20051203

How far does your wine budget go?

A lot of people have the impression that shopping at the SAQ, (Société des alcools du Québec, the province's liquor board) costs more than the LCBO (Ontario's Liquor Control Board). Well, those people are right. Differences in provincial tax rates do mean Quebeckers have to pay a little more for their Yellow Tails and their Little Penguins.

(Higher tax on mass-produced Australian wine such as Yellow Tail is not a bad idea. Unfortunately, that tax is not levied on the basis of an ill-advised choice -- it's just that in some cases, when a Yellow Tail Shiraz purchase becomes prohibitive, there's a silver lining to it.)

Tax is the ultimate whipping boy for the grumbles of wine lovers in Quebec so let's look at other factors that raise the prices of bottles in Quebec. One is that SAQ excels in selection, especially in its wines, which amounts to a cost to consumers. But when you consider what greater variety gives the consumer, higher prices are not necessarily such a raw deal. All of this is a generalization though. There are many competively priced wines at the SAQ, often mid-range or higher-end items. Plenty of them are bargains when you start comparing the list prices to those of other outlets. Once you start shopping for bottles in the twenty-dollar range, you will find many reasons to cancel your Ontario border run for the Hawkesbury haul.

And on top of all of that, some prices actually go down. I should start supplying examples at this point or else you are not going to believe me. Here then are two highly recommended white wines that are reliable products year in and year out. And this year, the SAQ has chopped about a dollar off the ticketed price. The LCBO does not stock them. They are the Maculan Pino & Toi ($16.70) and the Dourthe No. 1 blanc ($15.95). Each one possesses a smartly etched mineral flavour and a delicate aromatic range. The Maculan is a blend of Pinots and Tocai; the Bordeaux is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. They are both sophisticated and great values. And finally, something for red wine lovers...

Jorio Umani Ronchi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2002, a very rich and delicious red wine, remains sale-priced across the province for only one more day, so eliminate any time in consultation and get it fast. At $16.20, you will not be disappointed.

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