Vancouver, Pre-Yellowtail Era


A lot has changed since the cold, miserable morning of June 1993, when I arrived from Lima, Peru, as a new immigrant. Back then the city was still a bit towney, the traffic downtown not nearly as crazy as it is today, there were no drive-by shootings, no dead people on the streets after gang battles and all my alcoholic interests were centered on the one hundred and one microbrewery beers my new home had to offer.

I had no idea that the Liquor Distribution Branch, aka “the liquor store” governed the consumption and distribution of alcoholic beverages. One boring Sunday I walked to my local outlet to get some beer and to my consternation I found it closed. I learned the hard way that if you wanted alcohol for the weekend you’d better get your behind in gear and purchase your beers, vinos and liqueurs on Friday night or Saturday, only until 6pm.

Anyway, digression dismissed, I ended up finding a selection of wines that -although compared to what you find today was liliputian- blew my mind, as in my home country the best stocked supermarket or liqueur store did not carry anything from Australia, South Afrika or New Zealand. France, Italy and Germany were poorly represented, usually by the most nefarious concoctions of disreputable quality (cheap Liebefraumilch was the summit of German wines) and the California “section” showed the pregnant-belly shaped 3 liter bottle of Carlo Rossi.

My first achatte of wine was a bottle of Jacob’s Creek, Shiraz, at 12.99. Back in the time it seemed to me a small fortune and after drinking the wine with amazed delight I wrote a long letter to my brother -a wine lover himself- telling him of my remarkable experience.

Posterior visits to the liqueur store saw my consumption of beer decrease, as I tried more and more wines, although my first wine phase was almost entirely Australian. I used to buy Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon, at the time a whopping 13.99 for a 1.5 liter bottle, which was my party wine.

Once or twice I had some French wine, a Perrin et Fils, I believe, and I wasn’t very impressed. My friends never touched wine, except for special occasions, when I cooked. It infuriated me when they didn’t bring the brands that I asked them to buy and showed up with nondescript plonk that they acquired in order to save a buck or two.

That was Vancouver’s wine scene at the time, with a skinny Australian presence, an even thinner Chilean and South Afrikan stock and a non-existent Argentinean legion. Happily, today we have massive amounts of imported wine from all over the world, good to satisfy the connoisseur and the penny pincher alike.

Cheers to that. With wine, that is.

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