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Posts Tagged ‘Private imports

Rumour confirmed

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For those of us outside the SAQ, trying to understand the machinations, motives and plans of the company’s decision-makers is like being an inmate in Plato’s cave. Sitting with our backs to the entrance and forced to face a wall, we attempt to divine what is happening beyond the cave by studying the shadows that the actors cast upon the wall.

For several years now, the shadows have increasingly seemed to indicate that the SAQ was preparing to make a major shift in its sales model: to begin selling private imports directly to consumers (instead of forcing them to pass through an agency) and to stop requiring that all private imports be purchased by the case.

Though rumours to that effect abounded, concrete signs were few. One of the earliest was the announcement that the SAQ intended to double its offer from the current 12,000 or so products to somewhere between 20,000 and 24,000 products in the next few years. How could it quickly and cost-effectively pull that off without expanding its store network, sales force and supply chain? Selling private imports online seemed the only answer. That in the neighbourhood of 10,000 to 15,000 products are currently available through the private import channel – exactly the number needed to pull off the trick – lent credence to the hypothesis.

Other signs? The monopoly’s increasing focus on online sales, including its recent introduction of products available only on SAQ.com. The roll-out of the Click, Purchase, Pick Up service. Factoids like the Montreal Distribution Centre’s reportedly setting aside a large area for an unspecified purpose.

In an interview with Bill Zacharkiw in today’s Gazette, Alain Brunet, the SAQ’s president and CEO, finally puts the rumours to rest (emphasis mine):

BZ: Now we are seeing a complete fragmentation of the market. Go to any wine bar or fine restaurant, and the vast majority of wines on the list aren’t even available at the SAQ, only as private imports. I don’t even know most of these wines.

AB: The private import market has really developed over the past five to 10 years. Over 70 per cent of the sales of private import wines are restaurants.

BZ: But that’s mostly due to restrictive policies that allow these wines to be purchased only by the case, which limits the individual consumer access to all this choice.

AB: We know this is an important trend and it’s over a $125-million business. We aren’t trying to slow it down; in fact, we want to accelerate it. What we have lacked is an effective way to distribute all these niche products. Now we have the technology, and within two years our goal is to have all wines available by the bottle on SAQ.com.

Insiders I’ve spoken to say the target launch date is the fall of 2018.

Agents I’ve spoken to don’t appear particularly excited about the concept. Then again, like the rest of us, they’ve been kept in the dark and have little idea of how it might work. That being said, most feel it is unlikely that every product in the private import channel will be available through SAQ.com.

This change and the overall push toward online sales will probably have major implications for the SAQ’s store network. Look for some thoughts on that in a future post.

Written by carswell

February 25, 2017 at 11:23

Posted in Commentary, News

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Ward & associés tasting (9/9)

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Champagne grand cru 2013, Rosé, Shaman, Marguet ($68.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay (71%) and Pinot Noir (29%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines. The soil is worked with horses and the winery is gravity fed. The wine’s pink colour comes from the addition of five to eight percent still red wine. Bottled in July 2014. Disgorged in March 2016. Dosage: 2.4 g/l. No added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

marguet-shaman-rose-13

Dusty rose with salmon-pink glints, little bead or foam. Engaging nose of cherry, red berries and brioche. So fruity and dry, so elegant. The fine effervescence dances on the palate. The pure fruit – wild strawberries? – fades to chalky minerals. The wine’s depth and complexity are appreciable. Finishes clean and long. Great immediate appeal but by no means a floozy. A joy to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 9 of 9

Written by carswell

February 24, 2017 at 10:12

Ward & associés tasting (8/9)

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IGP Côtes Catalanes 2015, Mon P’tit Pithon, Olivier Pithon ($46.55/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case)
According to David Ward, the cuvée’s name is indeed a play on Monty Python. A blend of Grenache (50%), Syrah (25%) and Mourvèdre (25%) from organically and biodynamically farmed young vines. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are fermented with indigenous yeasts. Maceration time is purposefully kept short. Matured in concrete tanks. Lightly filtered and sulphured at bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 13% ABV. The 750 ml bottling ($20.70, 12574811) is stocked by the SAQ, though few bottles remain. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

mon-ptit-pithon-rouge

Red berries, Chinese dried plum, spice and slate dust. A medium-bodied mouthful of chiaroscuro fruit, soft acidity, lacy tannins with a lightly astringent edge that provides a welcome touch of gritiness. Fresh, fluid and fleet yet possessed of a certain richness, this easy-drinker seems tailor made for casual fare liked grilled sausages, braised white meats and potluck buffets. Drink lightly chilled. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 8 of 9

Written by carswell

February 22, 2017 at 11:40

Ward & associés tasting (7/9)

