Posts tagged ‘BC Liquor’

July 10, 2019

Drinking Wine in Italy

After a month in Italy there is nothing much to do except complain (again, more) about wine in BC.  The sheer misery of the options, the insane cost, the supply chain to the hospitality industry, and on and on.

 

What’s VAT in Italy?  22%.  Twenty-two per-cent.  And yet, and yet you can pick up phenomenal local wine for 12 Euros (approximately $18 CDN).  Wine at a restaurant, really lovely drinkable wine ins the 14-18 Euros category.  We found in Puglia that if you wanted to shell out the very grand amount of 20 Euros you were heading into 92 pointster categories.  It was wow and wow and more wow and easy, easy, easy on the pocket book.

 

In the above (random) collage (much edited) I’ve pasted the two most expensive bottles at top that we decided to try along the way.  The Michele Calo Spano Salento Rosso, which retails for close to 40 Euros, we scored for 35.  It was excellent, absolutely hands down the best Negroamaro we drank (and we drank a lot) although given what’s available in the region it defied type; it seemed almost Californian in its clean modernity, the lack of acidity;, the abundance of fruit but without supreme depth made it seem a little too Robert Parker for us.  As for liquor board controlled buying, I would say both BC and Ontario fail the consumer when it comes to Negroamaro. Fail.

 

Next to that you’re looking at a (random sample) of a truly wonderful local Primitivo, the Schola Sarmenti Cubardi Primitivo.  At the wine store 12 Euros, in a restaurant we scored if for 22.  And it was just all awesome; oodles of cherry and smoke and chicory and herby notes that define terroir.  We’ve had the decent bottle or two of Primitivo in BC but nothing like the Cubardi range (for which there are a number of varietals and all are worth a sample).  As for liquor board controlled buying, Ontario does a decent job with Primitivo; BC, however, is again a fail.  In London (UK) you can find this monumentally satisfying red for 15 pounds (or less than $30 CDN) which is just ludicrous.  What Okanagan plonk can a Canadian score in BC, taxes all in, under $30?

 

Lower left is a wine from a local masseria, the L’Astore Alberelli Negroamaro.  Organic.  Old vines.  High in alcohol and not cheap and not easy to access, even in Lecce, but we found it, and we loved it, and we wanted more, and couldn’t get it, and that of course led to me on another BC wine rant.  This was a juicier, rounder, plumper Negroamaro with tannins that sat up against red fruits with a challenge.  Outstandingly food friendly, from stuffed zucchini blossoms to ragu orecchiette.

 

The whites down south were hit and miss.  With temperatures in the mid to high 30s they needed to be cold, and outside they warmed up too quickly.  (A red, however, refrigerated briefly, then served al fresco, that worked a dream.)  Having said that, it was easy to access Friulano.  Welcome to my newest favorite varietal.  Full, assertive, nuanced, fleshy, like ripe nectarine juice running down your chin.  Gorgeous with southern Italian cuisine.  The Doro Princic is a relatively inexpensive white, 14 Euros, with  nothing going against it except availability.  Ontario and BC, our largest socialist fueled wine buyers, how ya doin’ with Friulano?  Two and one.  Fail and fail.

 

The last wine, also a pricey bottle, is from the Bastianich vineyard, deep down in the heel.  And, if truth be told, the only reason I bought it was because of, you know, Lidia and Joe and how pompous Joe comes off on TV and how full of himself in respect to their wine he is which they “personally oversee” in Puglia and so on.  They have a base model Friulano but in for a penny we got the Plus, a whopping 30 Euros (but, let’s be fair, that’s $45 CDN and plenty of BC top wines are more than that before onerous taxes).  Gorgeous.  Speechless I am in its appeal, from aroma to palate; the proverbial nectar from the gods.  So, here I’m going to compare it with top whites from, you know, Culmina, Clos de Soleil, Meyer, and all I can say is they are lost in the dust (or, as things go in Europe, the diesel particulate).  But so is BC when it comes to choice, diversity, and consumer appetites.

 

What’s next BC Liquor?  One white and one red from a spigot?  BC Liquor: It’s a fail, Herculaneum Pompeii style fail.

February 7, 2018

Pirie, Tasmanian Sparkling

Drinking wine in Australia 3: In search of a brilliant sparkling we drank glass after glass of Australian sparklers, but mainly Tasmanian wines because, well, it’s almost impossible to find them outside of the state.  The wine industry in Tassie is young, the volume is low, and only a few generic sparklers make it overseas.  Ditto their Pinot.  Plus, restaurants serve them at a low cost and with some cheer.

