Corporate News
John Woolner

Spirits Advocate John Woolner, an employee in Orangeville, knows the historical significance of two crosses on a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The part-time University of Toronto history student enjoys applying his knowledge to the LCBO products he sells.

Sharing Historic Product Knowledge

Knowledge gleaned through John Woolner’s ongoing university history courses is not only benefitting his education, it’s also helping LCBO customers become better acquainted with the products they buy.

(May 2015) Customer Service Representative John Woolner frequently weaves historical anecdotes into his conversations with customers requesting product information at his store in Orangeville.

The spirits advocate and part-time history major enjoys sharing a unique perspective of beverage alcohol gleaned from his academic studies.

“There is a story and a legacy that goes along with almost everything we sell,” he says.

For example, he tells customers purchasing a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape that the two crossed keys on the label signify heaven and earth during the time the papacy moved from Rome to the Avignon in the Rhone Valley during the 14th century.

“They can leave the store saying ‘not only did I just spend $50 on a single bottle of wine, I also understand more about where the product came from,’” says the University of Toronto student.

Similarly, traditional labels on long-standing beer products still display “various signs and symbols such as the sign of the cross on barrels.” These, he explains, originated in northern Europe “in an attempt to keep evil magic from contaminating the beer.”

A recent essay on brewing practices of the middle ages helped John to appreciate the parallels that exist with today’s society.

Like today’s emergence of craft beer in an industry previously dominated by the uniform nature of mass-produced beer, some elite beer drinkers in the Middle Ages chose to bypass these products for high-priced, imported beer. Regarded as a “status symbol,” these rarer, special blends represented only a small percentage of the beer locally consumed.

John also traced the taxation and regulations that currently exist around alcohol products to the Middle Ages.

“Taxes on beer were the origin of a general system of excise taxes on sales,” he explains in his research paper. “When we consider the legacy of excise taxation of beer in modern times, the Government of Canada regulates taxation and profits directly from consumables like alcohol and tobacco.”

It’s his ability to inject these nuggets of information into customer conversations that fuels John’s passion for his job.

“Those who know me realize that I really like the interaction with customers and community,” he says. “It is what drives me to succeed and where my personal job satisfaction comes from.”

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