With the Yuletide behind us, we tend to sit back a little in January and re-assess as we enter the new year. For some it’s a time of resolutions, for others, it’s business as usual. For many, it’s a time when we think of doing with a little less, especially as the bills start arriving after the holiday.
The LCBO and its Vintages programme certainly seem to take that into consideration, as the January 5 release was named the “Smart Buys” issue. The featured wines were for the most part under $20 with high scores from critics. A few flew off the shelves, but some remain available.
Personally, if a really good wine is under $15, I consider it a decent value. Great buys are wines that really over-deliver for the price, even though that price can be generally in the $20 to $30 range.
L.A.Cetto offers its Petite Sirah for $11.95. This, perhaps the only Mexican winery whose wines are occasionally found in the LCBO, is in the Baja region on the northwest coast. It’s a dark wine, with dark fruit emphasized, but relatively smooth and juicy. The companion Cabernet Sauvignon is being released on January 19, also for $11.95.
From South Africa, the Bellingham Chardonnay with a Splash of Viognier 2010, $13.95, is quite highly rated, getting 3 of 4 stars in ”Platter’s South African Wines 2011”. They attribute aromatic spice to the Viognier, and a rich waxy tone to the chardonnay in this vibrant white wine.
The Great Torres family of Spain offers its Muscat based Vina Esmeralda 2011 for $13.95. This white wine will be aromatic and crisp.
For an unusual white, try the Jean Geiler Chasselas from Alsace, $13.95. Chasselas is usually used in blending, but here’s a chance to try it all on its own from a good producer.
Argentina’s Dieter Meier Puro Corte 2010, $16.95, is a blend of equal parts of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The tasting notes from erobertparker.com, which gave it a 90 and called it an outstanding value, describe a “rich succulent wine with layered flavours (and) a velvety texture”.
Coto de Hayas winery is in the very dry Aragon region of Spain. Its Centenaria Garnacha (Grenache) 2011, $17, fits in the LCBO’s “medium bodied and fruity” category. Spanish critics rate it highly, and the Vintages panel remarks on its concentration, dryness and balance.
For a richer, fruitier tasting wine, Small Gully Mr. Black’s Little Book, $17.95,is a fruit bomb from the Barossa Valley in Australia, with good acidity and tannins offsetting the ripe fruit. While lower in alcohol than its 15.9% companion wine, The Formula Robert’s Shiraz,, it is still clocked at 15.1%. Hot enough!
Alternatively consider the Zonte’s Footstep “Baron Von Nemesis” Single Site Shiraz 2009, $17. (How do the Aussie’s come up with these names??) Harvey Steiman, Editor at Large for the Wine Spectator, praised its exotic fruit flavours which “billow easily on the long finish”, and gave it a 92. (It has !4.5% alcohol.)
On the regular list, don’t overlook the South African Petit Chenin Blanc by Ken Forrester. Fresh with exotic fruit and citrus, it is worth trying at $12.95
35˚ South Organic Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot is currently $2 off at $10.95 You’ll find a clean wine with some earthiness, and a good value.
Zonin is a reliable, big producer from the Veneto. Its Ripasso is currently $14.60, also a $2 saving. It will have a bouquet of cherry and chocolate, with good persistent flavours.
I think your budget ought to have room for a few of these! Enjoy.