Ask The Wine Expert - How to shop like a pro at the LCBO

With some interesting facts, tips and tricks for buying, gifting and sipping, Modern Mississauga’s resident wine expert demystifies the world’s most interesting beverage.


It is definitely en vogue these days to deride the LCBO – mainstream media has been painting them the big, bad monopoly consistently over the last few years. There are, however, advantages to shopping at the world’s largest purchaser of beverage alcohol. (You didn’t misread that; it’s true.)
The LCBO has several programs in place that we should be taking better advantage of, especially since we can’t turn around and shop at a competitor.
One of the best programs the LCBO has developed in recent memory is Products of the World. They have designated flagship stores all over the GTA (and Ottawa) to specialize in a given country or region. They just forgot to tell anyone. Information on these Specialty Boutiques is available online, and I have heard the California-focused store advertised on the radio, but considering the amazing selections available through this program, it’s surprising there isn’t an ad on every bus stop.
You may have accidentally stumbled into the Chilean store at Erin Mills Towncentre; the only specialty boutique in Mississauga. If you have, you’ll note the slogan: “Largest Selection of Chilean Wine Outside of Chile.” That is a bold claim, but seems to be true! Hundreds of wines and spirits that are notoriously difficult to find are available in these specialty stores.
So if you have a penchant for Greek, Italian, French, Kosher, Argentinian, German, Australian, Kiwi or Spanish wine, make the trip to the designated store. There are also two East Asian destination stores carrying Korean, Japanese and Chinese beverages that have, until now, only been available in restaurants.
There is probably an LCBO close to your house or office that you shop at regularly, but would you drive an extra five or 10 minutes to taste a wine before you buy it? There are at least five LCBOs in Mississauga that have a Tasting Bar where you can sip a handful of wines prior to purchase: Erin Mills Towncentre, Hwy 10 & Eglinton, Hwy 10 & Dundas, Applewood Village and Port Credit. For a small fee (which varies based on the cost of the bottle being sampled) you can taste up to four wines. Buy something new without taking a risk you won’t enjoy it! Exploring new grapes, regions and styles is not only fun but also makes for great dinner conversation.
Just one more pro tip for today: wines that don’t sell out in six months get discounted up to 20% and sent to the 401 & Weston Road LCBO. It doesn’t mean they’re not great wines – the LCBO is just making room for the new Vintages releases.
Whether you’re a connoisseur or just a chronic bargain hunter, you can definitely find some hidden gems with a little bit of extra effort.

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Tim Reed Manessy [Sommelier CAPS, CMS] is a wine instructor at George Brown College, restaurant consultant, private & corporate event specialist and really annoying at a dinner party.