Under $10Friday, October 04, 2013 by: Vin Greco
Wine writer John Szabo in his initial take on the next Vintages release (October 12) is highlighting Barolos and Burgundies in the $40 to $55 range, and Napa Valley Cabs retailing for $84 to $138 per bottle – though he does centre out one, Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $39.95, 12 bottles of which are destined for the Sault.
“Wouldn’t it be loverly,” as Eliza Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady, if wines like these were reasonably in all our budgets.
As they aren’t, and as we have no idea whether economic catastrophe is just around the corner as the Tea Party plays “Silly Buggers” in the American Congress this week, I thought it might be a useful exercise to look at wines that are currently under $10 at the LCBO, specifically those on Limited Time Offer until October 13.
First off, J. P. Chenet Chardonnay, currently $9.95, is a “no brainer” winner.
This French wine shows pineapple and peach/apricot flavours, and has been described as “deliciously drinkable.”
Fazi- Battaglia Verdicchio di Castelli Jesi, also $9.95, has been a go-to Italian white for ages. It is smooth, clean and refreshing, with a pleasant “bitter almond” note on the finish.
Australia’s Lindemans has perennially placed its Bin 65 Chardonnay on the Wine Spectator’s “Best Buy” list, but it is the Bin 85 Pinot Grigio, again $9.95, which is featured, offering apple and pear, with a smooth mid-palate and some crisp, peach-like notes at the end.
Compare this to Argentina’s Argento Pinot Grigio, $8.95, with similar characteristics as the Lindemans.
Ontario’s Pelee Island Winery has long been known for producing good value wines, and this may be reflected in its having 59 listings at the LCBO, including the following.
While described as dry, the Blanc de Blanc Vidal Riesling, $ $9.45, actually has 17 grams per litre of sugar, which suggest off-dry to me: this could be a good wine to pair with lightly spiced Asian dishes.
A somewhat drier wine, the Vidal Hibernal, $8.45, a blend of two hybrid grapes, shows decent stone-fruit notes and is light to medium bodied.
With Pelee’s red Shiraz Cabernet, $ 8.45, the Shiraz component is imported, and the wine is recommended to accompany spicy foods.
Pelee Island is also featured with a couple of sweeter reds, which puts them in a category that is growing in appeal, especially among younger drinkers.
The Moscato Red, $9.45, with 33 grams per litre is certainly far from dry, and while it doesn’t sing to me, I’m sure there are customers who would love it.
Pelee’s Pebbles Baco Gamay Zweigelt, $8.45, is less sweet, and a combination of varietals that usually are lighter and fruitier in character.
It’s a red that would work when you are thinking “off dry white” – in other words, with roast pork or turkey: be adventurous!
Vincor or Constellation Brands has its own off-dry champions which would invite comparisons with the above, Bodacious Smooth Red and White, both offered at $9.95.
With more traditional reds, there are a couple of dependable examples from South America.
The Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir, $9.95 is one of the best values around for that particular grape, showing true varietal character in a medium to lighter style.
The PKNT (or “picante”) Cabernet Sauvignon, again $9.95, is probably one of the bigger wines in the price range, with good dark berry fruit and soft tannins.
With wines like these, we ought to be able to weather a recession – and be quite happy in the process.
For the up-coming Vintages release of October 12, there are certainly wines worth trying, and even here you don’t have to break the bank.
Three chardonnays from the southern hemisphere promise good drinking and good value, from $13.95 to $16.95 respectively.
The William Fèvre Espino Chardonnay 2011 is the least expensive, and while oak doesn’t seem to play a big part, flavour does, with ripe fruit and intensity.
Chile’s Finca La Escondida Reserva Chardonnay 2012, $14.95, shows good tropical fruit and vibrant acidity, too.
I have long admired Graham Beck wines from South Africa, and The Game Reserve Chardonnay 2010 received 4 stars from the reliable Platter’s South African Wine Guide which considers it “fresh” and “mouthfilling”.
Three whites from Alsace are slightly more expensive, $15.95 to $20.95, but each is intriguing in its own right; all are described as “aromatic and flavourful” and all will have that fruity fullness and flinty dry finish we expect from the region.
While the Domaine Rieflé Côte de Rouffach Pinot Gris 2009, is at the high price point, it will have that rich Pinot Gris flavour we enjoy, and the Pierre Sparr Réserve Muscat 2011 at the low end will certainly please for the price, it is the Rudisbourg Klevener de Heiligenstien 2011 for $18.95 which captures my attention, featuring the little seen Savagnin Rose varietal.
Similar to Gewurztraminer, it is less aromatic and has more acidity: this version is “juicy, smooth and focused” according the Vintages.
The white wine with the biggest attraction for me is Domanie Lafage Cuvée Centenaire 2011, $17.95 from the Côtes du Roussillon.
Giving it a 92, Robert Parker Jr. compared it to a”serious white Hermitage...with fresh, full-throttle flavours”
While there are some very good Australian Shirazes and Cabs, I am more interested in theTessellae Carignan Old Vines Côtes du Roussillon 2011, $18.95, another Parker rave which he likens to a Côtes Roti – at a price that went by the boards 40 years ago.
He calls it “beautiful, soft, round...and seductive”.
A wine for cellaring, perhaps, is Mont Tauch Le Tauch Fitou 2010, $18.95, from the Languedoc region.
This is a big wine worth cellaring, with black fruit and herbal notes and significant tannin.
A great buy in Bordeaux is Chateau Canteloup 2010, just $15.95, with an excellent two stars from the Guide Hachette. Drink now or cellar for more than 5 years, after which the dark fruit and toasty flavours will be magnificent.
If you need a California fix, then Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2011, $21.95, won’t disappoint, with its polish and balance, and its suggestion of red fruit, caramel and fig on the palate.
With these reds, we can be well prepared to weather whatever the seasons decide to throw at us.