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Thursday, May 29, 2008

PM announces stricter definitions for 'made in Canada' labels (from CBC.ca)

PM announces stricter definitions for 'made in Canada' labels
CBC News
'Foods marked product of Canada or made in Canada actually may not be very
Canadian,' said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.'Foods marked product of
Canada or made in Canada actually may not be very Canadian,' said Prime
Minister Stephen Harper. (CBC)

Food items labelled as a product of Canada or made in Canada will now have
to ensure that nearly all of their contents are Canadian in origin and
processed in this country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

More at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/05/21/food-label.html?ref=rss

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Toronto resto opening? S-L-O

Just in time to jump on the slow food bandwagon -- there's a new resto opening, my spies tell me, in downtown Toronto...How horribly vague, since that covers from the Zoo to the Credit River...It's to be called S-L-O, and it means "Seasonal", "Local" or "Organic". Everything to be served will be ONE of those three conditions, as pertains to Toronto. So coffee and tea will be organic, while asparagus will be local or seasonal or organic, with ingredients moving around from catregory to category as the year (and the menu) progresses...There will be EXTENSIVE notes in the menu...whatever it takes to put bums in seats and sell a 10-top...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

OntarioWineReview.com - Newsletter 0083 - Esprit Update (by Michael Pinkus)

Response to my Esprit article in Newsletter #82 has been overwhelmingly positive from readers, fellow writers, wineries, etc.  The only people unhappy are those over at Vincor.  Bruce Walker, Vice President of Industry Relations, in a rather stern phone message stated:  we are in the middle of "an awful lot of damage control … that was so unnecessary and so inappropriate."  He then went on to list all the good things Jackson-Triggs and Vincor, are doing for the Olympics.

Once again, Vincor has missed the point.  I said nothing against the other Vincor efforts to help our Olympic athletes, and in fact I applaud them for making a difference in this regard.  Would somebody please tell Vincor (because I think they are tired of hearing form me) that, as Canadians, we have no problem with them making a buck and/or raising funds for our athletes, as Konrad Ejbich pointed out in his quote in the Welland Tribune (Tuesday May 13).  What we do have a problem with is when they compromise the integrity of Canadian wine and wineries by passing off an inferior blended product as Canadian wine.  Why did / does Vincor refuse to get this point? 

As I casually combed through the Welland Tribune article, I found this quote:

"Both Jackson-Triggs Esprit wines and VQA products will be served in 2010 by Vincor," [Cathy Jacobs, vice-president for Jackson-Triggs Estates wines]. 

This quote demanded some follow-up.  So I got on the horn to Bruce Walker and he assured me, with an emphatic "No", that Esprit-blended product will NOT, repeat Not be served "at any Olympic function or event" – whew.  The wine will of course still be available in liquor stores. 

Another positive as a result of my article is that a very good press release will soon be surfacing on the Vincor website, mainly in direct response to what was written and has come to light, in which Vincor comes clean as to the content of the Esprit product and reasons for going that route (see the release here).

I am also happy to report, and Vincor has informed me directly, and I have also confirmed it through independent spotters, that "Limited Edition VQA-Esprit" wines are now available at both Jackson-Triggs wineries (Niagara and Okanagan) … the blends will still continue to be sold in liquor stores.  My request for these VQA wines for review has been granted so stay tuned.

What I found most head scratching about this whole Esprit-fiasco is why Vincor didn't foresee this.  Had they been open and honest about their plan, there would have been little need for, as Bruce Walker referred to it, "damage control".  Instead, because of what I wrote two weeks ago, Vincor went into this "damage control" mode.  Bruce admitted that had I not written anything (and I'm sure they wish I hadn't) nothing would have been done or said.  He also said that no one (writer, public, etc.) made any kind of noise about this situation.   Therefore, I am left asking that one nagging question that keeps going round and round in my mind, what took us so long?
More at

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SAQ, price fixing, and Ontario: by Larry Paterson (with permission)

SAQ and the Price Fixing Scandal

In late 2005 and early 2006 a number of very strongly worded articles appeared in publications in Quebec, accusing the SAQ (Quebec's alternative to LCBO) of artificially propping up prices. SAQ eventually admitted to the charges, after initially denying them.

