LCBO launches new “Sweetness Descriptors” for wines

As part of the P2 “How to shop for wine” thematic and the introduction of the new wine styles program (see article), new “Sweetness Descriptors” are also being launched to provide useful taste information for our customers when purchasing wine.

This initiative includes two elements: a new, science-based sweetness descriptors system consisting of a descriptor (see chart) that reflects how sweet a wine tastes. There will be five sweetness descriptors: Extra Dry, Dry, Medium, Medium-Sweet and Sweet. The second element is a listing of the actual sugar content as grams of sugar per litre. These two elements, in addition to the wine style, are displayed on newly-redesigned bin tags on store shelves.

Initially, the sweetness descriptors and sugar content information will be used for all LCBO table wines, however, only the sugar content information will be available for LCBO non-table wines including sparkling, dessert and fortified wines. The program will also be extended to include all Vintages and Vintages ESSENTIALS wines as new releases are issued.

“Consumers today have more access to information than before to assist in their purchasing decisions and many are choosing healthier lifestyles by being conscientious about the foods and beverages they consume,” says Stephen Cater, Director, Quality Assurance. “The new sweetness descriptors and listing of actual sugar content will provide LCBO customers with detailed information to help them find a wine they enjoy based on sweetness.” 

The Quality Assurance team developed the new sweetness descriptors to describe the level of perceived sweetness – the taste sensation that consumers experience when tasting a wine. They are based on an algorithm that looks at the relationship between residual sugar and the total acidity of a wine through chemical analysis by our laboratory. The team performed extensive sensory evaluation, analytical testing and consumer research to validate the sweetness descriptors based on the sugar to acid ratio.

An integrated marketing campaign will introduce customers to these new ways to shop for wine. Information will be displayed in stores on new bin tags which include a link to demonstration videos, in-section and POP signage, newspaper inserts, as well as product search pages on

LCBO employees will play a key role in helping customers adapt to the new wine styles and sweetness descriptors, as many already know what wine they prefer with the current sugar code numbering system. To help inform staff, Retail Training is producing materials for frontline staff, Product Consultants and HelloLCBO representatives who service customers daily. Materials include employee “pocket” reference cards, information on staff PDAs as well as key messages and Q&As.

To help ensure a successful launch, a cross-divisional committee of representatives from Logistics/Quality Assurance, IT, Retail Operations, Sales & Marketing and Corporate Communications developed an integrated campaign strategy to communicate these new initiatives to staff, customers, trade partners, stakeholders and media.

“Our overall goal with these new initiatives is to enhance the customer shopping experience in our stores,” says Michael Fagan, Manager, Knowledge Resources Group. “By launching the new wine styles and complementary sweetness descriptors initiatives, we hope to simplify the buying process for our customers by providing them with useful information, while also encouraging them to discover something new that fits their tastes.”