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SAQ Incompetence Destroys Part of Champlain Charest's Multimillion-Dollar Wine Collection

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Our bad, says suspended employees.

A major bungle
A major bungle
Randall Brodeur

Champlain Charest had to contend with the emotional shutter of his restaurant, Bistro à Champlain in Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson, last month and the subsequent transfer of thousands of bottles of rare French wine from his epic collection to the nearby Estérel resort.

Now Le Journal de Montréal reports that Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) officials mistakenly spoiled 450 bottles of wine from a stockpile of 19,000 acquired from the prolific, octogenarian collector in a multimillion-dollar transaction in 2012. The bottles were taken off the market in the fall of 2013. The SAQ has been less than transparent about the mishap and blames a warehouse snafu.

Two SAQ employees now face a long suspension. A spokesperson told the newspaper that the warehouse "temperature difference was sustained in the first days of storage."

"Here, the temperature of the refrigeration system was not properly monitored and was lower than desired."

Experts who spoke to journalist Sarah-Maude Lefebvre describe the loss as "a catastrophe" and urged the SAQ to come forward with more information about the disappearance of the 450 bottles in question.

Wine writer Claude Langlois noted that it takes extraordinary temperature differences to affect the taste of wine. If the label is damaged because of improper storage, however, a bottle's value can plummet.

The SAQ added that if the bottles do wind up on the market, they will be sold in a physical outlet and not via online auction. Overall, not a good sign.

Charest, for his part, was not even aware of the incident.

"The collection belongs to the SAQ now. It's up to them to store and sell the bottles as they see fit."

Bistro à Champlain

39 Chemin Fridolin-Simard, , QC J0T 1E0 (450) 228-2571 Visit Website

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