 

We made the trek deep up country to Jansz and sampled some sensational vintages and bought their limited and very tasty rose.  We had a beautiful regular old non-vintage from Clover Hill.  We drank glass after glass as an aperitif which was uneven but usually fun.  We drank a poorly reviewed Shingleback and found it enormously food friendly and ordered more.  

 

There is a trend, good or bad, for hip Oz restaurants to have five categories on the wine list: Red, White, Sparkling, Orange and Chilled Red.  I can’t see the words “chilled red” without thinking of Lambrusco, and indeed many of the reds we sampled had that cheap fruit tang of L.  The orange category, say a Sem/Sauv Bl left on the skins or a Cab Sauv not left on the skins, were sometimes refreshing sometimes sour.  But perhaps the best thing going on in Australia is bottle after bottle of brilliant sparkling and restaurants that give you a choice per glass, at about $10 per.

 

Of course you can’t return home and buy House of Arras, Clover Hill, Swift, Frogmore Creek, Sittella, Yarrabank, Bay of Fires, or any of the other myriad sparklers we tried.  BC just doesn’t let the consumer choose; they choose for us.  And shelf space, they tell us, is at a premium…

 

When all was said and done there really was no comparison to the generic non-vintage Pirie which was yeasty and aromatic and effervescent and just all round wonderful (and hard to find, even in Melbourne, but worth the effort) and for which, if Canadians were allowed to be adults and buy wine and bring it home in volume the way other nationals were doing we would have ordered several cases.

 

 Of course you can’t buy it and ship it like the rest of the world.  You can’t even contract an agent to get it.  You just have to live with the fact that the BC government is an omniscient beast who not only knows all but acts in our best interest.  Not.

 

Price: Around $34

 

Market Liquidity: Drinking wine in the socialist state of BC sucks. Tassie rocks.

January 6, 2018

Torres Celeste Crianza, 2013

Corked.  I can’t tell you how common this is in BC.  Oh wait, I can, I kept a record in 2017.  Twice from bottles purchased at private stores and six times from bottles purchased at BC Liquor.  Not including this.  Seven times from BC Liquor.  What a year 2017 was.

 

In BC, when you have a corked bottle you can return it and complain.  You must have your receipt.  You must take the bottle back.  It’s an enormous hassle because I rarely keep the receipt (I mean really? Who does nowadays?) and often the bottle is opened up somewhere not at home, this most recent bottle on the Gulf Islands, it’s exacerbated by the lie down factor—you want to lie something down, then really it becomes your responsibility not the seller if you open it in six months or more.  There was no way I could re-cork this bottle and get it back to Vancouver. It graced the septic.

 

Gismondi recommended the 14 as a cellar pick but the 13 was languishing on the shelves and I picked this up in error.  So in theory many buyers are lying down what could be corked wine.

 

I have complained in the past but it’s tiresome and if you complain you are often belittled, you are led to believe it’s the consumer’s problem.  In my experience, BC Liquor takes no responsibility (just our after tax money, in spades).  They claim all their wine is transported in temperature controlled transport and stored in a temperature controlled environment.  Private wine store staff have told me there are some vagaries to this routine including containers that aren’t ventilated but I’m not part of the industry and have no way to know unequivocally.  Is there a PETA-esque wine group that could get footage of the storage?

 

But regardless of how wine is transported, how it’s displayed is testament to an overt attitude of laissez-faire. If you visit a local BC Liquor store you might be surprised at what you’ll see.  Many have direct sunlight poring in onto the wine shelves.  Indiscriminately.  There’s Wolf Blass; hope he’s wearing SPF 30.  Most bottles are upright and a shocking amount are covered in dust; those with corks are just drying out.  And the in store temperature, my God, not a shred of humidity in most stores, some are like saunas in the colder months and in BC most months are the colder months.

 

We’ve never posted on corked wine.  I feel it comes with the territory.  Suck it up.  However, the problem seems to be getting worse not better.  It’s disappointing, a hassle, costly, and I believe largely preventable.  There is no passenger bill of rights for wine buyers.  Pity.

 

Price: What?  Before or after it went down the drain?

 

Market Liquidity: Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar rolled up into one.

January 1, 2016

Mud Bay Wines. Rest in Peace.