See below for links to a number of stories from that period.

SAQ denies price-fixing The Gazette Dec 29 2005

Wine prices in Quebec improving with age CBCnews Jan 12 2006

SAQ sacks two... CBCnews Feb 3 2006

SAQ admits price-fixing scheme The Gazette Feb 3 2006


It amazes me that all this happened next door in Quebec, and, despite a similar lack of serious decreases in the price of European wines, seems that nobody in Ontario was interested. Why?

My question is this: Can anyone remember the price of imported wines falling over the last few years? Unless I'm sadly mistaken, Quebec and Ontario share the same currencies and exchange rates, and many of the same suppliers. And SAQ and LCBO are both highly motivated to keep prices as high as they can. Both make more profits as retail increases. Is it possible that LCBO has been keeping prices of imported wines higher than they should be? If I am wrong, LCBO can easily provide a trail of price reductions on their biggest selling imports due to currency fluctuations over the same period of time as the currency fluctuations happened.

I have assembled a "Basket" of imported wines, which consists of one bottle each of the top 50 selling imported wines of 1999. I have used the changes in the exchange rate of the Canadian and US dollar over the period of 1999-2007 as a surrogate for the value of the Canadian dollar against the various currencies involved with LCBO purchasing the top 50 imports of 1999. The retail value of each wine in the basket has been altered each year to reflect the effects of inflation (as represented by the Consumer Price Index) and currency fluctations. As this chart shows, it is possible that the price should have come down on these (by-definition) mass market wines. At least you can safely state that the price increases haven't been caused by inflation or by the currency fluctuations. And it is impossible to ignore the fact that LCBO and its masters make more "profit" every time a bottle increases in price. This is the kind of thing that competition is supposed to prevent. Wonder what price the last surviving oil company would charge for gas?

This whole thing needs investigation by professionals. If indeed LCBO has been propping prices up in an effort to maintain "Record Profits for an XXth straight year" then they are poorly serving the drinking public. I have seen the evil effects of bad alcohol consumption, so I really do support the idea of a minimum price for alcohol. But any arguments that higher prices for Brand X or Y cause less alcoholism are ridiculous. If Dom Perignon has reached $200 I doubt that a single Ontario alcoholic will take the cure for this reason...


Friday, May 16, 2008


It appears that the Parker tasting notes for the two wines in the bait and switch story will be pulled, and that Vintages Tasting Panel notes will be substituted...But wait for the actual arrival of the printed catalogue for confirmation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Corks are twisting in the wind at the LCBO??

Rumour on the street is that the LCBO will NOT be stocking bottles of still table wines on the General List after 2010 unless they have a twist or screw top...Corks will be history. And the LCBO has the clout to do it. The matter is allegedly under study, and delicate negotiations are underway.. I am busy seeking a confirmation...Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Decanter Magazine predictions for 2058 (commentary by Larry Paterson)


is fascinating, and says
little I haven't been saying for years... this may just mean I'll be as
foolish as the authors of this report. I have not predicted floating
vineyards, though I'm really seriously considering hydroponics in my
basement this winter, and growing something to make wine would be near the
top of that list. {Also my wife has threatened to divorce me once my
cold-hardy vines at the north end of the house reach the roof and I try to
trellis them across the peak of my roof!}

For those who don't believe the prediction that China will rival Bordeaux in
50 years please see the results of the series of tastings of Canadian vs
Bordeaux reds I've been doing for 15 years in conjunction with our own
silent Growwine lurker Hugh Johnstone (no, not the Englishman, our HJ was
head of LCBO's wine experts from approximately prohibition until about 1990
or so - I may be out a little on his beginnings).


look at Jan 23 2007 which was
experts-only in the room. My article from that tasting lists who the
experts were.


