‘Not’ a Wine Shop pop-up uncorks in Toronto

The Living Vine gets the word out about private imports and LCBO Destination Collection varieties.


The pop-up phenomenon is seemingly a permanent part of the consumer landscape, with different brands temporarily adapting vacant retail spaces to suit their individual needs.

Toronto-based importer of organic and natural wines The Living Vine created the “Not a wine shop pop-up wine shop” in the city’s trendy Ossington strip, between October 17 and 22. The Living Vine sampled wines available to Ontario consumers through private import and via the LCBO’s Destination Channel, which is a content platform for international wines. At the pop-up, sommeliers and vintners were on hand to answer questions from oenophiles and newbies alike. 

According to Mark Cuff, owner of The Living Vine, the purpose of the event was to sample, take orders (by the case only) and curate the look and feel of a wine shop. The event was promoted through social channels.


Cuff tells strategy that “Not a Wine Shop” was a curious enough name to draw consumers in and ask questions about the market place, which is not a private wine retailer, as people aren’t able to purchase wine on the spot. Private retail wine shops, with a few exceptions like The Wine Rack, are not allowed in Ontario. Cuff says the province is one of the toughest markets to import alcohol. “We are intensely regulated, so our partners were excited to support any project that could lead to growing their business in Ontario,” he says.

“We are mainly a private import focused company and the LCBO only permits agents to sell wines imported through this channel by the case (usually six or 12 bottles),” Cuff says. The Destination Collection, which features limited quantity items, is a fairly new channel that was meant to provide opportunities for wine that are too small or niche for a typical LCBO release. “About 20% of the 150 wines we were offering to sample and order at the event were from this channel,” Cuff says. Products included Ontario winery Hidden Bench, as well as Italian, French and Slovenian brands like Vini Chiesa, Laurent Cazottes and Movia.

Wine-popAccording to Cuff, The Living Vine has been waiting to do a wine shop for a couple of years but hadn’t found the time to give it focus until now.

The company invested nearly $20,000 for the week-long affair, Cuff says. He says he believes the market is changing a lot and with the expansion of alcohol sales into grocery, The Living Vine thought this was an opportunity to increase its company profile, as well as brand recognition for its wineries.

Ossington was selected because of its hip factor as a famous local street with lots of restaurants and foot traffic, Cuff says, and the company chose a space that’s been the site of several popups of late.

He says thousands of consumers of all age groups and levels of wine knowledge attended, and he reported a large uptick in Instagram followers as a result.

When it comes to similar events, Cuff says the company has tentative plans for a spring pop-up to further promote its business and the private import channel.