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Wine-ding down

In his latest Wine all the Time, Vin takes a look at the impact COVID-19 is having on the industry
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The COVID-19 Virus is having its impact everywhere, and so it should be of little surprise that media outlets are also re-thinking their current operations.

To that end, Village Media has decided to suspend this column for the time being, a decision that may be re-visited when conditions change. It seems appropriate, therefore, to take a quick look at how your access to wine is being impacted. It is a moving target, as the LCBO, having reduced its daily hours to open only from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, has also decided to close on Mondays, too. In addition, when you arrive at a store, you will likely find numbers of customers restricted to allow for social distancing, and will find that lines have been taped on the floor near the registers to help keep customers from crowding.

I spoke with some of the workers and asked them what would be best from their perspective. One reply was that we use e-commerce or buy form the LCBO online. That way, you could have delivery to the store of your choice, but having pre-paid, you would only have to sign for the order at the store. Once your order has arrived, you would be notified, then, letting the store know when you are coming, they would have it ready for you to pick up.

You could have the delivery to your home, but Canada Post is no longer having people sign for packages, and so you might end up having to pick up the shipment at a post office. Going to a store for pick-up may be more convenient.

That said, there is always a catch. As you likely know, I usually recommend wines available through the Vintages program. That program is continuing, but wines offered that way generally are usually not available for online shopping, unless they are in stock at your store. (As I write, Vintages latest at is advertising a limited number of wines for online purchase which had previously been released through Vintages. This may be another option for you.)

In any case, aside from what your store has been allocated and whatever wines might randomly appear online at, there will be no store-to store transfers under the current circumstances. In-store product only.

Stores might also be amenable to putting an order together for you from items on the regular list or currently on the Vintages shelves, if you know what you want. That way, when you arrive, you won’t have to linger – just ask for your order, pay, and leave.

Vintages does put out a calendar for each bi-monthly release, one that at least up until now you could have mailed to you, but the only way to know if our stores are receiving a product is to contact them and ask.

Various wineries and wine agencies have wine clubs that will deliver a selection of wines on a regular basis. Agencies as well will ship wines that they have available, but normally that is a single specific wine and it is sold by-the-case.

There are some special offers, such as one from Noble Estates, with which you would receive a mixed case of 12 for $270; however, while delivery in the Toronto area is free, we would likely have to expect to pay an additional courier fee which could be in the $50 range. is another site shipping wines. You would have to check them out to see if this would work for you.

Everyone is putting out the best effort to help us get through this crisis together in good shape. It will take patience and self-discipline, and we pray that we are successful.

I would like to thank all of you who have been reading this column, and I hope you have found it interesting, useful and at times, entertaining. If you have any questions moving ahead, please e-mail me at, and I will do my best to answer them.

As we ride off into the sunset, here are some suggestions from the April 4 Vintages Release.


Featherstone Four Feathers 2018, $14.95, from Niagara is an aromatic blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Vic Harradine of suggests that “Aromas of rosewater, lime and peach set the table for a smorgasbord of perfectly balanced, delicious palate flavours with Key lime, crisp green apple and lemon pie filling to the fore. It's medium bodied, creamy smooth and lingers on the finish - balanced and mouth-watering good.” - 90.

Castel Del Lago Pinot Grigio 2018, $15.95, from the Venezia has an impossibly high score - 97 - from Italy’s Luca Maroni, but Vintages itself suggests the wine is “lively and aromatic with white pear, apple, peach and citrus and a delicate, flinty mineral undertone.”

Werner Anselmann Gewurztraminer Kabinett 2018, $15.95, from Germany’s respected Pfalz region took Gold in Berlin last year, and Vintages says it is “aromatic, fresh and ripe, with lychee, rose petal and spice tones. Elegant and delicious.” With 47 grams of sugar per litre, it qualifies as “sweet”, but clearly at the lower end of the scale. All told a bargain, and a treat with spicy foods.

Viu Manent Gran Reserva Cahrdonnay 2019, $15.95, from Chile, should come across more at the “Chablis” end of the Chardonnay spectrum than as a buttery California oaked example. Chile’s Descorchados guide says it “offers deliciously fresh tart and juicy white fruit with refreshing medium body,” with “herbal and saline” characteristics as well. - 92.

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2018, $18.95, from the south of France, earned a 90 from critic Jeb Dunnuck, who compares it to a “mini-Condrieu.” At the LCBO, all the Condrieu wines listed are in the $70 range. Dunnuck calls it “medium-bodied, fresh, and lively on the palate, with an attractive mix of richness and freshness.”


Scattered Earth Bush Vine Cinsault 2018, $12.95, is an intriguing inexpensive red from South Africa. Produced by the KWV co-operative which also produces, among others, the “Big Bill” and Cathedral Cellars wines. “Bush Vine” would imply that the grapes come from dry-farmed, probably older vines, and a straight Cinsault’ is uncommon. Cinsault is one of the parent grapes of the hybrid Pinotage, which many enjoy. In this case, we can expect a charming and straightforward wine that is easy to take, good-flavoured, with a vibrant impact - perfect, Vintages suggests, with lamb burgers or beef stew.

Cuvée Sabrine Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2016, $15.95, is tantalizing. proposes that “ A cool and supple stream of ripe blackberry, black cherry, cassis and black olive flavours travel the palate with ease and enjoyment along with savoury herb and black pepper notes persisting in the medium-length, warm, dry finish.” - 92.

Tenuta Della Luia Cilestro 2015, $15.95 is an IGT Toscana, which tells us that the wine is from Tuscany, but that it blends non-traditional grapes with classic grapes of   the region. Here we have a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. It carries plum cherry, tobacco and herbal notes on the nose and on the palate. Joe D’Angelo of the in 2018 wrote “This Rosso has a wonderful rustic-elegance to it, and should continue to drink nicely over the next 5 years.” - 92.

Conu Sur Single Vineyard 8 Grapes 2017, $21.95, from Chile is brought to us from a winery whose ”Bicicleta” line is prominent on our regular-list shelves, bringing us inexpensive wines that are absolutely true to the character of the grape. Here, we have ‘pumped it up a notch’ with a blend that is about 2/3s Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Grenache. It earned a 95 from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2019, which claim “Mouth-watering aromas of blueberry, cassis and lifted refreshing mint lead to a softly spiced palate laced with savoury fruit, bright acidity and cultured tannins.” It is a Vintages ‘Wine of the Month.”

Stay safe and enjoy Life. Ciao.