Michael Pinkus
is now WWCC and Lloyd Evans was the top buyer for LCBO Classics for many

And remember that the first cab sauv in Canada wasn't commercially planted
until John Marynissen did so in the very late 70's... just 30 years ago.

Things aren't moving in 30 year periods any more, change is accelerating.
Experts now have trouble identifying which continent a wine came from. Tony
Aspler discussed "Continental Drift" at one Ontario - Bordeaux tasting to
describe the way that it was increasingly difficult to tell them apart.

I especially agree with the statement that where it comes from won't matter.
I hate the idea of it all being big brands like cigarettes, but it isn't
that much different right now in Ontario, unfortunately, at least at the
Government store. What an environmental footprint, to use current
politically correct terminology.

We need to work NOW to protect a future where it WILL matter where things
are grown, and where locally produced will have importance, as will distinct
products. Wine should not be oil. And does anybody doubt that wine prices
in the hands of a small number of huge factories that prices will become


Larry Paterson, lfw, rd, adcc
(Little Fat Wino, Roving Drunk, Alcohol Distribution Channels Critic)



Oliver Styles

Chinese wine will conquer the world in terms of volume and fine wine, a
recent study suggests.

According to the Future of Wine report, drawn up by London-based wine
merchants Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR), China, which is already the world's sixth
largest producer, will lead the world by the year 2058.

The report, which predicts the state of world of wine in 50 years, also says
China will 'rival the best of Bordeaux'.

'I absolutely think China will be a fine wine player rivalling the best
wines from France,' said Jasper Morris MW. 'It is entirely conceivable that,
in such a vast country, there will be pockets of land with a terroir and
micro-climate well suited to the production of top quality wines.'

Based on the opinions of its four Masters of Wine, the report also spelled
out some encouraging predictions for lesser-known wine countries and stark
warnings for other, bigger producers.

Climate change, it said, would favour eastern European countries such as
Ukraine, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia and Poland, as well as Canada, which,
BBR said, 'could rival its American neighbour' the US.

The UK also stands to gain on its cross-channel neighbour, with the amount
of English land devoted to wine production 'may rival that of France'.

Australia would be the big loser, it said, with the country too hot and arid
to support large areas of vine.

'It will become a niche producer, concentrating on hand-crafted,
terroir-driven, fine wine,' said the report.

Tasmania, it added, would be one of the beneficiaries.

By 2058, 'big brand booze' would dominate the market, with wine resembling
cigarettes. It will be commonplace, said the report, to ask for 'Lindemans
Light' or 'Waitrose White'.

'In 50 years, consumers will ask for wine by the brand name of flavour and
won't know, or care, where it has come from,' said Morris. 'Grapes will be
genetically modified to change a wine's taste and producers will add
artificial flavourings to create a style wanted by consumers.'

Further predicted changes included off-shore floating vineyards, low-calorie
wines, bulk wine shipping and environmentally-friendly packaging replacing
glass bottles.

Others in the industry were more sceptical of the findings. Decanter editor
Guy Woodward was unconvinced.

'While there's no doubt that climate change and increased ambition in
certain regions will lead to a greater variety of wines on the shelves, the
idea that China is going to be able to go from churning out large volumes of
mediocre plonk to challenging the great names of Bordeaux and Burgundy in a
mere 50 years requires a leap of faith,' he said. 'Half a century is a very
short time in the overall evolution of the wine world, and I'd like to see
how many Chinese and Ukrainian wine Berry Bros has on its shelves in 2058

Friday, May 9, 2008

What Bad Marketing Dreams Are Made Of (by Michael Pinkus)

