Here in Ontario there are no neighbourhood wine shops. No discount stores. No wine huts or liquor depots or beer barns. Instead, we live in the land of the LCBO – the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
If you’re not familiar let me paint you a picture. Every town in Ontario has at least one store dedicated to the selling of beer, spirits and wine. These stores are provincially owned and operated and are often the only place you can buy alcohol for miles (or kilometers, for us Canucks). I’ve been to one-stop-light towns where they have a gas station with an LCBO authorized retailer attached – that’s how ubiquitous these stores are. The LCBO, or lick-bo to those in the know, holds an immense of power when it comes to Ontarians and their alcohol.
Still, living under such regulation has its perks.
You can trust it
We in Ontario benefit from the knowledge and connections of LCBO buyers. These people know their stuff and they seek out on our behalf. Because of this the bottles you’d find in any given LCBO are pretty trustworthy. I feel like I can go into any LCBO and find a decent bottle to have with dinner, and a great bottle if the store has a Vintages section. It’s nice to feel that kind of confidence in a brand.
The power… THE POWER!
Because there are so many people in Ontario, and because the provincial government has a lock on the alcohol biz here, the LCBO is one of the world’s largest buyer and retailer of alcohol. IN. THE. WORLD.
I’ll just let that sink in.
On their website they brag that they offer over almost 24,000 products from over 80 countries in their 650+ stores.
All this is to say that the LCBO has immense buying power. Like, can dictate the terms of a massive winery’s winemaking immense. Seriously amazing.
There’s a lot of help if you know where to look
Most LCBOs have a Product Consultant on hand just to help guide you through your wine-making decisions. They also have events, a catalogue of new releases (that happen every two weeks) and their very own magazine. So not only are they selling you delicious wines but they’re also equipping you with the knowledge to better appreciate them.
My own personal rationale
Ok, it’s truth-telling time. Those nearest and dearest to me know that I’m a believer in the value of social programs. I’m ok with the taxes I pay if they mean I don’t have to worry about some things, and in Ontario one of the things we don’t have to worry about is basic health care.
So my logic is this: the money raised from the LCBO means health care for me and my neighbours. And if I have to buy a couple of extra bottles of wine to get a free doctor’s appointment? I guess I would be ok with that.
Look, I know monopolies are bad. I don’t love not having choice as a consumer, but there are definite perks of living in the land of the LCBO.