When it comes to buying, I am an inveterate bargain hunter. I hate paying full-price for something when I know that it will likely be on sale next week, and if something is too good to resist, I usually don’t.
There are limits. Paying $2 for something that will need to be replaced in short order, rather than $5 for a much better-made and much longer-lasting product makes little sense. There is always the temptation, too, to buy something you don’t need, as good as that item may be, or to stockpile, even though there will be another sale down the road that will meet your requirements nicely.
The same temptations – and cautions – apply to wine. I would rather pick up a wine when it is on sale instead of at its full price. Likewise, if two wines are of comparable quality, I will tend to buy the one more attractively priced. The hard part is walking by when, as tantalizing as it may be, if I really don’t need it. Need, or more properly the lack thereof, often gets overlooked.
Nevertheless, when it comes to wine, there is little problem finding decent wines that are affordable. Matt Kramer, on winespectator.com, cites Chile as one country where producers realized that low prices weren’t enough, and that higher quality despite low prices was the way to go. He also gives the nod to Italy’s Chianti Classico as a region where the best growers have significantly improved the quality of the wines by cultivating the best clones of Sangiovese and using indigenous grapes such as Canaiolo Nero for blending to create purer and more individualistic wines.
Add Portugal, areas of Spain away from the Rioja, and southern Italy to that list. The last Vintages release featured 6 Portuguese red wines, all between $12.95 and $14.95.
Beyra Vinhos de Altitude Red 2014, $12.95, a Wine Enthusiast “Best Buy”, earned 87 points for its fresh, “red berry fruit flavors” supported by dry tannins. Casa de Cambres Reserva red 2009, $13.95, from the Douro has a WE 90, and is described as “rich, perfumed …with a dry core and big black fruits that will soften and come together.”
The Lagar de Darei, Dao 2012, $13.95, originating in the mountainous region of north-central Portugal has a compelling narrative. The terroir emphasizes the natural acidity of the wine, and during the wine-making process, the must is still trodden by foot in concrete lagars or troughs. The production is relatively small, with the wine spending 18 months in concrete vats and another five months in bottle prior to release. It is medium-bodied with lively fresh fruit and earthy grace notes.
These and the other three wines are worth seeking out, though you may have to ask for them to be ordered in.
Another source of LCBO bargains are the monthly Limited Time Offers (LTOs). The next period begins this Monday, Jan. 30. Still available through this weekend at $6.95 is the Torrevento Negoramaro from Italy’s Puglia region. Even at its $8.65 regular price it’s a steal. The dark cherry fruit has almost a kirsch-like quality to it, and the depth is surprising. Pizza, Penne Arrabiata or Italian sausage, pair it with this Negroamaro and Buon’ Appetito!
More than 100 wines will populate the next LTO period. I get a sense of déja-vu when I peruse the list, as many of these crop up time and again on the LTO file. But I’m not complaining.
Several proseccos are included this month, which could play well for Valentine’s Day. One, Fiol, catches my interest, as it is “Extra Dry” as opposed to “Brut” – which means it actually has more residual sugar, not less. A group of young Italians with winemaking roots in the northerly Treviso region are behind this label. In their dialect, “fiol” means ‘son’, but is commonly used to indicate a cool dude. Normally $16.10, this coming month it will be $13.10. It is lively and mellow with zingy citrus and fruity pear accents.
Mionetti IL Prosecco, $3 off at $10.95, comes with an un-pretentious bottle-cap closure, and generally acceptable reviews in the mid to upper 80’s. Pear and apple flavours accompany the typical crispness.
Not on the LTO’s, but just $13.95, Acquesi Rosato from the Piedmont has the palest pink-tinged hue and comes in a pretty bottle decorated with a delicate floral filigree. Made from Dolcetto and Barbera, it is neither too sweet or too dry, with strawberry/cherry traits and fine persistent effervescence.
In still wines, Deinhard Green Label Mosel Riesling has graced the shelves for ages, and at $9.95 ($2 off), it is a very acceptable example of an off-dry German white. Balanced and refreshing, it has good length with peach/clementine flavours playing against light lemon-lime acidity.
From Ontario, Henry of Pelham’s Sibling Rivalry White, an aromatic blend of Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, is $2 off at $11.95. Though dry (8 grams per litre of residual sugar), it gives the impression of sweetness because of Honeycrisp apple, nectarine and citrus fruit notes.
With reds, Chile’s Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, $14.95, a $3 savings. It has great character and depth, with red currant notes, cedar, and an echo of tar, having spent 17 months in barrel. How about a winter barbeque?
Also $3 off at $16.45 is the Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon from California. This is fruit-forward, emphasizing dark berry and cranberry with moderate depth and supple tannins. Compare the two and decide which you prefer.
