Tag Archives: lcbo

How to pick a good bottle of wine from your local LCBO with Decanter and one simple trick


I have a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine for the first time: any wine highly rated by Decanter is good. If you are unsure what to get, look for bottles with a round Decanter sticker on them and you can be confident in your purchase. And  good news: most LCBO stores will have quite a few such bottles.

Alas, not all such wines rated by Decanter bear their sticker. And yes it can be a lot of work trying to find them at all.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily find them in the store near you?

Well there is a way you can do that: with your browser. To do this, first go to the LCBO website (lcbo.com) and pick your local store (or a store you plan to go to).

Once you do that, enter the following URL in your browser (from https all the way to [true]):

https://www.lcbo.com/en/catalogsearch/result/#q=decanter%20world&t=Products&sort=relevancy&layout=card&f:@stores_stock=[true]

What you will get back are wines in your local LCBO store rated highly by Decanter magazine. With bigger stores like the one at Yonge and Summerhill in Toronto I got over 30 results back, with many around the $20 price point.

If you are cost conscious, enter this version in your browser:

https://www.lcbo.com/en/catalogsearch/result/#q=decanter%20world&t=Products&sort=%40ec_price%20ascending&layout=card&f:@stores_stock=[true]

It will return the same list but sorted with the lower cost ones listed first.

There are lots of ratings and plenty of ways to find a good wine at the LCBO. I find this way works great for me. Perhaps you find the same thing for you.

P.S. You can play around with other rating groups. For example, Wine Enthusiast is also associated with wine in the LCBO and many of them are at an attractive lower price point. To see what I mean, enter this:


https://www.lcbo.com/en/catalogsearch/result/#q=wine%20enthusiast&t=Products&sort=%40ec_price%20ascending&layout=card

On starter wines, or how to go about learning about wine (if that’s what you want to do)

Wine is like art or food or fashion: you can devote a lot of your time and attention to it and you will get a lot from it. Like many topics, though, not everyone wants to do that. Some people just want to know the basics and leave it there. Both approaches are valid.

If you do want to learn more about wine, one thing to do is pick a starter wine. A starter wine should be one that you can afford and that’s easy to drink and ideally goes well with the food you like to eat. Of course it should also be fairly well made and worth drinking for more than just the fact it contains alcohol. 🙂

If you want to pick a starter wine, I recommend two things: one, this list from Food and Wine to get going: 50 Affordable Wines You Can Always Trust. Two, this book, Wine Simple, by Aldo Sohm, the sommelier at Le Bernardin in NYC.

Both the wine list and the book will get you get started on the path to drinking better wine. For example, let’s say you try some of the listed cabernet sauvignons and  you prefer the first one: the Beringer. That’s a good start. From there you might try more expensive Cabernets from Beringer to see if you can determine what distinguishes them from each other. Maybe you find you prefer one more expensive (or maybe you can’t tell the difference in taste). Or you can compare it to other cab sauvs on the list, like the Penfolds. Perhaps the Californian wine goes better with the food you like and has a taste that you like. While you are considering the wines you try, dip into the book. The book will give you more insight into the wines you are drinking and why you might like it and what types of wine you want to try next.

Wine is something enjoyable, and something you can learn much about. That said, you should enjoy it at the level you want. Just like some people just want to wear jeans and T shirts all the time, other people just want to drink the same thing all the time. And that’s ok. But if you want to learn more about wine, pick a starter wine you are comfortable with and enjoy them and then go from there.

Cheers!

P.S. One thing I like about the list of 50 wines is that they are very easy to find. Most of them can be found all across Canada and certainly in the LCBO.

Also, Food & Wine has a list of affordable whites. Some people have problems with red wine due to tannins (though there are low tannic reds). If that is you, that list is a keeper.

P.S.S. I’ve been meaning to write this after reading this critique of starter wines that I read some time now: The Myth of So-Called “Starter Wine”. It’s written by someone knowledgeable and passionate about wine. I respect that. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it. I recommend you read it and think for yourself.

On the great Billy Munnelly and what he can still teach us about buying wine at the LCBO in 2022


Since the 1980s I’ve been getting expert advice from Billy on how to buy wine at the LCBO. So I was shocked to see he had moved away and he won’t be offering LCBO wine buying tips anymore. It’s great for him, but not so great for folks looking to know what to buy and what to avoid at the LCBO.

But here’s a tip. Go to his blog Billy’s Best Bottles, and with a pen and paper take notes on what wines he likes and what he likes about them. Do you feel like a good summer wine? He has posts on them. Do you feel like a good bistro red to go with your steak frites? He has a wine for that! It doesn’t matter too much about the year (most of the time). Go and seek out those wines he recommends. The prices will have gone up, but most times the quality will be consistent year over year.

There are wines from the 80s he recommended that are still good and recommended today. (I know because I’ve been drinking them all this time.) There are many newer and better ones since then: the LCBO has improved considerably in the last few decades. There is still lots of not so great wine, though, and Billy can help you avoid those.

There are a great many people writing about wine at the LCBO these days. But back in the 1980s such info was rare. Billy had put out a small comic book back then on how to buy wine at the LCBO, and it was my mainstay for many years whenever I needed something for dinner or a special occasion. He eventually moved to the web like the rest of us, but the spirit of that little comic book lives on at Billy’s Best Bottles, Go check it out, then go get some wine.

