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Aligra Wine and Spirits are members of the Westend Seniors Activity Centre’s Friends of WSAC business program.  They have hosted wine tasting events here at our centre, assisted us with our fundraising efforts in our wine basket raffles and have co-hosted wine tasting events for our business community connectors.  They have also invited members and staff to many of the wonderful events at their store, located in West Edmonton Mall.   

We hope you enjoy this article and that you will join us Monday May 6th here at the center for our Spring Wine Tasting event!  Click here for the details!


Guest Blog Post – “Wine Know” – 5 Good Ways to Get Into Wine
By Alison Phillips – Co-Owner of Aligra Wine & Spirits

Spring is in the air!  Time to start something new!

I find myself seeking new things to do, try and get involved with after the long cold winter.  Some people I know have expressed to me that they want to get more interested in Wine, but find it intimidating or simply don’t know how to get started. They don’t want to simply “drink wine” they really want to learn about it, and experience what is fast becoming a phenomenon in the realm of lifestyles and culture.

Since moving to Edmonton 13 years ago, I’ve seen an incredible leap forward when it comes to awareness of wine and food here.  So many new, independent bars and restaurants have opened headed by young, entrepreneurial chefs and bartenders. There are Food & Wine events galore throughout the city, from cooking competitions, charity fundraisers, to local farm to fork etc.  Edmonton is on the map as a city to visit for creative meals, cocktail culture and wine pairings.

It’s overwhelming to a novice, and gets rather expensive! So how can you get into the wine and dine scene without blowing your wallet or your waistline?  Here are 5 ideas to consider this year:

1. Take a Wine Class

Not ready to drop several hundred dollars on a Sommelier Course? (I.S.G. or WSET), check out classes at a local wine boutique.  Spending a couple of hours around a table with a Sommelier and others- novice and experienced, can be a rewarding way to learn about wine.   At Aligra Wine & Spirits, we hold classes and tastings frequently which are popular and sell out fast, plus we have tasting classes at the West End Seniors Centre.


2. Frequent a good store with helpful staff.

There’s nothing worse than walking into a huge wine store and being overwhelmed by the number of bottles on the shelves!  Where to begin?  Visit the smaller boutique stores.  Generally, you will find staff helpful and knowledgeable. They want you to have a good experience, get to know you and what your tastes are.  They can start you off on a bottle or two and when you return, ask how you liked the choices.  From there, start trying a few new wines without feeling stupid, plus you’ve developed a relationship with someone you trust.


3. Read.  A lot.

Nothing beats actual reading and research when you are wanting to learn a new subject.

Many publications are exclusively written about wine. Once I had taken a basic wine course, I became more interested in reading about wines, their origins, people who make them, etc.  In addition to magazines, bookstores have excellent books on wine.  Anything written by the wine world’s Jancis Robinson is worth picking up.  The internet is another good source, including the websites of your local store.


4. Start Your Own Wine Club

If you are wanting to get to know about wine, you will want to share your knowledge with your friends.  Create a dinner club with them.  Choose a night a month where one of you hosts the evening and sets a theme.  Ask friends to bring a dish and a wine that goes with that theme.  Everyone has to do a little research and, if you do this once a month, you will have enjoyed a lot of fun and gained a lot more knowledge!


5. Join a Wine Club at your local store.

Want to really start trying new wines, collecting a few favourites to have on hand? Join a Wine Club membership at a local store.

You decide on 2, 6 or 12 bottles a month, pay in advance whatever the store’s price is  based on your budget *. You receive different wines each month that have been hand-picked by the owner or Sommelier, based on their QPR (quality price ratio). These wines are usually “special” for Wine Club members.  Be wary of large wine clubs that purchase end of the bin wines that get passed on to consumers.   Smaller boutique stores reputation is too precious to be doing this kind of thing.


Learning about wines is a lifelong pursuit. Whether it’s for pure pleasure, or to make a career move, it never gets boring.  As someone who has the opportunity to try many new wines, I don’t drink more,  I drink better, and that doesn’t mean more expensive.  I have learned what I prefer and can help guide you with choices based on your tastes and budget.   Wanna give it a try?


Alison Phillips is co-owner of Aligra Wine & Spirits at West Edmonton Mall. They offer WESAC Members a 10% discount on wine and spirit purchases, have a great wine club, and invite you to their regular tastings.  Visit www.aligrawineandspirits.com  for more information. 


*Individual store wine clubs vary.  Some have a membership fee.  Wine is selected based on a price range according to your budget.  For example , wines in the $20-$25 range,  $30-$40 range etc.  Often you can choose just reds, just whites, or a mixture.  Do some research before you commit.

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