Vineyard, wine merchant, SAQ: where to buy your Quebec wine?
In a specialty store, at the SAQ, directly from the winemaker: where should we buy our Quebec wine? Métro investigated with the main interested parties.
Perhaps you have noticed in recent years that the Quebec wine offering at the SAQ has greatly increased. “We make room for all the wines of Quebec. We are very proud of this industry,” Linda Bouchard, information agent for the SAQ, tells Métro.
Winegrowers, sommeliers, wine merchants: everyone agrees that the SAQ is now making great efforts to promote Quebec wine. But historically, that has not always been the case.
Charles-Henri De Coussergues, winemaker and co-owner of the Vignoble de l’Orpailleur located in Dunham, has been selling his products at the SAQ since 1996. He remembers that at the time it was not easy for a winemaker to go to the SAQ. “We had the impression that we were disturbing”, but things have changed a lot today and the state company has adapted to the Quebec reality, he believes.
“Before, if you didn’t have a certain volume, we didn’t take you. Today, the SAQ is even asking for small volumes, because there is a great demand. We would never have seen this a few years ago,” says the winemaker.
For winegrowers, the SAQ is an important showcase that offers great visibility to their products. It also allows them to make their products much more accessible, since it delivers everywhere in Quebec. “You can order on SAQ.com and you will receive your order both in Rouyn-Noranda and in the Magdalen Islands,” illustrates Ève Rainville, co-owner of the Domaine Bergeville vineyard in the Eastern Townships.
The SAQ also seems to want to offer more and more Quebec wines, notes Louis-Philippe Mercier, owner and co-founder of the store La Boîte à Vins, which specializes in the sale of wines from here. “They say yes to everything we offer them and always want more,” adds Ève Rainville.
Not always the best place
But as says sommelier Michelle Bouffard, some Quebec wines will never end up at the SAQ. According to her, some small producers have no interest in selling their products at the SAQ since they do not need the visibility it offers, their wines already selling very quickly.
“The Quebec wine industry has never been as dynamic and bubbling as it is right now, says the sommelier, but it's not at the SAQ that it's going to happen. It is rather by being in direct contact with winegrowers and by visiting delicatessens and wine merchants that one can make better discoveries, she believes. The offer in these places is greater than in the SAQ.
The SAQ therefore remains interesting, especially for large producers like Orpailleur, since it allows them to sell large volumes, believes Louis-Philippe Mercier.
Not to mention the fact that the SAQ takes a large profit margin, about half the price of a bottle of wine.
Direct sales and specialized shops
In this respect, winemakers do best by selling their products directly on their vineyard or through their website where they receive 100% of the profit. For the consumer, buying directly from the vineyard is an experience in itself, as they can really get in touch with the winemaker and understand their philosophy.
Winegrowers can also go through delicatessens or other wine merchants who take a smaller margin, generally around 30%, says Louis-Philippe Mercier of La Boîte à Vins.
In addition, it is much easier for winegrowers to do business with wine merchants than with the SAQ. “A handshake and it's settled,” said Charles-Henri De Coussergues, while with the SAQ, they have to go through a long bureaucratic process.
Employees. Specialized shops will also offer better advice than those at the SAQ, believe the winegrowers interviewed by Métro.
“They are good ambassadors. They don't have as many products to manage. They have time to spend with the customer and most of them are fans of local products who document themselves well and ask us for a lot of information,” reports the owner of Orpailleur, who only sells three of his bottles at the SAQ.
Ève Rainville of Domaine Bergeville does not sell the same products at the SAQ as at wine merchants. Her aperitif bubbles, a more classic product, are distributed by the SAQ while her more niche products are sold in specialized stores since she knows that employees will be able to describe them well.
Obviously, nothing is perfect and a bottle sold in a specialty store will always be more expensive than at the SAQ. “It's a law,” says Louis-Philippe Mercier. The grocer is not allowed to sell a product cheaper than at the SAQ. We generally speak of a difference of two to five dollars.
But as the owner of La Boîte à Vins points out, by buying in a specialized store, “you are doubly encouraging the local economy . A bottle of local wine in a local store is a two for one!”.