Liz Palmer

LCBO is launching a new “sweetness descriptors” program starting April 29.  This program will provide useful tasting information to assist consumers when purchasing wine.

The new program will replace the current sugar code numbering system, which currently indicates wines as being a “0”, “1” or “2”…

This program, a first for LCBO, will consists of two elements. The first is a science-based descriptor system that reflects on how dry or sweet a wine tastes. There are five sweetness descriptors:

Extra Dry (XD) – No perceived sweetness, clean crisp acidic finish.
Dry (D) – No sweetness perceived, well rounded with balanced acidity
Medium (M) – Slight sweetness perceived
Medium Sweet (MS) – Noticeably sweet
Sweet (S) – Distinctively sweet

The second is a listing of the actual sugar content as  “grams of sugar per litre”. Both of these elements will be displayed on the redesigned bin tags located on store shelves, and in-store signs.

Initially, the sweetness descriptors and sugar content information will be used for all LCBO table wines, however, only the sugar content information will be available for LCBO non-table wines including sparkling, dessert and fortified wines. The program will also be extended to include all VINTAGES and VINTAGES ESSENTIALS wines as new releases are issued.

The sweetness descriptors initiative is part of “Wine Shopping Made Easy”, a promotion designed to help customers shop for wine in new ways and make shopping simpler. This promotion will be in all 622 LCBO stores across the province from April 29 to May 26.


LCBO’s “Holiday Wrapped Up” promotion offers a wide range of gift packs and entertaining ideas to make holiday shopping easier. This seasonal promotion runs until December 31 in all 620 LCBO stores across Ontario.

“Our customers want help deciding what to buy and their holiday shopping made as simple as possible,” says Bob Downey, LCBO Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “This promotion does that by providing a range of gift packs at different prices, highlighting top seasonal product picks and a free holiday brochure with tips on how to entertain responsibly and with ease.”

LCBO is offering more than 190 gift packs, including larger-size and limited edition bottles, and multi-bottle packs that are ready-made for entertaining and gift giving. The full selection can be found at and at New gift packs this year include:


  • Go Local Holiday Discovery Multi-Pack (four 750 mL VQA wines from four Ontario producers) $49.95
  • Woodbridge Entertaining Pack (four 750 mL bottles of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Shiraz from the popular California winery) $48.95
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Shopping Bag (a 750 mL bottle with a gift bag) $65.15


  • Smirnoff Vodka Sonic Gift Pack (limited edition 750 bottle in MP3 speaker bag) $29.95
  • Skate Canadian Whisky (in an ice-skate-shaped 750 mL bottle) $49.95
  • Glenmorangie Discovery Gift Set (750 ml bottle and three 50 mL sampler bottles of aged single malts from the renowned Scottish distillery) $71.95


  • Holiday Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) Discovery Pack (six beers from different brewers) $11.95
  • Belgian Exclusive Ales Six-Pack Sampler $18.95
  • Unibroue17 Grand Reserve (750 mL bottle of acclaimed Quebec craft beer which is only available at LCBO this holiday season) $9.95


  • Stratus Winery Red and White VQA Icewine Gift Pack (two 200 mL bottles) $79.95
  • Mike Weir 2009 Gift Pack (750 mL bottles of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc with Golfer’s Shoe Bag) $39.95
  • Zuccardi Series A Gift Pack (Two 750 mL bottles of Malbec and Syrah with olive oil) $39.95

“One way to make holiday shopping and entertaining simple and support our domestic producers is to go local,” notes Downey. “Our large range of Ontario VQA wines, local craft beers and Canadian whiskies and spirits makes it easy to celebrate the season with a national flavor.”

Are you looking for some  unique products or do you need some advice on holiday entertaining?  Find a range of products recommended for holiday entertaining by LCBO’s experts at and a free holiday brochure called “12 ways to an easy holiday” is also available in larger LCBO stores. Visit for festive drinks and   holiday entertaining ideas. The Vintages Gift Finder at is a mobile-friendly site that also provides gifting solutions for hard to buy for people.

