The least costly European wines available in Ontario liquor stores (under $12) have been a shady bunch. Many of them are “factory wines” produced in immense volumes containing nearly as many chemicals as they do grapes. The scale of production and the use of industrial techniques made these bottlings very inexpensive and appealing enough to consumers who can be seduced by clean fruit-driven bland wines. Their commercial success has been based on being cheap rather than good.
The bad news about factory wines is twofold: For starters they lack real character. (To wine enthusiasts an insipid wine is worse than a genuinely bad one.) Secondly, they might be unhealthy, a fact that’s easy to overlook without a list of chemical constituents on the label. I’m talking about vineyard pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, and laboratory preservatives, acidifiers, flavour and aroma boosters and other things you wouldn’t want under your kitchen sink let alone in your glass.
The LCBO (more specifically VP Marketing Shari Mogk-Edwards) decided that the gap between its General List European Wines (where the usual suspects were concentrated) and its Vintages products (the good stuff) was too wide. Greg Dunlop, a veteran of 35 years with the Board and Vintages’ Category Manager for European wines, took the reins as C.M. for the General List’s European wines. He has been working energetically to raise the floor in that division.
““ I have been adding more estate wines into the assortment. Wines of specific origin or as I like to say wines with a mother and a father. Many of these wines may have been purchased as Vintages entry level. We’ve got to close the gap (between Vintages and the General list.) It was too big. We want people to learn and move to better wines.”.”
If Greg (who was raised Catholic) can succeed, there should be a sainthood in it for him. There’s no reason for the $8 a bottle crowd to drink wine that’s mostly enological cosmetics when for $12 they can enjoy straightforward wines that are much more interesting and likely healthier. Go get ’em, Greg!