By Michael Minorgan for Curtains Up
It was my first time exploring and tasting some of the artisanal wines of the Eastern Townships, an area that produces over 65% of the wine in Quebec.
I found myself more than pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the wines I tasted. I was equally impressed by the love, passion and total commitment displayed by the winery owners when they talked about their businesses.
Upon my return to the city I wanted to see just how all these excellent wines were being promoted here in Montreal. After all Montreal is a city world renowned for its culinary prowess’ surely they would go out of their way to accommodate these tasty local wines on their massive international wine lists. Then there is the SAQ, our governmental source of all wines sold in the province, surely they would give a lot of shelf space to these locally produced artisanal products.
In almost all cases I am at a complete loss as to how to explain the complete lack of representation these wines have been accredited, both on the wine lists of our major restaurants and on the shelves of our publically funded SAQ outlets. Almost all the critically acclaimed restaurants that I checked listed, at the most, only two or three local wines and those that were listed were usually products from only one winery. The SAQ lists only 29 wines from the Eastern Townships representing only 10 wineries out of the 29 presently operating there.
I ask myself why? Do the wineries lack a proper marketing campaign to appeal to restaurants? Do the powers that be at the SAQ not care to list products from all Quebec’s wineries? Or do local restaurateurs just not realize what wines they have at their doorstep, just a 45 minute drive from the city? Or finally have these restaurant owners just not taken the time to visit these producers to sample their products?
I must admit ,that up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never given Quebec wines much of a second look when going to the local SAQ. However, one recent short 36 hour foray into Quebec Wine Country has quickly and forever changed my mind. I only hope that this word spreads and that our local restaurateurs and SAQ operatives take some time to visit these passionate and committed wine makers and business men and start giving them the prominence and appreciation they so richly deserve.