Buy The Case: Lifford Wine and Spirits
A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign
In this regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single importing agent. Our critics independently, as always, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in our Buy The Case report. Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.
For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.
Lifford Wine & Spirits
Proprietor Stephen Campbell has been a fixture on the Ontario restaurant and wine importing scene for more than four decades. Since 1978, Lifford has been bringing an exceptional portfolio of wines into Ontario and was purchased by Campbell in 1995. Two recent acquisitions in 2010, Saverio Schiralli Agencies and Prevedello and Mathews, have cemented Lifford as one of the premier agencies not just in Ontario, but across Canada. They now represent several hundred meticulously chosen producers in four provinces out of “a truly international collection of the world’s finest wines and spirits.”
Lifford is a provincial pioneer of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s consignment program and is arguably the largest supplier of premium wine to licensee restaurant accounts. Though the major areas of concentration of more than 125 producers are from France, Italy and California, with 16 total countries represented, Lifford’s is truly of a global portfolio.
This year their combined companies will sell more than 800,000 cases in Canada, cementing their work as a market leader in Ontario and the largest supplier of premium wines to the LCBO.
Below our critics have assembled their picks submitted for tasting in November, and they suggest reasons why you might consider buying by the case.
Brokenwood 2013 Shiraz, Hunter Valley, Australia ($39.99)
John Szabo – Brokenwood is a Hunter Valley leader, and their shiraz a reliable and regular favourite of mine. The 2013 is full of elegance and grace in a style quite unique to Australia, where acids and elegance, and mid-weight, balanced wines seem to come together naturally. This has almost no detectable oak influence other than the rounding and softening effect on the palate; tannins are super fine grained and acids bright. This should age beautifully; buy a case now and follow its evolution over the next dozen years. Cellar Wine.
David Lawrason – From one of the great houses of the Hunter Valley, this shiraz has a lovely, pure and focused nose of blueberry/black cherry fruit, pepper, granitic earthiness and graphite. It’s medium-full bodied, very smooth, sweetish and engaging, with very fine tannin. If you are a fan of Aussie shiraz here is case to have on hand in your personal cellar, perhaps splitting with a friend or two.
Michael Godel – It may be the younger brother to the Graveyard but it comes from the same mother. A rare opportunity to enjoy Australian Shiraz of restraint and elegance. An excellent candidate to ask around and split a case with two or less.
Sara d’Amato – A classic and very elegant shiraz that is both fresh and fleshy. Very well structured but also not austere or bracingly youthful. Friends can help mitigate the cost of a case so buddy up and pool for this cellar-worthy find.
Welcome to the Age of the New Spanish Vigneron
Telmo Rodriguez 2014 Rueda Basa, Castilla y Léon, Spain ($16.99)
John Szabo – Telmo Rodriguez crafts some of Spain’s best, and best value wines from nine distinct regions throughout the peninsula. Against the odds, quality, and consistency are exemplary across the board. Basa is his rendition of Verdejo from Rueda, made here into a clean, semi-aromatic, floral and fruity white with no wood. Light CO2 spritz elevates the freshness. A fine house white or restaurant by-the-glass option. By-theGlass/House Wine
Michael Godel – Acts more like native Verdejo than ever before in ’14, with its very specific grape tannin effect. You must concentrate on the nuances to get this wine. This should hold a rightful white by the glass spot on every geeking out restaurant wine list.
Telmo Rodriguez 2013 Gaba do Xil Mencia, Valdeorras, Spain ($18.99)
John Szabo – Spain’s great red grape mencía continues to gather momentum, with both increasing numbers of quality producers, and consumers who appreciate them. Telmo Rodriguez (see Basa, above) highlights the lovely fragrant, floral and herbal side of the variety, with fresh red and blue fruit and no evident wood. All in all, this is a genuine mouthful, nicely proportioned, with great length and complexity at the price, full of joy and happiness. Drink with a light chill. By-theGlass/House Wine
David Lawrason – Made by young gun Telmo Rodgriguez, this charming, fruity red is from the mencia grape that is carving out a great reputation in northwestern Spain. The treatment here is not as ‘serious’ as in Bierzo where it makes more dense, age-worthy wines, but I really like the juiciness, freshness. It reminds me of Beaujolais. It’s price and style make a good by-the-glass restaurant pour but only to adventurous clientele. I would stock a case for warm weather sipping.
