When you buy wine or liquor from an agent, you’re getting a tailored experience. Be prepared to enter an intimate relationship—your agent gets to know your likes and dislikes, your moods, your habits, your price range and can make recommendations. You’ll get the inside scoop on rare or special bottles. And yes, there is something nice about knowing you aren’t drinking the same bottle as everyone else, hurriedly grabbed from the end aisle of your local retailer.

In Ontario, wine agents are the ones who import the wines you see on the LCBO shelves and on lists at your favourite bar or restaurant. Agencies typically sell their wines to the LCBO, licensees (restaurants) and direct to consumers. The wines not destined for the LCBO shelves—often the more premium, rare and exceptional wines of the world—are known as consignment wines.

Consignment wines must be ordered from the agent in full case lots (usually six or 12 bottles, sometimes three). Agents are not allowed to break up cases and sell you one bottle from this case and another bottle from that case. Yes, agents can create their own customized mixed cases, but that is different in the eyes of the regulators. Mixed cases are a great way to branch out and discover new wines. And most agents have superb wines starting at under $25, so it’s easy to give private ordering a try.