Wine Culture Magazine

At Cactus Club, Sebastien Le Goff has built a wine list edited to each market. Photo courtesy of Cactus Club

While humbly declining to take any credit, there’s no question that Cactus Club’s VP of service and head sommelier Sebastien Le Goff has been instrumental in introducing a whole new generation to wine.

In building the list, he explains, there are core choices consistent across the country. “For example, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, California Cab. With these kinds of wines people care less about the brand or the winery, but more the style. As long as the style is typical of what people expect, they are fine with that.”

The second part of the wine list is tailored for each individual market, explains Le Goff. “For example, in Alberta we don’t sell a lot of white wine. We used to have just as many white wines by the glass as in the other provinces. But then we realized they weren’t moving. People really love red wine—and even in the summer we have a larger selection of red than white in Alberta.”

Rosé, too, is now a year-round feature. “There’s nothing like sipping on a rosé during a chinook,” he laughs. The regional theme continues in Toronto—with more Italian choices—and in B.C., where lists include a lot of local wines.

He credits a flexible management style open to new ideas.

Thank God for social media, because people can just look up a wine and get intel right away.

“Our servers are quite open-minded to trying new things. Staff like to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail after their shift or with their meal, so they try new wines,” he says. “They get to try every new wine that we put on the list.” It helps that each location has a manager who is knowledgeable about wine, and that savvy guests can easily research a wine on their phones. “Thank God for social media, because people can just look up a wine and get intel right away.”

What’s had the most impact? A year and a half ago, Le Goff introduced half-price wine on Tuesday and Wednesday. “It’s been revolutionary. People are trying wines they never tried before,” he says. “And staff opening 10 or 12 bottles every night are way more comfortable than they used to be. That’s been a big change in our wine culture.”

Fab finds at Cactus

Damien Rineau – La Tour Gallus Fleur de Gabbro, Muscadet sur Lie 2015
(Loire, France, $58 per bottle on list) Orchard fruits, citrus and mineral, leesy notes, crisp finish.

Bindi “Dixon” Pinot Noir 2015
(Victoria, Australia, $192 per bottle on list) Cherry and raspberry before creamy, savoury and earthy notes, a long, grippy finish.

Follow us on Instagram