In this new monthly report, we feature the Top 50 wine values available at the LCBO. Over the past three months, WineAlign critic Steve Thurlow has tasted close to 800 wines to ensure that his reviews include the vintage of the wines currently available at the LCBO. The wines featured in this report are often referred to as General List wines and Vintages Essentials. This report does not cover wines that are released on a bi-weekly basis through Vintages. The average price of wines on this list is $9.50.
In this report I have selected those wines that score highest while also being the least expensive – the top wine values. Each month, as new wines arrive and wine prices change, this report will be updated so as to always reflect the Top 50 wine values. As one might expect Argentina, Southern Italy, Chile and South Africa appear often but there are value gems from France, Spain, Eastern Europe and USA. Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.
Below you will find 50 recommendations for value shopping at LCBO. Among those you will find four malbecs – this month’s feature. All are from Mendoza in Argentina. These are the current four best values for malbec at LCBO.
- Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2009
- Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Alta Reserve Malbec 2008
- Navarro Correas Los Arboles Malbec 2008
- Trapiche Malbec 2009
Let me focus your attention on a few more highlights: Farnese Negroamaro 2008 from Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, is the latest addition to the lineup from this value producer. It shows beautiful ripe berry fruit aromas with a lively palate ideal for pizza or meaty pasta sauces. Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio 2009, from nearby Abruzzo is one of the least expensive Italian pinot grigio at LCBO and one of the best; so popular that they are apparently having trouble keeping it in stock. Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from New Zealand is one of the most expensive in the Top 50 but it makes the list because it is especially good this vintage. The Errazuriz Estate 2008 Chardonnay from Chile is a bold mildly oaked style that is exceptionally well made for its price. Chile is making many great chardonnay; this is just the best value among several from that country. Argentina features frequently in the Top 50 with three wines from Trapiche.Trapiche Syrah 2009 is very well priced with herbal and black pepper complexity making it ideal for bbq meats.
The 50 wines are divided into four sections below, the links below will take you to the appropriate section:
Red – Light to Medium body
Red – Medium to Heavy body
White – Light to Medium body
White – Medium to Heavy body
In addition to writing for WineAlign, Steve Thurlow has been a contributor to Wine Access since 2001. He co-founded the International Value Wine Awards and every year judges at the Canadian Wine Awards, Decanter World Wine Awards and many other international competitions. Steve is the Education Director for IWEG, which delivers the WSET Education program in Ontario. WSET is accepted as the benchmark of wine education throughout the global trade. He runs Wine for Life which educates consumers and trade. Steve will lead wine exploration trips to Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and South Africa in 2011.
Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines
Ogier Heritages Cotes Du Rhone 2007 – France, $12.95 89pts
A delightful southern Rhone red; midweight juicy, fresh and fruity. Expect aromas of rosehip syrup, red cherry with some nutty complexity. Soft fruity palate with enough tannin and acidity for structure. Very good to excellent length. Try with roast pork or poultry. Best 2010 to 2014.
Mezzomondo Rose Sparkling – Italy, $11.80 88pts
A delicate rose pink with a fine mousse that persists for a long time. The nose shows raspberry fruit with floral and mineral notes and a hint of cranberry jelly. The palate is soft and seductive with delicate fruit and soft acidity. Very good length. Try with poached salmon; this is much more than a celebration wine.
Casal Thaulero Sangiovese 2009 – Italy, $7.45 87pts
Another great value from the south of Italy. Deep ruby colour with a lifted nose of ripe blackberry, field herbs, dark chocolate and well integrated oak. Medium bodied quite juicy with with firm, slightly metallic acidity on the finish. Fairly decent length for this price point. Try with pizza, meaty pasta sauces and sausages.
Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2008 – Italy, $8.95 87pts
New to LCBO this summer. Excellent value for a very drinkable soft clean Italian red for pizza, pasta and risotto. The nose shows cherry and plum fruit with some tomato leaf notes. It is soft and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and very decent length considering the price. Chill a little to give some edge. Best 2010 to 2012.
Cono Sur Merlot 2008 – Chile, $9.95 87pts
An excellent red for pizza and meaty pasta sauces or meat off the bbq. The nose is black cherry fruit with that distinctive sweet earthy Chilean tone, smoke and some beet vegetal notes. It is very juicy and flows well on to the finish. Good length. Best 2010 to 2014.
Farnese Daunia Sangiovese 2009 – Italy, $7.40 86pts
Very fruity clean and again a great buy for everyday drinking. The nose shows ripe black fruit with a spicy note and some earthy complexity. It is full bodied fairly simple on the palate with sweet ripe fruit though the finish is quite dry.
Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2008 – Argentina, $13.95 90pts
This wine has captured Italian vibrancy in a very classy way, so don’t buy this is you are looking for big fruit. Masi’s Argentine project continues to develop with the best vintage to date of this malbec corvina blend using semi-dried corvina grapes. The nose shows a complex mix of cassis with vanilla, cedar, forest floor and toffee notes. It is midweight very juicy with a solid structure from firm yet smooth tannin. There are no holes it keeps focus from nose to finish. Best 2010 to 2014. Try with roast beef.
Masi Serego Alighieri Poderi Del Bello Olive 2007 – Italy, $16.45 90pts
A very stylish stately red from Masi’s venture into Tuscany with Serego Aligheri. This family is directly descended from the poet Dante Aligheri who originally came from Tuscany before settling in the Veneto in the 15th century. The nose shows ripe black cherry fruit with smoky, jammy and floral notes. It is full bodied but very gentle with the palate juicy with soft acid and fine mature tannin.. Very good length. Best 2010 to 2015.
