The top 5 wine agents in Toronto
Purchasing wine through Toronto agencies won't appeal to the customer looking for the cheapest and easiest thing, but for those who identify as enthusiasts, are willing to buy by the case, and who like the idea of by-passing the LCBO experience, there's actually a lot to like about deal with a wine agent. While they typically carry higher end wines, there are plenty of sub $15 bottles available, many of which represent the best bang for your buck in their so-called weight class. There's a reason why so many restaurants opt to deal with agencies; they often source the best wine.
It's also become much easier for the independent consumer to shop at most wine agent over the last few years. With the e-newsletters advertising new stock, home delivery, and more exposure in general, the wine agent has emerged as a viable alternative to the LCBO. Here are five Toronto-based agencies that should be on your list should decide to go this route when buying wine.
Around since 1978, Lifford is one of the biggest wine agencies in Canada, moving 800,000 cases a year through the LCBO and its other various buyers. What makes Lifford a good option for the independent consumer, however, is the accessibility of its portfolio of wines online. Easily searchable by price, country and brand, it's easier to find stock here than it is on the LCBO's website (for example). Plus there's lots of excellent stock in the $15-20 price range.
Hobbs & Co.
Hobb & Co. is considerably smaller than Lifford, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the private consumer. They still offer a diverse selection of wines from around the world — with lots to choose from in the crucial sub $20 category — and make their wines easy to search via an online database. I like Hobbs & Co. because I've been consistently impressed with the producers that they have relationships with.
If Italian wine is your thing, then Perugini is a wine agent you'll want to get know. Although not as easy to purchase from as some of the other big agents on the list (it's best to use email for up-to-date product and price lists), the variety of consignment wines not available at the LCBO should be very enticing to Italian wine fans. It's the focus on sourcing this otherwise hard to find wines that makes the agency option intriguing in the first place, isn't it?
Le Caviste Wine Importers
To the degree that Perugini is a place to go for Italian wines, the same is true of Le Caviste for the wines of France. Run by Marcel Réthoré, the agency focuses exclusively on French wine with a specific focus on the Loire Valley. Part of the reason to use a wine agent is the expertise of those selling you the wine, which often isn't all that inspring at the LCBO. In that capacity, Réthoré is a great resource for French wine lovers.
Rogers & Company
With roots that stretch back to 1984 and a portfolio that's 50 producers strong, Rogers & Company is one of the better mid-sized local wine agents. Quality comes first here (as it should), but you'll still find a healthy dose of wines in what I'd call the affordable bracket. That said, this agent will likely be of most interest to the veteran wine buyer with deep pockets who's after top level wines from the Napa Valley and France.
30.50 Imports / WineWire
Run by Nelson Abreu, who's also behind Wine Wire, 30.50 Imports has a stable of producers with some seriously intriguing wine, some of which is the very definition of small batch (think less than 1,000 cases). The mailing list is a good way to get info on upcoming releases that might be of interest to the budding sommelier. If it's selection you're after, on the other hand, it makes sense to head on over to WineWire, which works with a variety of wine agents to build a portfolio of wines not available at the LCBO.
Other Local Wine Agents of Note:
Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our wine-soaked adventures.