LCBO also offers gift cards at its stores and at all Shoppers Drug Mart and select Longos locations.  In December 2010, LCBO gift card sales rose more than 25 per cent to $19.8 million, up from $15.8 million in December 2009.

LCBO Facts:

–  In 2010, sales of Champagnes and sparkling wines increased to $22.5 million in December from $4.6 million in October.  The holiday period accounts for 30 to 35 per cent of annual LCBO Champagne and sparkling wine sales. Last year, liqueurs rose to $41 million in December from $15 million in October. December accounts for 28 per cent of annual sales of classic liqueurs (e.g. Baileys, Grand Marnier).

–  Twenty-five per cent of LCBO Cognac sales and more than 15 per cent of whisky sales occur in December.  Spiced rum is also expected to be a holiday favourite with sales growth up 30 per cent leading into December. Sales of fine wines and premium spirits in LCBO Vintages’ sections also typically see double-digit growth in December.

–  Last December, LCBO sales topped $600 million or almost 15 per cent of the year’s business.  The average per person transaction in December 2010 was $48 versus $36 the rest of the year.  Last year, December 23 was the biggest selling day ($48 million) and December 24 was next ($42 million).


“Deflate the Elephant”, LCBO’s social responsibility public information campaign, will again hit the web, airwaves, street and LCBO stores to promote safe and enjoyable celebrations this holiday season. Consumers can visit for a one-stop source for responsible hosting solutions and more than 50 non-alcoholic mocktail recipes.

For more information on the “Holiday Wrapped Up” promotion, entertaining ideas and responsible hosting tips, customers can call helloLCBO (formerly LCBO Contact Centre) at 1-800-ONT-LCBO (668-5226).  In Toronto, call 416 365-5900, visit your nearest LCBO store or go online to The TTY number for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is 416 864-6898 or 1-800-361-3291. Customers can also access the LCBO website at and Vintages information at

Liz Palmer, Wine Writer

Champagne Louis Roederer’s Cristal 2004 [June 2011 Tasting]

Roederer is one of the leading ‘Boutique’ Champagne houses, which became popular for their celebrated ‘Cristal’.  Cristal became chic with celebrities, athletes, and hip hop artists.

Originally founded in the late 18th century, Roederer’s consumers were predominately from the Russian community. In 1876, Tsar Alexander II, a great fan of Louis Roederer’s champagne, asked Roederer to “go one step further” to produce, for his personal consumption, a wine unique in quality and bottle. Roederer created an exceptional white crystal puntless bottle to house the best selection from the seven finest vineyards of his estate, thus creating the very first Prestige cuvee of Champagne.


Eight champagne enthusiasts gathered at Toronto’s LCBO Avenue Road Location on June 22, 2011 to taste Louis Roederer’s Cristal 2004.

Grape Varieties
55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay (20% of which is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage).

No malolactic fermentation occurs.  Cristal ages an average of 5 years in the cellars and rests 8 months after disgorgement. Dosage between 8 and 10 g/l.

In the Glass
Unique golden color, combined with an ultra-fine, persistent, soft effervescence.

Ultra-energetic, rich and persistent bead.

On the Nose
The nose is intense and bursting with gorgeous aromas typical of great Pinot Noir grapes. Scents of sweet baked apples, white fruit, pollen, citrus with some mineral nuances

The bouquet is rich and sweet, almost generous, remaining precise and impeccably refined.

On the Palate
Full and creamy, revealing concentrations of juicy fruits: peach, apricot, mango, with hints of grilled hazelnuts. There is a sophisticated touch of acid with some lively minerality.

The overriding impression is one of a true harmony of flavours, senses and silky textures.

Absolute sensuality!

Serving Suggestions

Nothing compliments Cristal better than caviar, oysters and lobster.

My rating:  95/100


The Wine Advocate rating: 97 Points

Wine Enthusiast rating: 97 Points

Wine & Spirits rating: 97 Points

Parker Points®: 96+

Wine Spectator rating: 93 Points