20060112

Government-run should be pro-people

I wasn't going to post today since I am merging two wine reviews into one big entry tomorrow. But since there is a scandal at the provincial liquor agency here in Quebec, I thought I should point to it now. This news article from La Presse follows up on the story they broke on December 28 and is in French. The scoop: our government-run monopoly on booze allegedly attempted to fix prices in the face of a devalued Euro against the strengthening Canadian dollar. For shoppers at the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) that fluctuation would to translate to huge savings since European products are the vast majority of wine sold in the province. Now we hear that only about half of the economic gains seen by the SAQ as a result of dealing with European suppliers will be passed along to the consumer. Read a shorter summary in English from the CBC; and here's how the English paper covered it in The Gazette.

If I was a cynic I would say that their releasing news of this half-assed price decrease on the day a New World wine sale starts is a bit rich. Talk about deflecting the issue. But a wine sale is a wine sale, so I'll take what I can get for now and wait for Old World wine savings later. The Trumpeter Malbec Vistalba 2004 from Mendoza, Argentina is my big recommendation at $12.85 and sure to sell briskly for the next 10 days. Other than that, it is mostly buyer beware. Routinely at this time of year releases from new producers enter stores. Add to that the fact that southern hemisphere wines usually get a jump on the authoritative critics with their earlier growing season and you've got a lot of unknown quantities: labels are new entirely, or even more deceptive, well-known but hiding fresh new vintages, which are often marked in unassuming small type. The unaware shopper can be preyed upon when this happens. But that's the jungle for you. I see even the LCBO is currently promoting their new Latin releases. Unless you have a trusted winemaker who puts out good wine consistently, be sure to sample the wares before diving in. SAQ stores will be sure to have many bottles open for tasting during the sale. I've also seen private tastings on demand so don't be shy. There's most likely MORE than an 8.5% chance they'll respond favourably.

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