packed. Seems that any wine show in Toronto is usually overflowing with visitors...what does that say about Torontonians? (We'll ponder that for a while and get back to you). 


In the mean time have a look at some pictures from the you see yourself in any of them?


If you attended let us know what you thought about this event.





$3 Wine?!?

Date September 28, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Special Features

While on business in Chicago last week I encountered the much talked about "Three Buck Chuck".  Living in a highly controlled and highly taxed part of the world where wine is concerned you can imagine I almost fainted at the site of wine at $2.99.  After my colleague convinced me that I wouldn't be able to carry the 70 cases I was protecting like a rabid dog on a bone, snarling and growling at passers by I picked up just one bottle. The wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon from California produced under the brand Charles Shaw.  As this wine isn't available in Ontario I had to try a bottle and report back to readers. I didn't get my hopes up thinking I discovered Chateau Petrus for $3.00.  But I was surprised that it wasn't just alcoholic purple water.  It had many Cab Sauv characteristics, smelled okay and tasted okay.  While nothing really stood out about this wine, it was a novelty at $2.99.  If you're having a big party, making Sangria or boiling pasta in wine this will do in a pinch.

Bottle Language - Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Español

Date May 21, 2008 | Chuck | Editorials & Wine Basics

Here's a quick translation table for a few common words you'll undoubtedly see while cruising the international wine racks at your local bodega :)

English French Italian
red rouge rosso
white blanc bianco
blush rosé rosato
dry dec secco
sweet doux dolce
sparkling pétillant spumante
English German Spanish
red rot tinto
white weiss bianco
blush bleichert rosado
dry trocken seco
sweet süss dulce
sparkling spritzig espumoso

Taste Sensation

Date May 16, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Food Pairing

While Port doesn't usually fall in the sub$20 range, most people (or their parents) seem to have a bottle kicking around. This was passed on to me by a Product Consultant. Take a really good cut of meat, filet mignon perhaps. Get the BBQ screaming hot! Char the hell out of the meat leaving the inside a nice medium-rare. Enjoy with a small glass of port and be prepared for a party in your mouth! (For health and "gross factor" reasons does not suggest eating under cooked meat. Cook red meat to government recommended temperatures...or whatever.)

2008 Toronto Wine & Cheese Show

Date April 7, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Events had full access passes to the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show held at the International Centre in Toronto April 4 - 6, 2008. This article takes you inside the show and offers some tips to make your visit more fun. In the coming weeks additional articles will be published stemming from the people we met and things we learned. Be sure to check out the photo blog at the end of the story.  Lets begin by saying that on Saturday the show was a complete success, maybe too much of a success actually. When we arrived the line-up was out the door and around the building.



As we checked in and picked up our passes we were told that the show had been "locked down" due to over attendance. That certainly spoke to the popularity of this annual event. As you enter the show you're given a standard tasting glass to carry around and a bag with brochures and show information. We ditched the bag of brochures in favour of out tasting sheets and binders. If you do the same don't make the mistake we made, get the show guide out of the bag then ditch it. The map comes in handy. Once inside the show you'll need to get your hands on some tasting tickets. The tickets are $1 a piece plus tax. To get a taste of the wines being displayed you'll need between 1 and 50 tickets. Most of the wines are between 1 - 3 tickets, so $1 - $3 per sample. The 50 ticket wine was a thousand dollar bottle of Bordeaux offered by the LCBO, that wasn't on our agenda today. Chuck mused that when you're dealing with tickets you disassociate them with money and readily "spend" them without thinking. Set a budget and stick with it.



Tip: Some booths have a bit more of a party atmosphere, you'll get a lot more mileage out of your tasting tickets if you know what I mean...


We doubt you open 500 bottles of wine at home on a Saturday afternoon (if you do, kindly email us your address. See you next Saturday). Hence the benefit of going to an event like this, the wines are from all over the world and at a range of prices, generally under $20.00. Once you start tasting it can be hard to stop, it's like being a kid in a candy store. The show wasn't setup for spitting so keep in mind that 12 samples is about the same as 5 glasses of wine. sampled over 40 wines at the event, pouring out much of the sample even though we used public transit.


Tip: If you do wish to spit, get two tasting glasses on the way in and use one as a receptacle. (Do yourself a favour and don't confuse the glasses, gross.)