Michael Godel – A fluid, medium-rare red, perfect for a house wine to go with a mid-week steak. Year in and year out this is Rodriguez’ base and necessary expression for the “the freshness of Galicia.” Shares an aromatic commonality with Cabernet Franc though its gait is more Northern Rhône Syrah. Anti-serious, easy wine, existing as “a link to the past.”
Giro Ribot NV Cava Brut Reserva, Penedes, Spain ($18.99)
John Szabo – Quality sub-$20 sparkling wine, as Ben Franklin might have said, is a necessity of life. It’s even better when you find a traditional method, complex bubbly under $20, like this Cava. It’s crafted in the lightly oxidative style, with bruised apple and dried mango/tropical fruit flavours blending with yeasty/brioche notes, essentially dry, with succulent acids and very good length. House wine.
David Lawarson – This good value, well structured cava has a clean, mild nose that gently weaves subtle aromas of pear, wet stone, caraway and fresh baked scones. It’s light to mid-weight, firm with great acidity and minerality. Priced well as an upscale reception and oyster and tapas wine for mid-size functions. And a bit of talking point as well.
Michael Godel – Far from your average, every day, cookie-cutter Cava, the wealth of personality and character here is really refreshing. Though it is certainly steeped in tradition and a touch of oxidation, the amount of flavour will appeal to a diverse crowd at many different types of functions. Choose it for parties and sparkling needs at home.
Sara d’Amato – The name “giro robot” supposedly references the gyropalette which is the automated machine now used to riddle bottles of Champagne or sparkling wine in an even and efficient manner. And like Champagne, this Cava is leesy and complex with both verve and substance. Terrific value here, don’t miss out. House wine.
Red Hot Value from Chile
Viña Echeverria 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Chile ($14.99)
David Lawrason – This is a very smooth, quite supple, simple and vaguely sweetish young cabernet designed for immediate enjoyment. I like the balance and charm here, with some jammy fruit, very fine tannin. Very good length. Screw cap assists its cause as a tippler that should stay fresh as a by-the-glass restaurant pour.
Michael Godel – Fresh, reductive, ripping and ready to pour for the masses Cabernet Sauvignon. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for Chilean red by the glass to pair with a restaurant menu of many pages.
Sara d’Amato – Priced for everyday enjoyment, Echeverria’s cabernet sauvignon is refreshingly devoid of big oak and filling alcohol. Its meaty, earthy and minty profile is classically Chilean and its mid-weight profile allows it to be more versatile with food than your typical cab. Restaurant pour by the glass.
Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!
This report was sponsored by Liffird Wine & Spirits. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Lifford Wine & Spirits has provided the following agency profile.
About Lifford Wine & Spirits
If you’ve only heard of one agency that specializes in consignment sales by the case in Ontario, there’s a good chance it’s Lifford.
As a pioneer of the LCBO’s consignment program, Lifford has grown to be the largest supplier of premium wine to restaurants and discerning consumers in the province.
Founded in 1978, Lifford was purchased by Steven Campbell in 1995. As a seasoned restaurateur of twenty years, Steven was passionate about wine and jumped at the opportunity to acquire a small but excellent portfolio of Californian, Australian and Italian wines. Eager to expand the portfolio, Steven travelled the international wine roads to find regional superstars whose families owned the land, tilled the soil and breathed life and vitality into their wines.
Today the portfolio represents a myriad of meticulously chosen producers, a truly international collection of the world’s finest wines and spirits at every price point, with a special emphasis on family-owned producers.
Whether it’s iconic wines from regions like the Napa Valley and Tuscany, excellent values from countries like Chile and Spain, or exciting new discoveries like sparkling wine from England and Nova Scotia, you can find it all in the Lifford portfolio.
Sign up for their weekly e-newsletter at lifford.com to learn more about their excellent portfolio, and browse their e-commerce enabled website to purchase wine for delivery direct to your door in Ontario.