Wine dividends, medals and twisted corks

Around this time last year the LCBO boasted about record profits, sales increases and an unprecedented $1.55 billion dividend flipped into the provincial government’s coffers. My May 17, 2012 column noted the 4.7 billion reasons to love the LCBO. The 2012 transfer was up 9.9 per cent over 2011.

Amorim and O-I’s HELIX cork PHOTO: O-I

as seen on

As of this morning, the new statistics are out and while the spin  plays a familiar proselytizer’s refrain, the numbers might seem to tell a different story. According to the LCBO press release,  ”operational efficiency and growth through store network improvements were key factors in LCBO’s 2012-13 financial results. It was LCBO’s 18th straight year of record sales and 19th consecutive record dividend.”

Here are the numbers, though ”these financials have yet to be audited.”

  • Net sales of $4.892 billion, up $182 million (3.9 per cent) from 2011-12.
  • Transfer of an all-time high $1.7 billion dividend, not including taxes, to the Ontario government. $70 million (4.3 per cent) more than in 2011-12.
  • Net income rose $53 million to $1.711 billion, up 3.2 per cent.

Don’t be misled because the beer, wine and spirits superstore is no shrinking violet. There can be little argument that the numbers remain anything but staggering but it can be suggested that growth may be entering a somewhat stymied period. The Ontario government saw their stipend reduced from just about 10 per cent to slightly more than 4 per cent, according to these latest figures. The total sales percentage increase was also slower than the previous year. Could this be an area of concern when considering the health and viability of the provincial liquor monopoly? An upcoming December 2013 auditor general’s report, if it indeed includes the LCBO, may soon shed new light.

Meanwhile, Wine Align this morning began a search for Canada’s top wines at the inaugural National Wine Awards of Canada being held in Niagara. With the support of host partner Wine Country Ontario#NWAC13 is hosting a wide selection of the country’s leading wine writers and tasters, gathered together to evaluate well over 1,000 wines grown in Canada and to award Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in some two dozen categories.  Wines from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia will be assessed using the same 100-point system employed at WineAlign. Full results will be published on Wine Align in September. Here is the official medie release:

Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason, Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada 2013 Photo:

The winning wines will be showcased in a special feature section of the National Post’s Financial Post Magazine.  A staggering number (1100 wines) are to be poured, swirled, sniffed, tasted and evaluated by 17 wine critics representing six Canadian provinces.

Wine Align has taken the reigns from the competition previously known as the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards.  Further groundbreaking is taking place across the pond. A New Twist On Cork has been unveiled “with the launch of a twistable and re-sealable version that could do away with the corkscrew.” The Helix cork is being unveiled this week at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. The “new cork and bottle has a thread finish, which allows drinkers to twist the stopper open and closed again, creating on airtight barrier.”

Portuguese cork manufacturer Amorim and US bottle maker O-I have teamed up to create the new technology, aimed at the $10-20 niche in the bargain wine market. The cork is made from agglomerated, or granulated material and is surely meant to take the screw cap industry to task.  The Helix will attempt to gain control of a divided industry. On one side, the wineries and buyers who support cork closures with a die-hard insistence that wine needs to breath and age via a real cork closure. On the other, the proponents of the screw cap, winemakers and consumers who point out that cork taint (TCA) ruins approximately 5% of all wines bottled under cork and also who insist that cork does not actually allow wine to breath.

This according to British wine writer Jamie Goode: “It certainly looks pretty striking. A key issue will be whether or not it is adopted by leading wine brands, which could help launch it in the eyes of consumers (who are traditionally quite cautious about wine packaging), and of course whether it is affordable enough for a tight-margin wine market. Also, will it need a capsule to make it tamper-evident? Without a capsule, it looks really good.” The immediate future certainly looks interesting.

Good to go!

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