It’s fading now. I don’t work there anymore (a lingering sadness), and I live in a place where 99% of my friends have no idea what the LCBO is.
It’s the only good thing about no longer working on the publications for Ontario’s largest (and in many parts of Ontario, only) retailer of wine and spirits – nobody’s uncomfortable drinking wine with me. No more do I have to hear the slightly neurotic, self-effacing ‘well, I don’t know much about wine, but…’ preamble to ordering a glass, a half-litre, a bottle. You guys, even in Toronto I wasn’t sitting there, judging you. Sheesh!
How could I? Why would I?
Moving to England ripped me away from that glorious job less than a year in. Although they started me on the path of developing tasting skills and product knowledge, it was clear from day one that the buyers and writers’ depth and breadth of knowledge was honed by years of experience, study and excellent wine-tasting skills. I especially liked the story meetings, where they would sketch out the wine regions and wines chosen for the feature articles.
I did learn how to daintily spit into a spittoon, however. It will be a handy skill when I resume my formal studies with WSET.
Wine tasting takes skill and practice, but it’s much like learning a new language. And like a language, some pick it up faster than others. But at the end of the day all that matters is how YOU feel about the wine YOU’RE drinking.
In Ontario, it’s simple – go to your local LCBO and pick up a copy of VINTAGES. Or, ask the Product Consultant on duty for advice. Take advantage of the vast amount of training they’ve completed, and the bi-weekly tastings they attend, where they try every single newly arrived wine. Give them your budget, the food you’re pairing it with, and a bit of an idea of what types of wines you like. Don’t be afraid to wander into the Vintages section! There are some excellent value wines there, not just the expensive stuff.
As much as I like being able to buy wine and beer almost anywhere here in the UK, I do miss the LCBO’s huge selection and nearly boundless information. It’s a bit piecemeal here, and I always feel a bit lost when I’m in the grocery store and see bottles I don’t recognize. I do like the convenience though, when they carry exactly what I’m after and I can just plop it into my cart along with my other groceries.
You can use any or all of these resources, or, you can choose to just drink what you like, and not worry so damn much about what others might think. If you’re drinking something awesome, google it and read the tasting notes. Buy it again. Or don’t. Life’s too short.
I’ve collected a few links, but this is just the edge of the rabbit hole you could tumble down.
Wine | Life and style | The Guardian This is my UK go-to when I need to buy a specific bottle.
The New York Times – Wine School Maybe a bit advanced, but I like how this is set up.
Globe Life | Wine & Spirits Love the ‘Ask a Wine Expert’ column.
The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO I first grabbed this book off the bargain table at Book City – what a find! Updated yearly. Ontario readers: if tracking down a copy of this book is your only takeaway from this post, you’re still going to build wine confidence and save money.
Wine | Kitchn This one might throw you off depending on when you click on the link, but their wine section includes everything from recipes that call for wine as one of the ingredients, to posts more like this: Your Happy Hour Formula: Wine + Snack Pairings for $20 or Under.
First We Feast – Drink You’ll learn just as much about beer and spirits as you will about wine here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dash off to Aldi for some of that silver medallist winning rosé, The Exquisite Collection Côtes De Provence 2016, for £5.99.