Quebec wines, winners of the conflict at the SAQ

The labor dispute at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) seems to serve the cause of Quebec wines. Faced with the bald shelves of the Crown corporation, consumers are turning overwhelmingly to the many specialty stores that exclusively sell homegrown alcohol.

At the end of the year, the owner of the Les Bacchantes vineyard sold his stock faster than ever. “We have decided to release our sparkling wine now, but apart from that, we have nothing left,” says Sébastien Daoust with joy.

Like most of the 150 winegrowers in Quebec, he sells his bottles outside the SAQ network. Several thousand grocery stores, boutiques and restaurants have the necessary permits to sell bottles of wine, beer and cider purchased directly from producers, as long as the latter are from Quebec.

Mr. Daoust notes that since the start of the pandemic, with the craze for local purchasing, more and more businesses are ordering crates from him. “People have discovered that their small neighborhood grocery store has wines from Quebec. And the strike at the SAQ accelerates the process, ”says the winegrower.

“Since the conflict, when restaurants began to see a serious supply problem, many have turned to Quebec wines. I have 120 cases which suddenly went to restaurants, ”adds the one who is also treasurer of the Conseil des vins du Québec.

Nicolas Pomerleau, co-owner of the Coteau St-Paul vineyard, makes the same observation. He is receiving more orders than ever from small businesses across the province.

“The strike led customers who were not loyal to Quebec wine to fall for it. “

Long-lasting desired effects

The owners of the Cinqàsept boutique in Montreal say their traffic has dramatically increased in recent weeks. Lambert St-Cyr and Simon Boutet hope to have gained followers in the long term.

“People are discovering the quality of Quebec wines, their diversity. There are good products at affordable costs, ”praises Mr. Boutet.

Mr. St-Cyr believes that the stigmatization of Quebec wines is no longer valid today. “The winegrowers started to find techniques to deacidify the wines. […] There is a sometimes fruity and silky side to the grape varieties here. We see a growing demand for the future, when people go to see what it tastes like. “

According to Sébastien Daoust, legislative changes could still be made to make life easier for winegrowers like him. He would like the law to no longer require them to deliver their bottles to traders themselves.

“We are 150 winegrowers going in circles on Le Plateau-Mont-Royal to find a parking space. I can’t even ask the neighboring vineyard to bring my crate for me. It is a damaging waste of time for Quebec wines. If that changed, I could spend more time in the field than in town. “

In addition, the conflict at the SAQ is far from making only people happy in the ecosystem of Quebec wine. The work of the wine, beer and spirits agencies in Quebec is greatly hampered by the effects of the three-day strike in November and other means of pressure from warehouse workers.

Those who carry out private imports are no exception, because the products must still pass through the warehouses of the monopoly of the distribution of foreign wines and spirits, underlines Roch Bissonnette, president of the board of directors of the association. A3 Quebec.

Mr. Bissonnette is crossing his fingers that the workers endorse, by Saturday evening, the agreement in principle reached between their union and their employer.

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