Written by By Joana Ramiro, CNN
Today, most wine lovers can tap into their American-style curiosity by walking into a liquor store to buy wine with “Wine from SAQ” (Quebec’s liquor monopoly) printed on the bottle’s label.
But when it comes to award-winning special releases, consumers can find it hard to stay one step ahead. While some of the SAQ’s customers get to see recently released wines at a special launch event in January or February, others have to sit tight until next year.
Those seeking to get the latest releases first will have to head to the SAQ’s satellite stores in Montreal and Montreal’s Gatineau district. At the more boutique locations, however, you can usually find the latest in-demand bottles months before the official release, making wine stores a more affordable alternative to wine bars.
A block from Place Ville Marie, on Boulevard Sainte-Catherine, is Gaétan-Onantique Antinori Store , where you can buy bottles from Lambertson Antinori , the venture between France’s first family of winemakers and supermarket giants Elegant International and Super C.
“We have the same high standards as the SAQ, but with a smaller price range,” says store manager Gerard. “We sell everything from those $75 wines to our very exclusive wine from Vigneron Claude Parent, who has been with us since 1998.”
Stays in wine stores mean that the SAQ, not the local independent stores, are the go-to source for the trendiest wines of the season. Some experts note that those looking for special releases have only to hop over to the nearest liquor store — other than the store in your town — to get one.
Alex Séguin, a Montreal-based wine writer, puts it simply: “You can go to the SAQ location nearest you for the latest launches, and then head on over to the ones that sell more niche wines and often you’ll find some the SAQ misses.”
That said, at a discounted price of $50 or less, some of the best “orphaned” wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy can still be found at more boutique stores, Séguin says.
“We have a long list of wines for less than $20, which is nothing compared to what the SAQ is offering,” he explains.