Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES September 28th: Holding the LCBO Accountable

Are the LCBO Buyers doing a good job?

By John Szabo MS, with notes from Michael Godel, Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

Another near perfect, 99-point wine (via the distorted palate of Italian reviewer Luca Maroni) hits the shelves this week. Don’t tarry!

It’s no wonder the new LCBO Press Office is so keen to reduce the number of new releases put out for Ontario media to taste. Which local writer will top that? Or other big scores cherry picked from the world media and plastered in the Vintages circular and on shelf talkers? Search widely enough, and you’ll find someone, somewhere, tasting in a vastly different context and with no knowledge of our market, who has showered accolades on any wine you wish.

It’s alarming that every other crown corporation operates with some form of independent oversight and public scrutiny, yet the LCBO buyers, who’s salaries we pay, are free to select the wines that 10 million Ontarians are essentially restricted to buying, while keeping a now growing number of these purchases out of the glasses of the local watchdogs who are there to ensure the buyers are doing a good job.

The LCBO is accountable only for the profits it turns in to the province each year, an important raison d’être to be sure, but not for whether Ontarians are offered the best possible ‘assortment’ for our collective money. Former health minister David Caplan lost his job in a scandal over wasteful spending and untendered contracts by eHealth Ontario. No LCBO buyer has lost his/her job (yet) for buying crappy chardonnay.

Shouldn’t independent experts with the interest of Ontarians in mind be permitted to comprehensively review and comment upon the purchasing decisions of our government employees? If you think so, send a quick note to the LCBO Press Office and ask for transparency on all purchases, not just the bottles they want the critics to see: [email protected].

So we can’t say we’ve comprehensively reviewed the September 28th release; less than 40% in fact, as only 50 of the 139 wines in the release were available for media tasting. The wines that were made available to taste are predictably ho-hum (why put out the already super-high scoring or expensive wines?).

However, a handful nonetheless stand out. Oregon is a theme region of the release, with particular strengths in the pinot noir category. It’s Oregon’s most widely planted grape, grown in a range of soils from sedimentary to volcanic, each with its own twist on flavour. A pair of very fine examples make the list this week.

Ontario also steps up with a strong pinot of its own from the Niagara Bench, while a pair of alluring albariños/alvarinhos from either side of the Minho River separating Spain and Portugal help to further solidify the grape’s inclusion on the list of classic varieties.

Sustainable South Africa 

Buyer’s Guide September 28th: Oregon

Pike Road Chardonnay 2017, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($23.95)
Michael Godel – Now here is a fresh, crisp bite from a green apple and just the right amount of freshness meeting ripe fruit and acidity. Really well-managed, stoic even and comfortable well within its skin. Terrific intro to Oregon chardonnay unencumbered and free from overbearing barrels.

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That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommeliers Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview