Our Stories

Holiday Gifting is easy at the NSLC

Everybody has one – that special person on their holiday list that’s just plain hard to buy for. Where can you find the perfect gift - one they don’t already have - that’s sure to make their eyes light up on Christmas morning? Look no further than your local NSLC store. We’ve got gift buying all wrapped up, with some truly unique products that are sure to please.

If you’re looking for something really unique for the beer lover on your list, then our limited edition, six-litre Unibroue Grand Reserve is sure to surprise and delight. It’s a special Belgian-style beer that ages well and pairs beautifully with a wide range of foods, from cheese and fish to grilled meats. We only brought in 30 of these, so you’ll need to move fast in order to take one home. There are some left at the Port at the corner of Birmingham and Clyde Streets, and a few at our Bayers Lake and Quinpool Road stores. The extra-large bottle looks a little like a giant bottle of champagne and is beautifully packaged in a wooden crate. They’re perfect for sharing with friends and family over the holidays as a one-of-a-kind treat too. This special gift sells for $149.00

Unibroue Grand Reserve

Gift packs that provide an assortment of a producer’s wares are always popular. And we have a great assortment of beer, local wine and spirit gift packs to choose from. 
One of our favourites is the Nova Scotia Spirit Company’s gift pack, which features three 750 ml bottles of their most popular brands: Fisherman’s Helper White Rum, Blue Lobster Vodka, and Willing to Learn Gin. All three are among NSLC’s top five selling local spirit varieties for 2017, and they’re attractively packaged in a gift-wrap-able wooden crate. This local gift pack sells for $99.99.

Nova Scotia Distilling Spirits Gift Pack

The Vernissage Syrah Cabernet Purse is pretty sweet too. This attractively packaged 1500 ml French vintage is getting rave reviews, and makes an attractive and affordable gift for friends, co-workers, or even as a to-me-from-me treat for under the tree.

If you didn’t pick up one of our craft beer advent calendars don’t despair. We still have some great craft beer that’s perfect for gift giving – either in gift packs or as singles, as well as special 750ml editions. The Classic Ales Gift Pack includes four, 500ml bottles of England’s most popular brews. We also have the Wychwood Brewery Beers of Character Collection, which offers four of England’s bestsellers including Hobgoblin, the country’s current number-three-selling craft brew. Both of these gift packs sell for under $20.00.

Classic Ales Gift Pack

NSLC’s great selection of local and seasonal craft beers provide holiday shoppers with a great opportunity to assemble their own unique craft beer gift basket. Drop by any of our stores to pick up a selection of singles from among our many local listings today. Place these in one of our free 6-pack carriers to create a great gift of beer discovery!
We also have some very special Italian beers in store from Ex Fabrica, a microbrewery located in Milan. Although famous the world over for its wine, Italy’s craft beers are also gaining in popularity. We’ve brought in three selections, each in distinctive 750ml bottles: a Golden, Scottish and Pale Ale, under the Italian names Ciara, Rozza and Amaricana. The bottles sell for $18.95 each, and make great gifts on their own, or as a trio.

Veuve Clicquot, the delicious and popular sparkling wine, has packaged its product in a special edition collectors’ tin just for the holidays. Each tin has been crafted to resemble a directional sign and bears the name of a famous international city, along with the distance between that city and the Veuve Clicquot Winery in Reims, France. The tins have been selling fast and now there are only a few left at the Port and some of our bigger stores – better move fast if you’d like to take home one of these limited edition gifts.

Veuve Cliquot

Sparkling wines are growing in popularity, and locally-produced selections are quickly becoming recognized as some of the world’s best. Nova Scotia has great growing conditions for sparkling wine grape varieties. Combine that with our talented producers, and you’ve got some great quality sparkling wines that are sure to light up the holidays for the people on your holiday gift list. There are lots of local sparkling wines to choose from, and quite frankly, we like them all. A few new varieties to keep an eye out for include Luckett Vineyard’s new Phone Box Fizz, and Lightfoot and Wolfville’s Bubbly White. While not new to our stores, Benjamin Bridge’s Nova Seven continues to be one of our best sparkling wine sellers and a proven holiday favourite. 

Nova 7

More and more during the holidays and all through the year, our customers are seeking out quality over quantity. Nowhere is that trend more apparent than at our Port by the NSLC store in downtown Halifax. Our assortment of rare spirits has attracted an international clientele, and that’s driving significant change in the range of products that we’re offering for sale. 
This holiday season, we’ll be bringing in one of the rarest whiskies in the world. The Bowmore 50 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky was distilled on a very cold day in December of 1961, and laid down in two ex-bourbon hogshead casks. This whisky has spent half a century maturing in Bowmore’s No. 1 Vaults. Today, just 50 bottles of this truly exceptional single malt remain and will be released in 2016.

Bowmore’s Nova Scotia representatives will be on site at the Port in late December for a special tasting of various products, and the 50 Year Old will be in the store and on display. The Bowmore 50 Year Old is the most expensive bottle ever acquired by the NSLC, and it retails for about $35,000. It is the only bottle that will be available in Canada, and collectors from Ontario have already expressed an interest in purchasing it for their collection.
While the Bowmore is likely out of reach for most gift buyers this season, we still have lots more great gift ideas and promotions in store, and with our knowledgeable, helpful employees ready to serve, finding the perfect gift couldn’t be easier. Keep in mind that NSLC Gift Cards are another great option that let the people on your list discover their own favourites. Plus, we have attractive gift bags and tags, to help make NSLC your one-stop shop for the holidays. Please keep in mind that for our unique gifts and holiday gift packs, availability is limited, and stock levels change every day. We recommend visiting our website to find out which stores are carrying specialty gifts you plan to buy. Mynslc.com has lots of other great gifting and hosting tips, as well as recipes to help make your season even brighter.

Happy shopping, Happy Hosting, and Happy Holidays!


How to be a Thanksgiving Hero

Peter Rockwell

Thanksgiving is already upon us! For many Nova Scotians that means this week will be filled with making plans: either to prepare a feast, or to attend one. Regardless of which category you fall into, one thing’s for certain, you’ll need a great bottle of wine (or two) to go with your dinner.

“Thanksgiving is the 2nd most popular wine holiday of the year,” says NSLC wine expert Peter Rockwell. But finding that perfect bottle of wine to serve or bring along can be a real challenge. It’s important to keep in mind, you’re not just pairing your wine with turkey, you’re pairing it with everything on your plate. As Peter points out, “Thanksgiving dinners are usually a broad mix of dishes and flavours, from the relatively bland tastes of turkey and potatoes, to the herbed flavour of dressing, to the tartness of cranberry sauce, you need a wine that will compliment all of these flavours and more.” The good news is there are lots of great wines at your local NSLC store to choose from. Peter recommends three classic varieties he says are sure to please.

The first is Riesling, which is a white grape variety that originated in the Rhine region of Germany. “Rieslings tend to be off-dry and on a touch of sweetness,” says Peter. “It’s a wine that works really well with lots of different flavours and it’s a great choice if you’re not exactly sure what’s going to be served.” Peter says there are some delicious local Rieslings on NSLC shelves, as well as a good selection from Germany.

Peter’s second recommendation is another white wine - Chardonnay. “Chardonnay is a little like turkey,” says Peter. “It goes with anything.” Unlike Riesling, Chardonnays are on the drier side. Peter hasn’t met a Chardonnay at our stores that he didn’t like, but says New World Chardonnays, from countries like Australia and Chile tend to be richer and offer a bigger fruit taste than many Old World styles, making them a great accompaniment for Thanksgiving dinner.

Peter’s third recommendation is Pinot Noir, a red wine grape that originated in the Burgundy region of France but is now grown in cooler regions around the world, including Nova Scotia. Peter says this variety is always a hit among red-wine lovers no matter what’s on the table, and that Pinots from California have become especially popular.

If you think your guests might like something a little more adventurous, Peter suggests some other white grape varieties, like the spicy Viognier or Gewürztraminer, or even a sparkling wine or rosé, all of which work well before, during and after the meal. “One year I also brought along a Spanish Tempranillo, which makes a more balanced red wine than other big varieties,” recalls Peter. “My family loved it, and the dark berry and plum flavours worked really well with the eclectic mix of food we had for dinner.”

Peter says these same varieties will also work well if you’re serving ham. “All of these wines tend to be a little lighter, and that means they won’t eclipse the flavour of the meal. Because with all the time and effort put into making this one special meal, Thanksgiving really is first and foremost, all about the food.”


NSLC unveils exciting new retail concept in downtown Halifax

Our newest store – the Port by the NSLC – opened on April 22nd at the corner of Birmingham and Clyde Streets in downtown Halifax, and the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. “It has been a very busy first few weeks,” says Store Manager Rick Martell. “We’re getting great feedback on the selection, service and the décor. Lots of people are asking about the Experience Room and are eager to participate in product learning opportunities. And we’re getting lots of compliments on the great selection of local wine, spirits and craft beer.”

The Port replaces the old Port of Wines store on Doyle Street. It’s much bigger, at more than 8000 square feet, and customers can park in the underground parking area and take the elevator right up to the store’s entrance. The store is bright, with lots of large windows along the south side, and offers a contemporary design that includes new shelving and lighting, with exposed concrete columns and ductwork.