 

On buying cheap wine at the LCBO, 2022

 

 

Annually various publications in Toronto will publish articles on how to buy cheap wine at the LCBO. BlogTo takes a stab at it here: The top 10 cheap wines at the LCBO.

 

 

 

 

If you want to buy cheap wine at the LCBO, here’s some things to consider:

  • the wines that appear on these lists often tend to be the same year after year. The price changes, but the wines listed more or less are the same. The wines themselves are consistent too. Hey, these are not handcrafted wine! So a cheap wine list published in 2015 will likely have a list of wines you can still buy now, just with a different price and a different date.
  • Once these wine lists used to be “best wines under $10”, but that price ceiling is outdated now. Most cheap wines are over $10. There are still a few good ones, as the Toronto Star argues, but not many.
  • Once you get up into the $14-15 price point, head over to the Vintages section instead. Wines there generally are good at any price point, and you’ll get something better than the general section, imho.
  • These wine lists will hype up these cheap wines. Note: most of them are limited in quality. Not too much wine in the LCBO is Bad anymore. None of these will be Great either. Most cheap wine is pleasant and drinkable. Something to have at dinner or on an outing. They are not sophisticated. If you can’t taste all the notes of “peaches, nectarines, pears” mentioned in the lists, there’s a reason for that.
  • The “cheap” wines I’ve been drinking lately (under $15) have been Ontario Riesling. They go great with so many foods and are good value, I believe. If you want red, consider a Baco Noir. Many of them are fine and under $15.
  • If you have to go closer to $10, the best bets tend to still be Portugal, Italian and South African.

(Image linked to LCBO.com of a Californian Chard that just slips under $10)

Some thoughts on wine in Ontario after shopping for it in the US

Recently I have spent some time in Charleston, S.C. and enjoying many things about that city, including their wine options. These options have given me some insight into wine options in Ontario and has reshaped my thinking of what I am getting.

Before the pandemic, the  way I bought wine was through the LCBO. If I wanted something special, I’d buy it from LCBO’s Vintages section vs the general section. When the pandemic hit, I could buy wine from nearby restaurants as well as other local distributors.  I was glad to have wines options that were varied and weren’t too expensive.

However, as restaurants have been allowed to open,  I’ve noticed their bottle prices outside the LCBO have increased. During the pandemic, I could find such wines for 20-40 dollars easily. Now the prices have all shot back up to what you pay in a restaurant. That may be good for the restaurants, but it’s disappointing for me.

That’s Ontario. Really, Toronto. In contrast, when in Charleston I could visit a number of wine shops that had lots of great wine around $20. Even with exchange rates, that was good. And these shops were as common as LCBOs in Toronto.

The other thing I noticed was that much of the US wine in the Vintages section of the LCBO is “supermarket” wine. I was under the impression that American wine in the LCBO was hard to find wine, but really it is stuff you can find in any store.

That got me thinking: is most of the wine in Vintages simply basic wine made everywhere in the world? Perhaps it is. That doesn’t make it bad: it just makes it everyday.

I think the LCBO still has a great selection in many ways. But I also wish there was another retail option like those in Charleston where I could get small scale wine that is good and affordable.

 

How to easily buy wine as a gift at the LCBO


You want to buy wine for a gift at the LCBO. Maybe you know nothing about wine. Maybe you only know a little bit. Unless you know a lot, here’s what I recommend. It’s simple.

Go into your local LCBO. Ask for where the Wines of the Month are. Buy as many of those as your budget allows. That’s it.

You can also go to the web site and look for Vintages New Releases. Once on that page, look for Explore our featured products and click on it. Then look for Wines of the Month. Easy peasy.

What’s great about this is you can be sure those wines are very good and carefully selected by staff at the LCBO. Not only that, but most of the time they are around twenty bucks. Want to spent $40? Buy two bottles.  If you want to spend over a $100, you can consider getting a half case or more. Or mix in a bottle of champagne: you can’t go wrong with that.

If you know what the person likes, then you can buy that. If you know wine, then you should pick what you think is best. Otherwise, follow this and you won’t go wrong.

 

On wine: what you should expect at each price point


I recently read this and I thought it was a great examination of what you should expect at each price point of wine: How to find the sweet spot in the cost of a bottle of wine | The Hub. It’s really aimed at Canadians, but it can apply elsewhere.

I am still a fan of cheap wine, but I find myself drinking closer to the $20 price point now. In Ontario at least, that seems to be the price at which wines are consistently good. There’s nothing wrong with buying wine at all sorts of price points. You should just know what to expect.

Speaking of cheaper wine, this is worth a read: The Science Behind Your Cheap Wine

(Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash )

Great white wines under $10: Fuzion Alta Torrontés/Pinot Grigio, Argentina

The site Wine of the Weekend has a great description of a delicious wine that is also great value (which is not surprising given it is part of the Fuzion line of wines). It is a superb summer wine, great for sipping by itself or paired with many dishes found in fusion cooking. Pinot Grigio fans should note, however, that is has alot of flavour, including “opulent peach, pear and citrus flavours on the palate”/ I love it, but fans of very subtle wines might find it too much.

See Wine of the Weekend for more information.

Oh, and the price: $8.95 at the LCBO in Ontario.