Continuing my posts about the Quebec liquor board, SAQ, and following on from this recent post, I'm taking a look at the consumer facing operations of SAQ, particularly their collector services.
SAQ splits their products into two broad lines, every day wines sold in their stores, and collector wines, which are sold through direct relations with the buyers. As before, their focus on the consumer surprised and delighted me.
They offer their latest acquisitions through a large format magazine (looks like the Wine Spectator) called Le Courrier Vinicole. Each issue has detailed information on the production, aging, terroir and tasting notes for each wine - see an example here. In addition things like drink dates as well as the number available in the province on Quebec are covered. If you've bought from them in the past year they'll send you a copy each year free of charge. If you haven't, you can phone up and they'll send one to you. Once you're ready, just pick up the phone an place your order.
If you are looking for something different or older, SAQ has a subterranean cellar with 75,000 bottles dating from as far back as the 1800's to the present day. Again, just pick up the phone and one of their trained sommeliers or wine professionals will help you put together a selection. If you have a wine collection that you need to sell, they'll help you with that too. And, of course, you'll need somewhere to store all these wines. Again, SAQ's there with locked temperature controlled cabinets (in multiple locations in Montreal and Quebec city) that you can rent for a very reasonable $1 per bottle per year (it's around $12 per bottle per year in NYC). Want somewhere to drink the wine? Well, the main cellars are located in a converted revolutionary period prison, and they'll let you uncork your wines in the eerie ambience of a converted cell, or if you like daylight, they'll rent you the formers Govenors Mansion for an event.
Above: Remains of the wall mounted rings that the prisoners were manacled to
They also organize vino tourism holidays - a recent one to Bordeaux involved organized trips to d'Yquem, Lafite Rothschild, Lynch Bages, Beau-Sejour, Haut-Brion and so on. I'm fairly confident you'd be royally received when under the umbrella of such a large purchaser.
They also have a museum, but then so do all state run wine monopolies…oh wait, thats not right!
I know I'm starting to sound like their marketing brochures here (very glossy), but I really thought I'd died and gone to…well, to some mythical place that combined the passion and romance of Europe, with the operational and business focus that the US has.
My thanks to Jessica Harnois, Sommelier of SAQ's Signature Services division for being my guide.
Update: The storage is a little over $2 per bottle per year, not the $1 as I mistakenly reported.