If you're feeling a little hungry there is no shortage of food to be had at the show. Of course as the name of the show suggests lots of cheese was on hand and even at some of the tasting booths. The food booths are grouped together and feature pastas, sausages, chocolate, fruit, hors devours - the usual wine pairing suspects. Food can be purchased using the same tasting tickets used for the wine, and the prices were generally inexpensive. The atmosphere was fun and relaxed with lots to taste, see and smell. Overall it was a good event which we will return to next year. We do recommend pre-purchasing admission tickets online so you don't end up out in the cold, literally.


More photos from the show can be found at by clicking here


Special thanks to the following exhibitors who went above and beyond to provide information to

Bill and Jillian from Select Wine Merchants and Concha Ye Toro

Suzanne from Stonechurch Vineyards

New York Wine & Grape Foundation

Churchill Cellars

Oak Heights Estate Winery


For more information about the show visit



Sunday Burger and Wine

Date April 6, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Food Pairing

Finally some spring like weather is upon us, with a high of 13.3 Celsius and sunny it was time to fire up the BBQ. Grilled some hamburgers and topped them with roasted garlic goat cheese, sautéed onions and mushrooms accompanied by Laura Hartwig Reserve Merlot 2001. It was a fantastic combo, the salt from the cheese softened the tannins of the wine. The earthy notes complimented the mushrooms giving a rich feel to what would otherwise be a rather ordinary meal. Fire up those BBQ’s and break out some wine. Let us know what wines you like to match with your favorite burger! Weather information provided by

Demystifying Vintages - Part II | Special Feature

Date March 30, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Special Features

In Demystifying Vintages Part I we introduced you to the Vintages concept and what to find there. In Part II we look at the people who work at Vintages and some tips to make your visit quick and painless. It's ok to walk in to Vintages without any forethought. You could browse around for hours, get lost in the countries and fancy labels. In case you have a job, kids, friends or other silly things taking up your time there is some free help to speed this up. In almost every store with a sizable Vintages section comes your own personal guide, a wine Sherpa. They actually prefer to be called Product Consultants (I like Sherpa better. Them, not so much) The Product Consultant is a little different from the other LCBO employees roaming the aisles or working the cash. They have received additional training and have the opportunity to sample hundreds of wines every month. In some stores they have access to the wine makers and wine critics. Also, Product Consultants must complete a certification similar to the one from the International Sommelier Guild (which is the same certification I have; seriously I got it framed and everything. Friends call it my license to drink, and it comes with tights and a cape). If you live in Ontario you are probably familiar with the Food & Drink magazine. If not, here's the low down. Food & Drink is a free magazine produced by the LCBO 5 times a year (1 per season plus a huge Holiday edition). It has loads of recipes and pairings with wine, beer and spirits. It has countless entertaining tips and covers a wide range of food and drink related topics. It's several hundred glossy pages of perfectly photographed, exquisitely laid out, air brushed porn for foodies and drinkers. (Darlene H, a friend of who did a three year jaunt in Europe enjoys it so much she had it air-mailed across the pond. Devotion!) All that being said, there is another magazine you need to concern yourself with. It's called Vintages (little on the nose, don't ya think). Vintages is published twice per month in connection with the bi-weekly product releases. This is a catalogue of what will be coming to a store near you in the next two weeks. You need to get your hands on one of these books before the release and browse through it. Look for keywords in the descriptions that you are familiar with like "cherry", "blackberry", "crisp". Off to Vintages! Wait, hold on. Warning: You will be asked by the Product Consultant "What food will you be serving with this wine?" The Product Consultants are trained to approach your dilemma from a food perspective. That way they can help you find something that will compliment your meal, is in your price range and you'll hopefully buy again. So, to help them, help you, be honest. Whether it's macaroni and cheese with hot dogs or a standing rib roast let them know. You know what you're going to eat, you've circled some things that interested you in Vintages or printed off some reviews (we prefer you do the second one, I'm just sayin) and are ready to work with the Product Consultant. Chances are you will come home with something you're impressed with and didn't break the bank. In the third and final installment of this feature we look at some highlights of Vintages including The Wine of the Month, In Store Discoveries, and Essentials.

The Basics of Organic Wine

Date March 21, 2008 | Chuck | Editorials & Wine Basics

From reading industry magazines and trolling the wine shelves, one will notice a few bottles with a new designation, "Organic Wine" or "Made from Organic Grapes". What does this really mean? Is the wine better for it? Is 'regular' wine unhealthy? Read on... There aren't any global standards for making organic wine. Sometimes not even country-wide standards. Therefore it's usually the growers who take it upon themselves to adhere to a standard set of rules created by a local independent regulatory body to certify their grapes and practices as organic.


