Wine Flows Freely in Quebec

I'm always fascinated by visiting grocery stores in other countries... they always provide an interesting glimpse into the everyday products people use, the local cuisine and much more. You also get a sense for prices and the differences from country to country. For example, buying extra virgin olive oil in Italy is much less expensive than the U.S. The same goes for maple syrup here in Canada vs. the U.S.

So, we stopped in a SAQ Depot store while in Hull, Quebec (right across the river from Ottawa). When we drove past it, I saw that they were a wine and spirits store and I wanted to pick up a bottle of Canadian wine as a souvenir. By the way, if you haven't heard of SAQ (I hadn't)...

The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) is a state-owned corporation responsible for the trade of alcoholic beverages.

As a state-owned corporation, the SAQ provides a major income stream to both levels of government in the form of taxes, duties, and a dividend payment to the Quebec government.

Now, the SAQ Depot wasn't just any old wine store. Yes, you can buy a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or rum. However, if want to buy several bottles of everyday wine, SAQ allows you to pick and bottle your own wine in bulk.

As you come into the store, you'll spot a long wall lined with wine "stations" as I'll call them. Each station provides information on the wine, pricing and a tap for tasting and filling bottles.

After you've selected the wine you want, take a taste to make sure it lives up to your standards. I selected a nice red wine.

If the wine works for you, you can fill up as many bottles of wine as you need. We watched someone fill a case while we were there.

You then walk over to a contraption that allows you to cork the wine before you take it to the front and check out. If you'd like, you can even buy foil for the neck or labels. They pretty much have it all.

There are 6 SAQ Depot locations in Quebec including in Hull (Ottawa), Montreal and Quebec City. You'll also come across other SAQ locations like SAQ Express, SAQ Classique, SAQ Selection and SAQ Signature. Each one has a slightly different emphasis. SAQ Convenience stocks about 400 different products that can be quickly purchased while SAQ Signature focuses on more exclusive options.

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