> Ontario Wine Review: What Bad Marketing Dreams Are Made Of
> It has been brought to my attention, on a number of occasions, and it
> should be brought to yours, that Jackson-Triggs has two new wines out to
> celebrate the spirit of the Olympics called "Esprit" - a Merlot and a
> Chardonnay. Now, let's forget about what's in the bottle for the moment
> and focus on the outside - the packaging, more specifically, the label.
> Yes, it's a standard bottle and sure the label isn't as eye-catching as it
> could be, but take a good hard look at the label, when you get a chance,
> and you'll notice something's missing. I'll give you a hint by telling
> you what the wine is celebrating: The 2010 Winter Olympics in British
> Columbia, currently and arguably Canada's hottest wine region. Time's up?
> If you guessed that a VQA logo is missing you'd be absolutely correct.
> Canada's official wine of the Vancouver games is a blended, cellared in
> Canada bulk wine, from "imported and domestic" wines, all whipped up by
> our most recognizable "industry leader". This to me is a crime and a slap
> in the face to B.C. and all of Canada's wineries. This would be the
> equivalent of the Albertville (France) Olympic games (1992) having Masi as
> their official wine; the Sydney (Australia) games (2000) with a George
> DuBoeuf produced product or the Turin (Italy) games (2006) relying on Wolf
> Blass for their wine. Am I the only one appalled by this action?
> More at http://ontariowinereview.com/joomla/content/view/254/61/

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Breaking news from Kiwiland...

(AP) Two women were hospitalized after a New Zealand cafe mistakenly served dishwashing liquid as mulled wine.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Organic Food Bubble ready to burst? Organic food goes global but at what cost?


As the grassroots movement goes mainstream, eco-friendly local suppliers are giving way to international food chains and factory farms - and raising questions about safety and standards. Carly Weeks report

More at

Saturday, May 3, 2008

LCBO Vintages Blended Wine Shocker

Was it a case of bait and switch?
Some Toronto wine writers have noted that some of the same wines submitted to Robert Parker for review are not the same wines offered for sale through LCBO Vintages for purchase by consumers -- even though the labels are the same! Indeed, one writer decided that it was a case of different lots, and he began adding Lot Numbers to his reviews.
Occasionally, a writer (such as myself) will note a different grape varietal composition in the blend, one that was different than what was stated in the review or on the back label. There are two cases of this in the upcoming June 7, 2008 Vintages release.
Craneford Basket Pressed Quartet 2005 Barossa ($26.95) was given a 91 by Parker. He cited a blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 2% cabernet franc, and 8% shiraz. Yet the back label plainly says 40% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 20% grenache, and 20% shiraz. In other words, a different blend for the Ontario market??? The wine I tasted in the preview was good, but not as good as the 91 point review Parker wrote. It just didn't have loads of sweet tannins. The full review (not just the number) is appended to the Vintages catalogue.
The second wine is Tomas Cuisine Vilosell 2005 Costers del Segre ($20.95) from Spain. Jay Miller wrote this review, and gave it a 91 for Parker's newsletter. He stated that it is 50% tempranillo, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 9% garnacha (grenache), and 5% syrah. Yet the back label says 58% tempranillo, 27% cabernet sauvignon, 8% carignane, 3% merlot, and 4% syrah. In other words, a different blend for the Ontario market??? The wine tasted about the same as his notes, but I certainly wouldn't give it a 91. The full review (not just the number) is appended to the Vintages catalogue.
So what gives? When I pointed this out to the wine writers' contact at the LCBO, there seemed to be some concern. I was asked to leave beyond hearing range and earshot while a conversation ensued. Then, a tasting panel of top LCBO wine tasters was hurriedly convened. There were some comings and goings...
Questions need to be asked: will the wines be offered as is? will the reviews be truncated to eliminate all mention of the percentages of the blends? will the invoices be looked at to see if indeed there was a bait and switch? will there be a downward revision of prices? will the wines be pulled? will they become ISDs (In Store Disappearances)? Stay tuned...