Question: What are the main steps a winemaker would follow to certify his or her wine as organic? Answer(s):
  • Do not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.
  • Limit or eliminate the use of copper sulphite and prefer a canopy rig to promote airflow over and between vines.
  • Limit or eliminate the use of sulphur dioxide to prevent oxidation.
  • Plant grass in the vine rows to battle weeds and prevent earth erosion.
  • Use natural products to clean all equipment.
  • Use wild or ambient yeast.
  • Keep filtration to a minimum, or not do it at all.
  • Keep your vineyard organic for 3 years before labeling wine as organic.


Question: Is the wine better for it? Answer(s): It's truly hard to tell since many old-world wineries have been growing organic for many years but don't go through all the extra trouble (and red tape) of having their wines reviewed and certified.


Question: Is ‘regular' wine unhealthy compared to organic wine? Answer(s): Absolutely not. Wine (of all kinds) has been touted for years as having health benefits. In terms of pesticide use, the agents used are regulated by health authorities and have no discernable affect to humans. Some people are more sensitive to chemicals than others and should take precautions as necessary, but that's nothing specific to wine.


Question: If the differences in taste are negligible, why should I choose organic wine? Answer(s): The main reason to buy organic wine (or anything organic for that matter) is that it's more environmentally responsible.


Question: How much of the world's wine today is certified as organic? Answer(s): 1% or less, but as the market demand grows (which it is) we will soon start seeing more and more wines going through certification.


Question: Does organic wine still have sulphites? I think that's what gives me headaches. Answer(s): Some people do believe that wine (specifically red wine) gives them headaches due to the sulphite levels, and I don't debate that fact one bit. All wines contain sulphites as it's a naturally occurring substance while in fermentation. Organic wines do however contain LESS sulphites (not none completely) and therefore may not trigger a headache in some.

What's in that Bottle. What’s on the Label.

Date March 6, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Wine Basics

The big guys are very protective of their brands and the big dollars they command for a bottle that come along with it. That's in its self isn't really news, just ask anyone at BMW, Prada or Armani. But here is a little gem about the wine industry big boys. It's not unusual for them to press too much juice, or press a second lot of juice. There could be any number of reasons why they decide not to use the juice. But some have speculated they don't want to flood the market with too much premium product so not to devalue their brand. We don't know about this for sure, but here is what we do know. The excess juice is sometimes sold to another winery in secret or wine is made by the winery and marketed under a different label. Here's where it gets interesting. These wines are often nearly identical to their much more premium relatives, but can cost up to half the price. It's hard to know when this will happen, or where grapes come from. But sometimes the rumors are just so strong that word gets out, and sometimes the writing is on the wall. And we found one (kinda)! In the case of Tangley Oaks and Rutherford Hill it's not a big secret that they are owned by the same company. The Tangley Oaks Merlot from 2003 is exceptionally good stuff. It shares a lot of characteristics from it's big brother Rutherford Hill 2003 Merlot which is $10 more a bottle. This is likely a second pressing from the same vineyard, or a blend. But who cares! At $17.95 a bottle this is simply too good to pass bye. See the Tangley Oaks Review. Rutherford Hill Label

Demystifying Vintages – Part I | Special Feature

Date March 2, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Special Features

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, Bayview or Laird’s (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, 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. Cheers. 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.

Back of the Door Wine

Date February 18, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Wine Basics

So you have a couple of special bottles you've been hiding for that perfect dinner. Dinner is served and you break out this gem you've been so patiently waiting for. The wine was great, but went really fast. People are enjoying the food, conversation and the wine. Next your guests shout "Grab another bottle, that first one was great!". This is a critical moment for your little collection you've been selectively building for the last couple of months. Go ahead and grab something good, but not your best. After having a meal and the first bottle of wine most people can't differentiate between good and great wine. Every collection, no matter the size should have Back of the Door bottles. These are the bottles that are the 3rd and 4th soldiers in line after the first great bottle of wine. You don't want to wake up the next morning and realize your 4 bottles down and $80 went with it. In the end, no one really remembered the great subsequent bottles. Just make sure the first one really counts.

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