SAQ vs. DEPANNEUR
Many visitors are often confused about what the difference between wine found in an SAQ, and wine found in a depanneur or grocery store is. Why they can’t buy hard liquor in a depanneur (dep), and can’t buy a six pack of Bud Light at an SAQ. Explaining the randomness of Quebec’s alcohol laws would take far too long, so we’ll try to break it down simply:
WHAT IS AN SAQ?
The SAQ stands for Société des alcools du Québec; it’s a government-owned corporation that controls, imports and distributes: quality and “premium” wines, spirits, champagnes, and a few imported beers. If you want a “nice” bottle of wine or some vodka, you have to go to an SAQ. To make things a little bit more interesting there are different types of SAQ stores. SAQ Classique is well, classic. They sell a varied selection and can be found scattered around town. SAQ Express are only the top selling products, are located in busy urban areas, and have extended business hours until 10:00 p.m. SAQ Selection are the really big stores with a huge selection, but most of these close around 6:00 p.m. SAQ Signature is the flagship store that sells high-end products, and is located in downtown Montréal at 677 Ste-Catherine West.
SO WHY GO TO A DEPANNEUR?
Quebec’s laws prohibit the sale of alcohol in stores after 11 p.m. But most SAQs close at 6:00 p.m. (and the SAQ Express’—which close at 10 p.m.—are sometimes too far away.) So when the situation calls for it, heading to a local depanneur or grocery story is a good option. The wine in a depanneur is considered “non-premium.” The wines have no “appellation” — no mention of the region, grape, or vintage. Dep wines are also bottled in Quebec, so basically the wine comes from “?” in a giant barrel and then bottled, branded, and sold. If you’re in a pinch, these “table wines” will do just fine. Some SAQs sell a very limited selection of fancy import beers, but if you just want a normal case of beer, head to a depanneur or grocery store. Beer selection varies from place to place, but your run-of-the-mill beer brands will be available.
DRINKING IN PUBLIC PARKS
Montrealers love to picnic, and let’s be honest, a picnic sans wine or beer is no picnic at all. And that’s exactly the law in Montreal: Public consumption of wine or beer is totally legal if consumed with a meal. “Meal” being the operative word here. If you have four bottles of wine and small bag of chips, that doesn’t count. You must have an equal drink to food ratio. Oh, and don’t forget to clean up your trash and empties when you’re done!
BUY THE BEST LOCAL PRODUCTS
Quebec is known around the world for our great beers, fine ice wines, and succulent ciders. Check out the beer heaven at Depanneur A.S. (5191 Saint-Laurent) or Dépanneur Peluso (2500 Rachel East) for rows and rows of the best microbrews. Stop by an SAQ for some ice wine like Neige, or a maple whiskey like Sortilege.
DRINK RESPONSIBLY, DRIVE SAFELY
Since this is an article about wine, beer, and booze; we feel like it’s necessary to remind visitors (and locals) to not get wasted, cause a ruckus, and drive. Take a taxi, take the metro, take a night bus, and don’t take any chances. Check out 10 WAYS TO TRAVEL AROUND MONTREAL .
MONTREAL’S GREAT WINE BARS, PUBS, AND COCKTAILS LOUNGES
Check out some of our articles for suggestions on where to go to taste the best wine, beer and cocktails in Montreal!
Photo credits: Eva Blue, Susan Moss, James Alexander Dunphy, Tourisme-Montreal, and La Face Chachée de la Pomme
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