Creche 2015

We end the year by raising a glass to Mud Bay Wines. It was the most wonderful “mom and pop” type wine shop in Tsawwassen, overflowing in hard to find BC wines, at winery prices, laid out simply, cleanly by varietal, with helpful staff, a huge selection in the fridge, a few nominal but worthy cuisine items and, get this, dog friendly, with treats behind the counter. Before or after a ferry trip it was a common detour for us. You always felt welcome at Mud Bay. I simply have nothing bad to say about Mud Bay Wines, but things come and go, it went, let’s not get sentimental. C’est la vie.

 

However… Mud Bay went for the wrong reason. It went because our provincial government is archetypally provincial. They treat adults like children (like children in an institution, like unsupervised children in a boarding facility, like a Lillian Hellman allegory) and adopt and enforce rules that are asinine. And I’m not talking about Geoff Meggs rationalizing the removal of the downtown viaducts so that the developers that own the city can capitalize on more development. I’m talking about the “good news” Liberals “modernizing” BC’s cryptic, comic and often quaintly anachronistic liquor regs. The “liberalization” of liquor laws in the province, by the provincial Liberals, a supposed right-leaning pro-business government, allow for BC wine shop licenses to transfer (i.e., be sold) to grocery stores. So Mud Bay is now available about half a click further south in a commercial grocery store chain. But it’s not the same. No PR mouthpiece bureaucrat can make the argument. You can get the bestsellers, but none of the finds, the attention to detail or the character of an actual wine shop. Why the two couldn’t coexist, why government couldn’t allow expansion of wine sales, why there had to be some imaginary level playing field, is anyone’s guess. I guess a deputy minister somewhere along the line got an MA in economics and wanted to ensure his (or her) thesis wasn’t simply a dust collector in a Public Storage locker. Essentially, what Christy Clark’s Imbeciles, er, Liberals have done, is create paperback stands where before there were libraries. Death to character, one government policy at a time. When I hear Vancouver proclaimed by our politicos as the most livable city on the planet all I can do to stop from heaving is wonder whether anyone has lived in a free society, unconstrained by moronic, antiquated, and, worse, “modernized” policies deemed to enhance livability.

 

Barcelona, with its buried ring road on the beach, that’s livable. Melbourne, with its light rapid transit, that’s livable. Jesus, Portland, with its wine served in cinemas and downtown parking free evenings (!) and weekends (!) that’s livable. See any similarities with liberal liquor laws in any of the most livable cities on the planet?

 

This brings us to the Vancouver Sun. That is not a jarring segue; it is in fact their complicity in the liquor boondoggle–and I hold them accountable for viewing this issue as a tangent that has received, at best, a human interest segment by Pete McMartin. They have one of the best critical wine writers in Canada, Anthony Gismondi, who they have write short and not terribly useful minor wine reviews once a week (for, mainly, the dross that BC Liquor sports) and then a cellar selection midweek. With Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Imbibe and others online, and with every Joe and his dog blabbing on about malolactic fermentation and high versus low alcohol content (witness this blog) we simply don’t need more file card wine recommendations. But GM’s articles, on wine, the wine business, are what counts. These are better, generally, than anything in the Globe or NP. Why he doesn’t take home a journalistic award of excellence is baffling. But not more baffling than having is essays presented as lifestyle on Saturday, in other words, not being a “proper” columnist; that’s the Sun I guess… Gismondi needs to be in the business section, twice a week. But he’s not. That’s because the editorial tag team down at the Sun, the last half decent paper left in the province (emphasis on half) for some idiotic reason hasn’t come to grips with the business of wine.

 

In BC, wine is a business. In fact, it is a holy trinity of business. It is first a generator: It generates jobs. It produces a tangible product. It produces a product in demand. It has a gross and net profit angle, it has a human interest angle, it has a production, wholesale and retail angle. Mining, forestry, fishing, the lead stories never end. One more Vaughan Palmer inside story about a pipeline and there’s a Pulitzer I’m certain. Second, there is wine tourism. Forestry tourism anyone? Oil patch tourism anyone? So tourism, variously somewhere in the top three provincial industries, doesn’t get the business section either. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the political side of the story. Wine is politics. The headline side of the story. It’s time to elevate AG to the gaping hole left with David Baines’ departure from the biz section. Our one and only resolution this year. More of a last hope I guess.

 

Well, there you have it: Sadness and bad news and ignorance called Buying Wine in BC.

 

Happy New Year.