What makes shopping at the Port really special are the people who work there. “All of our employees have acquired advanced training and knowledge about the products we sell,” explains Rick. “Dave Spieroway is the NSLC’s very first Customer Experience Manager, and it’s his job to make shopping here an excellent experience, every time you visit. We also have two Product Specialists: Gabriela Cyr and Rayell Swan are bother WSET certified, and they can help our customers find exactly the right product no matter the occasion.”

The Port also offers NSLC’s very first self-serve sampling station, with capacity for up to 32 different product selections. Customers can buy a reloadable card that allows them to sample while they shop. “It’s a chance to try before you buy, or to try a premium product or maybe a different grape variety or country of origin,” says Rick. The store also features an Experience Room, where the NSLC and its suppliers will offer tastings and product information sessions. Check out the ‘Events’ tab for more information on those.

The Port’s ‘Rare Finds’ room is the first of its kind for NSLC too. It’s a temperature-controlled room – much like a wine cellar – that keeps products in peak condition. Here customers will find wines that aren’t available anywhere else in Atlantic Canada, ranging in price from about $100 to $5000.

Just around the corner from the Rare Finds Room is the Port’s spirit selection, which at 450 varieties is the largest of any store in the network. From there and along the back wall of the store customers will find a wide selection of local wines, spirits, craft beer and ciders. “One in every ten bottles of wine that we sell is a local product,” says Rick. “We have some excellent local products in all categories, and we’re planning on doing lots of product information sessions and tastings with our local producers in the months to come.”

Given sales so far have exceeded expectations, it’s a safe to say customers are liking the new store. “We’re thrilled with the response,” says Rick. “Our challenge going forward will be to keep delivering that ‘wow’ factor, so that customers find something new to discover every time they come in the store.”



In Good Hands

If you look to be 30 years old or younger and you shop at the NSLC, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be asked to show proof of age, either while you’re shopping or when you get to the cash. We do that as part of our We ID Program, which helps to make sure beverage alcohol doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

“It’s an important responsible consumption program,” says Beth Martin, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility. “The legal drinking age is 19 and it’s one of our core responsibilities to make sure we don’t sell to minors. We ID helps reduce that risk. But it’s not always easy, because it means making a judgement about someone’s age very quickly.”

NSLC’s retail employees are trained on how to administer We ID as soon as they’re hired, and the training is renewed every year. “The We ID Program training teaches our employees how and when to ask for ID, what forms of government-issue picture ID are acceptable, and how to explain the program to customers. It also teaches them how to deal with any conflict,” says Beth.

“We ask for our customers’ patience and understanding when they’re asked for ID in our stores, and we would encourage them to take it as a compliment. But it’s our responsibility to make sure no sale is made to a minor, and we take that responsibility very seriously.” Beth says a customer could be asked to show proof of age up to three times as they encounter different store employees. “They could be asked when they first enter the store, while they are browsing, and when they make a purchase at the cash register.”

Customers who are refused the sale because they don’t have acceptable government-issue ID can’t get someone they’re shopping with who does have ID to make the purchase for them. “Some customers find this frustrating too,” says Beth. “But from our perspective, we need to be sure that beverage alcohol isn’t being purchased for someone who isn’t over 19, so we refuse the sale, even if the making the purchase does have ID.”

Employees at our Spryfield store know the challenges of asking for ID and have done a great job of striking the right balance while still providing great customer service. Their We ID mystery shop scores have been perfect for more than a year. According to Store Manager Kevin Conrod, it’s because the whole team is engaged in making sure that if someone looks 30 years or younger, they get asked for ID. “It’s an important part of all our jobs,” says Kevin. If I see someone come in that’s on the age bubble I’ll prompt our employees and we’ll have a conversation about why we should ask this customer for ID. It’s something we’re paying attention to all day, every day.”

Kevin says some days are a lot busier than others when it comes to the We ID Program. “I try to make sure I know when local schools are having their graduations, so that all of us are aware and prepared.” He also says long weekends and certain holidays and observances, like Halloween, tend to present more challenges than other times of the year. “If they have a mask on, we ask them to remove it. And if they’re wearing some kind of face makeup, we ask for ID no matter what.”

Spryfield Retail employee Kay McLellan says that Fridays and Saturdays tend to be the busiest We ID days aside from the special occasions. “Some people don’t like it,” says Kay, “especially if they shop here regularly. For me it’s simple – if they look to be under 30, I ask for ID.” It looks as though that sentiment is shared by Kay’s retail colleagues across the province. In 2015/16 our employees asked for ID over 1.6 million times and refused just over 11,000 transactions. This one percent refusal rate has been consistent for the last three years.