LCBO Raises the Floor for General List European Wines

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!

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About iwolkoff

Irvin Wolkoff is a psychiatrist and wine journalist who has been a wine enthusiast and collector since his university days.
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8 Responses to LCBO Raises the Floor for General List European Wines

  1. Dino says:

    The poor cannot afford twelve bucks,,,,

  2. iwolkoff says:

    Don’t worry, Dino. Greg said he plans to add more estate wines, not replace them all. For those who can’t afford twelve bucks, there will still be European wines and bottlings from other reasons at lower prices.

    • Angela Davis says:

      Can you tell me which wines are healthier and not so expensive, as you said this morning.?
      I enjoyed your attitude as expressed.

      Angela, not a drinker and enjoy the commaderie

      • iwolkoff says:

        “Estate wines” (wines with a mother) tend to be less manipulated than “factory wines” (whose parents are chemists). The staff at LCBO stores can be surprizingly well-trained in wine and are delighted when a consumer asks them what’s good at a particular price.

  3. David Stewart says:

    Even the LCBO has no idea what Shari Mogk-Edwards means by “Estate Wines”. How does one tell between an Estate Wine – one with “parents” and one that has been brewed with chemicals and other nasties? Perhaps Mr. Dunlop and Ms. Mogk-Edwards could raise the floor high enough that at least their own employees could see it!

    • iwolkoff says:

      I look for the producer’s name. If I recognize it as a commercial mass production factory, it sets off my alarms. If I don’t know the producer, I Google it. I’ve forwarded your question to Greg, and I’ll post his answer when he replies.

      • iwolkoff says:

        Here’s Greg Dunlop’s reply to David Stewart’s comment: “To answer Mr. Stewart’s question. The reference to “estate wine” or wine that has a “mother & father” really means a wine that has a specific origin and or the production is made under strict controls overseen by the governing bodies of the region. For example AOC Cotes du Rhone or IGT Toscano. The product labels will have these terms clearly marked. In stores our more than 220 Product Consultants can help with providing information or directing customers to the wines in question.”

  4. Lawrence says:

    Enjoyed your piece on CBC Sunday morning. Look forward to some help with those good value wines around the $10 mark for everyday consumption.

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