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Badischer Landwein 2013, Tschuppen, Weingut Ziereisen ($65.78/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Blauer Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) from estate-owned, organically farmed 15- to 25-year-old vines rooted in limestone soil. Manually harvested. Spontaneous fermentation and maceration lasted six to eight weeks and were followed by gentle pressing. The must was transferred to used 225-litre German wood barrels (30% new) for 22 months’ maturation on the lees with occasional racking. Unfiltered and unfined. The first screwcapped magnum I’ve encountered. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

tschuppen-2013

Complex nose: cherry, “purple Popsicle,” “Swiss chard and arugula,” slate, dried rose, a dash of kirsch, distant lime and even celery salt. A dry, medium-bodied red with a silky surface, sleek acidity, fruit-cloaked tannins, underlying minerals and a long, lightly astringent finish. Neither Burgundian nor New Worldish but, in its weight, structure and blend of red berry and earth flavours, definitely Pinot Noir. Impressive QPR. Another hit of the tasting – the group ordered two cases on the spot. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 7 of 9

Written by carswell

February 21, 2017 at 12:28

Ward & associés tasting (6/9)

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Franken 2015, Kleine Wanderlust, 2Naturkinder ($28.32, private import, 6 bottles/case)
80% Regent and 20% Dornfelder from estate-owned, organically farmed vines around 15 and 30 years old respectively. The former was fermented on the skins for two weeks; the latter was crushed by foot and given semi-carbonic maceration for a week. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in old oak. No added anything, including sulphur dioxide. Unfiltered and unfined. Bottled in April 2016. 3,000 bottles made. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

kleine-wanderlust

Effusive nose: floral, slate, pink peppercorn, “raspberry-cherry hybrid.” Some rose shows up in the mouth along with a bit of grip on the finish. The fruit is dark and black curranty, the acidity energetic but well integrated. A touch of velours in no way interferes with the wine’s impressive fluidity. Certifiably chuggable. And check out that alcohol level! (Buy again? Yup.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 6 of 9

Ward & associés tasting (5/9)

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Burgunland 2015, Gemischter Satz, Alexander Koppitsch ($40.98, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate is located in Neusiedl am See, a village and district on the north shore of Lake Neusidel, southeast of Vienna. As implied by the Gemischter Satz moniker (though I don’t believe the wine qualifies for the Weiner Gemischter Satz appellation), this is a field blend of co-planted white varieties, including Grüner Veltliner, Brauner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Zimttraube, Ochsenauge, Isabellatraube, Neuburger, Traminer, Muskat and Sauvignon Blanc. Planted in 1934, the vines are estate-owned and biodynamically farmed. Vinified as an orange wine, spending 14 days on the skins. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in old barriques. Unfiltered and unfined, with no added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Slightly hazy bronzy rose-gold in the glass. Savoury, spicy and not particularly fruity nose with notes of preserved lemon and browning apple as well as a whiff of volatile acidity. In the mouth, it’s medium weight, fluently acidic, faintly tannic and somewhat inscrutable, like “mineral water” or “weak tea” along with lemon, a suggestion of stone fruit and minerals. Actually quite complex, if subtly so, and long. Smoothed out and unfurled nicely after three hours. Will be interesting to see what gives in three or four years. (Buy again? A bottle gladly.)

koppitsch-gemiscter-satzkoppitsch-rot-no-7

Burgunland 2015, Rot No. 7, Alexander Koppitsch ($23.19, private import, 6 bottles/case)
55% Zweigelt, 20% Blaufränkisch, 20% St. Laurent and 5% Syrah from estate-owned, biodyanmically farmed vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured in large oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Lightly filtered. Unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur dioxide is added at bottling. Screwcapped. 12% ABV. Manually harvested and partially destemmed. Fermented, with indigenous yeasts and occasional punch-downs, in large (2000-litre) oak and acacia barrels for 20 days without temperature control sitting outside in the yard. Matured in the same large barrels for 1-2 years. Lightly filtered and sulphured at bottling. 2,000 bottles made. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Outgoing nose of “clove,” “nutmeg,” candied raspberry, “frankincense incense” and a bit of poop. Medium-bodied and satin-textured. The bright supple fruit has a certain sweetness, though the wine is definitely dry, and an umami quality prompt descriptors like “soy sauce.” Sinewy tannins and a dusting of minerals only add to the interest. The finish is long but more felt than tasted. Nothing profound but eminently drinkable and something of a bargain. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 5 of 9

Ward & associés tasting (4/9)

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Moravie 2014, Klasika, Hibernal, Milan Nestarec ($31.33, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Hibernal from estate-owned, organically farmed, 14-year-old vines grown in southern Moravia in the Czech Republic. Fermented and matured for 13 months in 600-litre barrels, one-third of which were new. No clarification or filtration. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

nestarec-hibernal

Rich gold-bronze in the glass. Refulgent nose that, notes of “sesame oil” and “dried orange peel” notwithstanding, you could be forgiven for thinking belonged to a sweet Tokaji. Dry and unctuous on the palate, the lively acidity softened by the dense extract. Flavours are a beguiling mix of “canned peaches,” “apricot jam” yellow apple and dusty minerals. Great breadth, good length and not a lot of depth, making this a here-now wine. Unique and memorable, especially for the bouquet. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 4 of 9