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Weekend Wine: Getting back to normal

This week, Vin offers some tips to help you find wines that offer a good quality to price ratio
Vin Greco, Wine All The Time

After this weekend, we will have our New Year’s Resolutions stacked by the door, along with all our good intentions.  Over the holidays we MAY have been tempted to excess, and now comes the time for belt- tightening… that is, if we can still get our belts around our waists.

One of our economies will probably be to spend less on our appetites, including the one for wine, and so it is a good time to look for wines that meet the requirements of a more modest budget, and yet provide a good quality to price ratio.  

For example, from the Bodegas Osborne Castilla property in Spain we have the Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that has been on the regular list for ages, a great favourite when it first came on the scene.  While mid-weight, it still has a pleasing texture with a good inter-play of fruit and spice as well as an earthy cedar note. With its very decent finish, this tasty red wine is perfect for every-day drinking, and only $9.95.

For white wines, Chile’s Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015, $10.95, took gold at the latest International Wine Challenge, and sports tropical fruit aromas and citrus (orange, lemon) and herb flavours. It won’t have the power of a New Zealand heavyweight, but it will satisfy nicely.

Spain’s Marques de Riscal Rueda 2015, $12.70, made from the verdejo grape, is pale straw in colour with refreshing citrus notes and a pleasing touch of bitter almond at the end – another great sipper.

In addition to trotting out their lists of the 100 Best Wines of the Year, the major wine magazines also will select their 100 Best Buys.   Considering that most publications are American, what they might consider a bargain at $12 to $15, will likely, given the difference in the dollar, cost us up to a third more.  Nevertheless, there are many worth trying.

One white wine, Portugal’s Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2015 is #3 on the Wine Enthusiast’sBest Buy list with a score of 90 –a score repeated with Wines & Spirits magazine - and will be only$9.95 here starting Monday.  “Apples lemons and a touch of ripe pear fill the palate,” they write, as well as remarking on its minerality and refreshing crispness.

California’s Woodbridge Pinot Grigio 2014 has the WE’s #44 spot, for sweet-tart flavours and being clean and crisp – here it is $12.95.

A bit pricier, but a Wine Spectator Best Value in the light white category is the Zenato Lugana San Benedetto 2015, $17.95. (WS priced it at $16 U.S.) “A crowd pleaser … white nectarine, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit zest.”

In reds, aside from Chile’s excellent Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $14.15, with a Wines& Spirits 90 for its intense red fruit flavours and ”wild texture”, the American “Best Buys” that we can find tend to still be in the $20 range, though Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 rings in at $15.45 versus $11 U.S.  WE scored it 89, remarking on mocha and herbal notes and sharp berry fruit, and called it a “screaming deal”.

As well, the LCBO will bring out its next line-up of Limited Time Offers this Monday, January 2, and there are choices there that can help us feel “responsible” in our purchasing. 

Santa Julia+ Chardonnay will be just $8.95.  Sustainably farmed, these grapes come through as juicy with tropical flavours and vanilla.  A great buy for “chardonnistas”!

For something off-dry, Niagara’s Angels Gate Sussreserve Riesling will be $12.95. I have always been impressed by how “true-to-the-fruit” the Angels Gate winemaking is.  Peach flavours, with a tang of citrus, are complemented by the judicious addition of unfermented grape juice which brings the sweetness up nicely.   

As of Monday, Australia’s Deakin Estate Shiraz will be only $8.95. Billy Munnelly says it “delivers a refreshing, gulping character along with a dollop of Aussie richness”.  This is not a massive wine, but it is tasty and easy to enjoy.

Chile’s Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir, normally $13,.95, will be just $10.95 - what a great buy for a Pinot Noir.  Natalie Maclean gave it 88/100, remarking on its satin smooth texture and ample fruit – here’s a wine that is not too heavy, but crafted for contentment.

The Montecillo Reserva 2010 from Rioja is normally $18.15, but starting Monday will be just$15.65 for the next month.  100% Tempranillo, it is impressive, with a lovely core of dark fruit bringing the slightest sensation of sweetness in a wine that has less than two grams of residual sugar.  There is finesse here, with gentle tannins and acidity complementing the dark fruit and hints of earth and smoke.  A killer at the price.

The 2011 Montecillo Crianza, $15.10, containing 10% Graciano, receives less skin contact during fermentation, and 18 months aging in oak before bottling, with at least 6 months of aging before release. The Reserva has a full two years in oak, and an additional two years aging in bottle prior to release. The Crianza is more rustic than the Reserva, and shows better with food.  I did not find the level of fruit that other writers experienced, but that could be an issue of bottle variation, or the limitations of my palate. This is a good chance to pick up both and decide for yourselves.

From France’s Midi, Domaine de l’Alba Ermite will be $15 instead of 17. A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, the wine “sports awesome purity in its black cherry-like fruits, spring flowers, sappy underbrush and subtle minerality” according to -91

January 7 Vintages Recommendations

There are many good wines on this list, including 20 that the LCBO identifies as “Smart Buys”.  There are quite a few interesting wines that won’t get mentioned here, as availability varies from region to region, so be sure to check with your Product Consultants to identify other interesting options.


Man Free-Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2015, $13.95, from South Africa carries a “Parker” 91, for being “well-balanced with crisp grapefruit and light honeyed tones.”

Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2016, $15.95, from Chile’s cool coastal Leyda Valley has a Wine Enthusiast 89, with “lemon lime and ocean brine” aromas and “tangy lime and goose berry” flavours.

Pfaf Special 2015, $13.95, is an Alsatian blend of Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc.  Vintages calls it “easy and friendly with a delightful and bright personality”.  Sounds great, whether you decide to drink it or ask it to be your best buddy.


Santa Carolina Reserva Estate Pinot Noir 2016, $12.95 scored a 93 at the Decanter World Wine Awards. It has decent intensity and raspberry notes on the palate, finishing with an acidity reminiscent of cherry and cranberry.

Argentina’s Piatelli Premium Reserve Malbec 2013, $16.95, garnered a 90 from the Wine Spectator which called it “redolent of blueberry and dark currant” with “white pepper and bittersweet chocolate details” at the end.

Baronia Del Montsant Flor D’Englora Garnaxta 2011, $13.95 is called “crisp and animated… with a ripe cranberry, pomegranate and wild strawberry fruit profile” by – 90 - a big bang for the buck.

So there you have it – all kinds of good, relatively inexpensive wines to make us feel restrained and responsible as we head into 2017.  Now, if we can just keep ourselves from buying a case when all we need is a bottle, there just might be some progress!