It’s always nice to have a list of inexpensive tasty wines when you set off to the liquor store, but it’s even nicer during the holiday season. A good cheap bottle makes a lovely gift and can cost less than a coupon for three Big Macs. It’s also nice to have friends in high places, like my friend Greg Dunlop of the LCBO. Greg set up an exclusive tasting for me (the second in the past while) featuring a dozen good wines from around the world under $12. You may have noticed that his price limit is up from the sub-$10 bottlings we sampled a couple of months ago. Dunlop insists it’s worth the extra two bucks. “At the LCBO the $10 to $12 wines are the cream.” In fact he has some mighty good bottlings in there.
The following dozen wines chosen by Dunlop and his staff are lovely. They also back up the LCBO claim that the board is trying to elevate the quality of bottles available to General List consumers on tight budgets.
Trapiche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($11.95, score 90) is an intense Argentinian red with rich ripe blackcurrant fruit and wood violet notes. It’s sweetly ripe, grippy ad fresh with along fruit and tannin finish. It’ll be just the thing with strong cheese or seasoned meat and game.
Labet Cotes du Rhône Rouge AOC 2012 ($11.95, score 90-) is a nice introduction to southern Rhône Valley red wines with its bright black berry fruit and licorice and mineral notes. It’s fresh with velvet grip and a long astringent fruity finish. It would do itself proud with any roast bird or red meat.
Bodegas Castano Hecula 2011 ($11.80, score 89+) from the Yecla region in Spain is a Monastrell (the Iberian name for Mourvèdre) with sweet very ripe cherry and blackberry fruit with sweet and Asian spice. It’s uplifted with grippy velvet, deep rich ripe fruit, and a long drying fruity finish. It will take a fatty roast or any grilled meat.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2012 ($9.95, score 89+) is a sweet spicy balsamic Chilean white with stone fruit. It’s rich, crisp and creamy with lemon flavours joining in through a rich ripe finish. It can stand up to spicy Asian dishes and even sweet and sour chicken or prawns.
The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($11.90, score 89+) is a South African blend with mixed rich ripe deep berry fruit and intense farmyard notes. It’s a fruity mouthful with fine firm tannins, fresh acidity and a long finish. It will support lamb chops or steaks without breaking into a sweat.
Bersano Costalunga Barbera d’Asti DOC (vintage changes. $11.95, score 89+) is a classic Piedmont (Italian) wine. It’s sweet and ripe with fresh cherry fruit and sweet spices. It’s brightly fruited with an astringent finish and a bitter note. This is the stuff for pasta and pizza.
PKNT Carmenère 2012 ($10.95, score 89) is a Chilean red with warm fruit and vegetal and big barnyard notes. It’s finely grippy and fresh with fresh deep rich ripe red fruit and a chocolate note into a long finish. Try it with Tex-Mex cuisine, beef or lamb.
Argento Bonarda 2012 ($9.95, score 89), an Argentine entry crafted from an Italian grape, has an uplifted cherry berry nose with fine grip, medium weight, focused fruit and a long finish with a refreshing bitter note. This wine partners red or white meats to order.
La Croix d’ Azur Sauvignon Blanc ($11.85, score 89) from Gascony is an elegant grass and hay white with rich ripe gooseberry and grapefruit fruit and a lemon pith note It’s dry and long and would partner medium weight white fish or oysters nicely.
Cusumano Syrah (vintages change. $10.95, score 89) is brim-full of very ripe rich blackberry fruit with mineral notes. It’s like grippy velvet in the mouth with fresh acidity and a long finish. Try this Sicilian beauty with grilled meat, hard cheese or pasta with tomato sauce.
Les Volets Malbec 2011 ($10.70, score 88+) reflects its southern French origins in the mixed stewed and cooked black berry with mineral aromas. The tannins are very fine and ripe with fresh acidity to hold up the ripe black berry fruit which persists, rich deep and focused, through a long finish. Serve this with lamb stew.
Revolution Red ($10.95, score 88+) is a non-vintage big bold Californian blend with an
earthy mineral nose embellished with fresh and dried blackberry fruit. It’s fresh, finely grained and long in the mouth. It’s a natch match for burgers and sausages.
[Hear Dr. Wolkoff talk more about these wines on “Fresh Air,” CBC Radio One on Sunday December 16 between 8:00 and 9:00 am.]
Finally, a Canadian entry:Open Riesling 2012 Gewürztraminer VQA ($11.95) is aromatic and flavourful, a juicy-fruity combo of crisp Riesling and aromatic Gewurz with a touch of sweetness.