#MWWC14 – Screw Tradition

26 Jan

wine-stain1-3There’s a self-abusive yet strangely entertaining monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. This month the theme is “Tradition”. Now, before you suggest that it may seem unfair that I’d choose the theme and then write a post. I feel like I have something to say about traditions in wine. I read with interest The Food and Wine Hedonist’s take on the theme of “Tradition” – traditions with wine that we should keep and ones that we should discard. The Drunken Cyclist spoke of three overdue traditions. You can read it here. It got me to thinking, “There sure are some very bad wine traditions that need changing. Let’s form a protest group”

First let me say, that I am of the generation that had the luxury of protest without consequence. Protest was valued. We marched on Parliament Hill to protest the War Measures Act carefully watched by soldiers with really big guns. We protested the Vietnam War by traveling south and joining even though our connection to it in Canada was  based on friendships with conscientious objectors, dodgers, and deserters in our dorm. We marched against subdivisions being built at the expense of trees, and we protested the rise of tuition to, wait for it……… gasp….$600 a year! These weren’t necessarily all big protests but we saw the establishment as something not to be trusted. There even was a saying, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” And, we believed it. The truth? We were mostly privileged white kids in the age of the sexual revolution and acid. I won’t tell you if I participated in either but that might be why I seem to talk about wine in terms of it’s acidity and Italian actresses. Ya think?

Protest is viewed differently now. How does Occupy get ignored, dismissed and fizzle out while the 1% is still the 1% and at the same time, we’re making movies glorifying protest moments like Selma? What does this have to do with tradition and wine? I’m glad you asked.

There are numerous traditions in wine that we need to change. And change doesn’t come easily. We need to force change through taking up arms, throwing tea overboard, taking a petition, non-violent protest, or if you’re a Canadian, seeking compromise and then after that fails asking politely. OK, pour me a glass of heavily taxed wine…….here goes.

The tradition that I want to change is government monopoly wine sales. For me, this Liquor Control Board of Ontario tradition started when I turned 17 (age of majority was 21) and I strolled into the local LCBO, with fake ID, to pick up a very cheap  ’mickey’ of rye –  an acquired taste for sure. You had to fill out a form with the stock number of the product you wanted and hand it to a clerk who walked back into the stock room finally emerging with your bottle wrapped in a plain brown paper bag. Then, I coolly sauntered out to the car full of my buddies with a big smile on my face. Oh, I was cool – passing for 21, man. Now, if the acne would just behave.

The LCBO is significantly more user friendly now. But, we still go to the LCBO instead of Bubba’s Liquors and Hastymart. I can’t speak for every jurisdiction where this happens but I can talk about our elephant mother ship.

First let me say that there probably isn’t a state run liquor agency that runs a better business than our dear LCBO. In almost every community, they provide a good selection of wine, craft beer, and hard liquor. They are clean, well staffed, and have reasonable hours and locations (shout out to Washago – Wahoo!). They have regular glossies with stories of wine and the people that make it. The point isn’t what they do. It’s what they can’t do or won’t do.

Ontarians want to be able to order wines that we want. When we want them. Not just from the current in-store stock or on-line shopping offerings! We want a salesperson to sell us wine – help us connect with available wines, try and get what I want or point me in the direction of fulfillment elsewhere.

We want tasting events that don’t start and stop at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) but serve the needs of all Ontarians! We all vote don’t we? I’m doing my best to put London wine consumption on the data map and want a reward. Why can’t I taste the Bordeaux Futures in advance in London?

We want to be able to get delivery to our house not the nearest LCBO outlet. Even if it means that it’s delivered while we’re still in our housecoats at 2 pm (TMI?).

And, most importantly, we want our own guy! Now, there are guys and gals at the mother ship but really do you develop a real relationship with them. Do they know the last 4 digits of your over-the-limit credit card? I think not. We want a Steve, who just happens to be a wine freak (this you can tell from the faint odour of 2000 Chateau Lagrange emanating from his pores – Steve has good taste). I want Steve to help me understand the wines that are on the shelves.

And, maybe most importantly, (wait I already said that but I mean it this time), we want to see more of our Ontario wines available. Maybe have a store in town that offers Ontario wines only and not at the supermarket check out?

And, I get that the price is a bitch here. I’m not even asking for lower prices on wine. What? I repeat, I don’t care about the prices we pay in Ontario. I mean we have to pay for universal health care and lousy transit.

Here’s the problem with the LCBO meeting our demands. They can’t. If they could have, they’d have done it already. They are big, rule bound, and big. And, they’re big. Built for big – cookie cutter big. There are certain truths about big. One: it isn’t small.

Small strains to meet customer demands because if they don’t, they’re dead.

Small is Steve spending time with you to talk about a new winery that he’s discovered and brought in to try; “Here Bill, try a bit of this excellent Aglianico from Campania.”…………”yes Bill, I guess you can have a second glass.”

Small is developing relationships with a few Ontario wineries and bringing in the stuff that is hard to get to promote local excellence – not in all 450 stores – just at Steve’s.

Small is having tasting events at a location (like London!) that big data wouldn’t support with the goal of broadening the acceptance and interest in wine. Build it and maybe they’d come.

Small is extending some credit to a regular customer like yours truly. I mean some of us need a fix of Gran Reserva Rioja and are waiting on our monthly cheque.

ratSo, what can we do to get what we want? Well, protest. Did you read the top of the post? Vote the issue. Sign a petition. Write your member of the legislature. Vote the issue (did I say that already?). And, this might just do it, support alternative access to wine. That means buying from wineonline.ca, ordering through an agent, smuggling, buying directly from the winery. I know that the LCBO still probably gets a cut as they have to warehouse every drop of beverage alcohol in Ontario, it seems. A rant for another time. Or, meet me this Saturday morning at 9:30 am at the Masonville LCBO. Bring your placards with WE WANT STEVE on them. If I’m late, start without me.

So, that’s the tradition that I want to drop kick to the curb. I think that we still need a retailer like the LCBO. I get that we make thousands of billions of tax dollars through these franchises. And, I’m not too fussed about simply exchanging the LCBO for huge retailers like Costco (a rant for another time). But, I want some competition that provides what they can’t.  I want some of the things that small could bring. How about this compromise? And I did say that was a Canadian’s first choice. Why not allow Steve to set up shop in Old North London within walking distance of my house? Steve’s Wines. Please. That’s asking politely. And, warning – I might discuss this again.

Now, all we need is a protest song………..

“Imagine there’s a Steve’s

It’s easy if you try

Below us only wine cellar

Above us only sky

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one?”

I’m kind of stuck there. Help me out.



5 Responses to “#MWWC14 – Screw Tradition”

  1. Please Bring Me My Wine January 27, 2015 at 5:04 am #

    Keep the faith, it may change!


  2. the drunken cyclist January 27, 2015 at 6:37 am #

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.


  3. marty January 27, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    Bill is onto something. Monopolies are illegal. Freedom of choice is our right. Let’s not stop until we have a Total Wine store in every Ontario city. I just spent the afternoon in one in Naples Fl. What a treasure hunt. Bill…maybe we should acquire the Canadian rights just in case!!


    • Duff's Wines January 27, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

      Was Steve there? Because having a Steve is the key.



  1. #MWWC14 Time to vote! | the drunken cyclist - January 27, 2015

    […] Duff’s Wine: Screw Traditions (Not eligible this month) […]


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