Lucky for us! The LCBO Vintages Release Sept 4 2021 features top-value wines!
So… I asked myself how I could add value if the LCBO buyers had already done the work. And the answer was – a lot of wines are considered good value if the score in the 86-90 range and are a reasonable price. If that price is under $20 or well under $20 then people get excited.
Having said that, if you are looking for an easy drinking, relatively-true-to-style wine any of the recommendations are a safe bet. What I did was research various reviewers for the good value recommendations along with a few others that I thought might show well. So my value add is – I can help sort out the wines that are truly a cut above from the others -cheap and cheerful as they may be!
The value wines offered in this release also offer a great chance to try some new wines or regions at a very reasonable price. So.. I have a special section this edition – Expand Your Palate to highlight some good examples of grapes that may be less known to us but may be the signature grapes of a certain region.
Bodegas Barbadillo Pastora Manzanilla Pasada (Note -375 mL bottle) VINTAGES #: 515965 $17.95 Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain is a dry sherry, aged in cask seven years so it is a bit fuller bodied than a Fino or straight Manzanilla but less rich than an Amontillado or Oloroso. This one got a Platinum -Best in Show: Best Value Dry Fortified in Decanter World Wine Awards, 2017. (Gold winners are retasted and some are promoted to Platinum level; Best in Show is the ultimate award given in a category; Best Value is added if the prices is less than 15 British pounds.) Expect fruit and apples notes with orange tones and nutty aromas. Serve slightly chilled and enjoy with a platter of dried apricots, roasted almonds, light cheese with compote toppings. (It is also great in recipes!)
An Ontario value offering in Featherstone Rosé 2020 VINTAGES#: 117861 $15.95 Ontario, Canada. Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com give it a 92 and describes delicious strawberry, cherry cordial and some spice. Another one you can enjoy on its own or pair with shrimp, fresh mozzarella or light luncheon salad.
Henry of Pelham has a Riesling Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2019 VINTAGES#: 557165 $19.95 Ontario, Canada that gets 90 from Michael Godel of the the discerning Wine Align folks. Expect generous fruit in the aromatics and rich, ripeness on the palate. Enjoy on its own or pair with light appetizers, chicken or paté. Will also cellar and evolve till late 20’s.
Australia’s contribution to value is Wakefield Clare Valley Estate Chardonnay 2019 VINTAGES#: 71155 $16.95 South Australia, Australia. For well under $20 you can expect exotic spices and caramel on the nose and a medium -bodied creaminess on the palate. Among many superlatives Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com also describes melon, ripe pear and lemon chiffon pie. Scores range from high 80s to 92. Enjoy with dry rubbed pork chops, roast chicken, or think ahead to your Thanksgiving table.
New Zealand has two Sauvignon Blancs worthy of consideration. Toi Toi Sauvignon Blanc 2016 VINTAGES#: 454785 at $17.95 rates 89-94 and is ripe and intense with passionfruit, fig and lime aromas over a concentrated and flavourful palate. For a few dollars more Whitehaven Greg Single Vineyard Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019 VINTAGES#: 325944 $23.95 clocks in at the 91-95 range and also offers concentration with guava, citrus notes offset by grapefruit, green pepper, tomato lear and a bit of flintiness. Either one would be great with Vichysoisse, arugula salad, salmon or herbed quiche.
One of my favourites in this release! Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera d’Asti 2018 VINTAGES#: 265413 $15.95 Piedmont, Italy is an easy drinking medium-bodied red. Expect tangy-cherry notes and nice balance. This goes particularly well with lasagne or Fennel with Sausage Pasta. I am stocking up on this one because really- it goes with pretty much anything, burgers, pizza, risotto….
Any time I see Schild Estate wines I make a beeline for them. So I will be looking for Schild Estate Shiraz 2017 VINTAGES#: 66555 $19.95 South Australia, Australia. James Halliday gives this vintage a 95 and describes lots or red and dark cherry with modest oak and good balance. It made Wine Companions Top 100 Wines of 2019. Enjoy with BBQ ribs, steaks or robust cheeses.
Saint-Roch wines are another good bet for consistently over-delivering for the price. Saint-Roch Vieilles Vignes Syrah/Grenache 2017 VINTAGES#: 195107 $16.95 Roussillon, France is a steal at this price. Hovering around the 90 score mark it is a smooth drinking full-bodied pour with ripe blueberry, cassis and spices. A great choice to go with BBQ ribs, short ribs, or steaks.
Expand Your Palate
Carmenère is Chile’s signature grape and is routinely available at the LCBO but frankly, you don’t see it much on restaraunt wine lists or at parties. The grapes were mistaken for Merlot grapes for many years. So… it is similar to Merlot in the red and black fruit department and body. What sets it apart is a distinctive green pepper note amidst that fruit. In more refined examples the green pepper and herbaceous notes may recede and give way to sweeter fruit, smoother tannins and some subtle chocolate.
Montes Alpha Carmenère 2018 VINTAGES#: 143230 $19.95 Colchagua Valley, Chile. This example is scoring consistently in the 90-93 range. James Suckling calls this one slightly austere but fresh and really delicious with some woodsy character, some minerality, black olives and dried herbs. Try this instead of a Cabernet dominated Bordeaux with steak, roast, cheesy pizza with olives and green peppers!
Burgundy is famous for Chardonnay – cool climate crispness in the north and richer and more full-bodied in the warmer south. Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon-Uchizy 2018 VINTAGES#: 733956 $18.95 is a chance to try a Mâconnais style Chardonnay. Expect rich aromatics, ripe orchard fruit and some trademark minerality along with refined elegance and balance typical of this region. Pair with rich soft cheeses, roasted chicken, turkey, Pork Stroganoff or rich, caramelized Clay Pot Pork.
Haut-Poitou is a Loire region where the chalky, clay soils produce rather elegant, subtly herbacous Sauvignon Blancs. Calvet Haut-Poitou Sauvignon Blanc VINTAGES#: 18566 $16.95 is a chance to try a ‘little sister’ to a Sancerre at a fraction of the price. Bright acidity with citrus and herbal undertones make this a great choice for scallops, grilled fish, grilled vegetables or a light salad.
Italy has a myriad of white wine varietals that many of us don’t regularly take advantage of. If you are looking for a rich, aromatic white consider Le Morette Mandolara VINTAGES#: 17768 $17.95 from Lugana, Italy. Made from the Turbiana grape, expect it to have slightly floral white orchard fruit with toasty notes and bit of herbalness on the nose. The palate is elegant with white peach, green lemon and citrus, ending with hints of almond according to Kerin O’Keefe of Wine Enthusiast. Consistently rating in the low 90s this is a great example to explore the wines of Lugana.