Backstage Access for Wine

You may know that the LCBO is the world’s largest wine buyer; more surprising is that nearly three-quarters of the wine in Ontario never sees a store shelf.

To enjoy so many great wines, you either have to frequent top restaurants or find yourself a wine agency, a small company that deals directly with restaurants and a wine-savvy clientele. Like a fashion buyer visiting Paris and Milan to see the collections, agency owners travel to the world’s wine regions in search of the finest small-scale producers. Because of the LCBO’s stranglehold, agencies operate through a consignment system, usually delivering directly to clients.

You will pay a premium for agency wine – and the minimum purchase is usually a case of twelve – but it’s a small price for a kind of personal sommelier; many agents are tremendously knowledgeable and keen, available to teach you and to expand your palate. Herewith, three of Toronto’s finest.

Lifford is a leading agency with the best New Zealand portfolio in Ontario. Listen to private client consultant Nick Keukenmeester when he recommends the lovely Staete Landt, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($26.50). (416) 440-4101.

Robert Groh, the proprietor of The Vine (Robert Groh Agency), says he gets a call practically every day from somebody seeking McManis Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($18.80), one of his 175 wines. (416) 693-7994.

Stem Wine Group’s strength is in small Italian producers. Try a highly refined version of a lowly grape in 2004’s Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Marina Cvetic ($34.99). (416) 548-8824.

Image Courtesy of Stewart on Flickr.

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