In Vintages, the popular Porcupine Ridge Syrah from South Africa is $12.95 instead of $14.95. Spice, smoke, herb and both red and dark berry fruit characteristics are at play in a wine with medium body and length.
As if the LTO options weren’t enough, the LCBO is also running a mini-blitz through February 1 featuring a handful of wines. One of these, Radio Boka Tempranillo, a great value at $10.95, will now sell for a mere $8.95. There is no winery; instead Nicholas Hammekin, a Dane, and winemaker Daniel Gimenez buy juice and rent space from existing wineries – in this case in Valencia. The wine is un-oaked, bright and lively, with raspberry, black currant, spice and a hint of chocolate.
Argentina’s Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015 is $4 off at $11.95. Decanter calls it “Textbook”, “blending soft creamy fruit with polished oak and butter-soft tannins” – 90.
February 4 Vintages Release
The bargain potential continues with this release, particularly with white wines. Check to ensure your store is carrying them, or put an order in.
If you like your rhino wearing a red sweater, Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2015, $12.95, from South Africa’s Western Cape is just for you. Vintages describes it as “fresh and airy with apple and peach tones” and suggests pairing it with fish in a cream sauce.
From Germany’s Pfalz region in the Rhine comes Schönlaub Pinot Blanc 2015, $12.95. Pure and fresh, it is lightly spiced and carries flavours of lemon-lime and pear. On the finish, a bit of pepper and mineral may be experienced.
Campania in Italy sends us Ponte Pellegrino Greco di Tufo 2015, $13.95. Similar examples of southern whites can run $18-$20, so this is quite attractive. A tasting note on godello.ca identifies good weight and intensity, with the suggestion of preserved lemon and beautiful evolved flavours. Not for aging, they say, so let’s drink it now.
Perfect for Valentine’s Day is B.C.’s Dirty Laundry Say Yes Pinot Gris 2014, $19.95. “Say Yes” circles the bottle in red script on a clear background, and the wine has lovely depth and a lanolin-like element giving it a creamy texture. Expect stone fruit and citrus. A winner of many gold and silver awards, this is appealing in every sense.
Back with its next edition is Kim Crawford Small Parcels Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc 2016, $24.95 an outstanding gold medal and trophy winner at the 2016 International Wine & Spirit Competition. Grapefruit? Did someone say “grapefruit”? One sip and your mouth is awash with a whole orchard, in particular ruby grapefruit with a sweet core developing down the middle. (The winery suggests “lemon meringue pie!) While there is no carbonation here, your mouth is almost a-tingle with the aftertaste, which goes on and on and on. If “Spitfire” is a reference to liveliness, then this delicious wine is perfectly named.
Along with its “Pure Malbec” on the LTO list (see above), Trapiche has two others on this release. The Finca Las Palmas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, $16.95, is described by Vintages as “lush and ripe with forward red berry, vanilla and wood-spice tones.” The Gran Medalla Malbec 2013, $25.95.
Decanter, says it is “sensationally vibrant with a velvety texture and a plethora of black fruits and violets lingering nicely.”(95!) It is tempting to buy this and compare it with the $11.95 model.
A similar comparison could be made between the Rhône’s Chateau D’or et De Gueules Les Cimels 2013, S15.95, and the Midi’s Chateau D’Anglés Grand Vin La Clape 2013, $28.95. Both are blends of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, with la Clape containing 55 per cent Mourvèdre.
The former bears a Wine Enthusiast 91. Expect “exquisite scents of grilled herbs…with ripe blueberries and roasted meat…open-knit and velvety”.
The latter is made by Eric Fabre, former wine director at Chateau Lafite Rothschild before establishing Chateau d’Anglés. With Lafite averaging around $700 a bottle, $28.95 could be considered a bargain. robertparker.com says it is an “elegant red that has gorgeous purity of fruit, a great mid-palate and fine tannin.” – 92.
From Italy’s Emila Romagna comes Moma 2014, S15.95, with a 2016 Mundus Vini Gold Medal. Like Toscana IGT wines, it is a Sangiovese, this time augmented with 10 per cent each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With a deep dedication to quality, Umberto Cesari has created a wine that tastes of raspberries and blackberries along with vanilla spice. Juicy and full, it has gentle tannins with a spicy finish of medium length.
Enjoy your bargains – I am sure I will.
Stokely Creek Wine Tasting, February 18, 5:00 P.M.
Some space remains for the Stokely Wine Tasting, but phone soon if you are interested. We will taste six exceptional wines, and fine hors-d’oeuvres will be presented to accompany them. Cost is $45 plus tax. To include dinner, the cost is just $65 plus tax, but space is limited. Call Stokely at 705-649-3421 to reserve. You can check out their website at www.stokely creek.com.