Farnese Negroamaro 2008 – Italy, $7.95 88pts
New to LCBO and probably one of the best values in Italian red. It shows excellent varietal character with ample extraction and good length. The nose shows spicy black cherry, with floral and citrus complexity. Full bodied juicy and vibrantwith some elegance and well balanced. Best 2010 to 2012.
Bodegas Castano La Casona Old Vines Monastrell 2007 – Spain, $8.70 88pts
This is 100% monastrell (mourvedre) from the exciting region of Yecla in Alicante, Southwest Spain. It comes from three dry-farmed vineyard sites ranging in age from 40-60 years. Deep purple with aromas and flavours of floral violet, black cherry, and blackcurrant. It is a medium-bodied, full-flavoured wine with ample sweet fruit, well balanced, with the fruit persisting well onto the finish. Best 2010 to 2013. Last tasted June 2010.
Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano D’abruzzo 2008 – Italy, $9.85 88pts
This is a very classy Italian red for the money. The nose shows prune and blackberry fruit toned down by some earthy leathery notes and warm spice. It is full bodied and stately with some fine tannin for structure. It would have scored higher with a longer more focused finish. Try with roast beef or a steak.
Cusumano Nero D’avola 2008 – Italy, $9.95 88pts
A rich ripe full bodied red from Sicily. Nero d’Avola is the principal native grape of the island. The nose shows ripe black berry fruit with some spicy and earthy complexity. Full bodied very juicy with the fruit nicely held by vibrant acidity. Very good length.
Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2008 – Chile, $10.95 88pts
A lot of flavour and structure for a wine at this price. The nose shows pure cassis fruit with some jammy notes, subtle oak spice and some leathery tones. It is full bodied with the ripe fruit balanced by some soft tannin and firm acidity. Good length. Try with a steak. Best 2010 to 2017.
Farnese Montepulciano D’abruzzo 2008 – Italy, $7.40 87pts
Deeply coloured, almost opaque. The nose is lifted spicy blueberry and licorice with some vanilla. The palate is full bodied, soft and dense with lots of fruit in quite an elegant package. Very good length. Try with roast meats. Best 2010 to 2013.
Mezzomondo Negroamaro Salento 2008 – Italy, $7.95 87pts
One of the best red values at LCBO. 2008 is another great vintage for this flavourful, fragrant red from Puglia. Redcurrant, raspberry fruit with plum jam aromas are nicely enhanced by some herbal and warm spice notes. It is midweight with the fruit well supported by some ripe finely divide tannin. Probably no one will, but this is a great cellar candidate since it will gain in complexity with a year or two in the cellar. Very drinkable now but best 2012- 2014.
Montalto Nero D’avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Italy, $8.95 87pts
A juicy vibrant red with a nose that shows red berry fruit with herbal and spicy notes. Midweight fruity and well structured with soft tannins and juicy acidity. Very good length. Well balanced except it is just a bit hot on the finish. Ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.. Best 2010 to 2014.
Obikwa Shiraz 2009 – South Africa, $8.95 87pts
Shiraz is South Africa’s most promising variety. Expect smoky herbal blackberry fruit with juniper and cocoa notes. It vibrant and fruity even if there is not a lot of finesse, with a fruity chocolate finish. It’s a great buy for bbq days. Good to very good length.
Trapiche Syrah 2009 - Argentina, $9.00 87pts
A fresh lively syrah with herbal and black pepper complexity to the blackcurrant blueberry fruit aromas and flavours. it is full bodied but juicy with soft lemony acidity and very good length. Try with bbq meats. Best 2010 to 2013.
Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2009 – Chile, $9.00 87pts
2009 is another great vintage of one of the best value reds at LCBO. It is a soft, very approachable young cabernet that is fruity with classic cabernet aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, juniper and black olive with just enough chocolate oak. Medium weight, sweetish and very smooth, with dry, velvety tannin and some herbal and mineral notes on the finish. Decent length at this price. Best 2010 to 2013
Trapiche Malbec 2009 – Argentina, $9.00 87pts
This is a well structured finely balanced wine at a great price. The nose shows blackberry fruit with some prune notes plus mocha and forest floor notes. Midweight and juicy with some refreshing well integrated acidity. Finely balanced and focused onto the finish. Good to very good length.
Two Oceans Shiraz 2009 – South Africa, $9.95 87pts
Amazing value. This is a soft, juicy, and fragrant shiraz from South Africa with aromas and flavours of ripe black raspberry fruit, with dark chocolate, black pepper, and pine. It is midweight well balanced with decent length considering the price. Best 2010 to 2012
Mcguigan Black Label Shiraz 2009 – Australia, $10.00 87pts
The 2009 is another good vintage for this well priced Aussie shiraz with lots of aroma and flavour for the money. Raspberry fruit with plum jam, warm spice and tea aromas lead to a midweight fruity well balanced palate. Good length. Maybe a bit overripe for some so chill a little.
Beaulieu Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – California, $9.95 87pts
This is great value in classic California cabernet for less than $10. Expect a fairly complex subtle nose of cassis, beets, gentle oak spice, with herbal and floral notes. It is midweight well balanced with some elegance and structure. Very good length with the fruit lasting well over some dry tannin.
Navarro Correas Los Arboles Malbec 2008 – Argentina, $10.00 87pts
Much improved over previous vintages with a lot of charm and flavour and a big price reduction. Expect fragrant red berry fruit with herbal and plum jam notes. The palate is approachable and there is a good edge with some bright fruit and soft tannin. Good length with enough structure to pare well with bbq meats; could even handle some mild spice. Best 2010 to 2013.
Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Alta Reserve Malbec 2008 – Argentina, $10.00 87pts
While Fuzion shiraz-malbec is good value and a runaway success story in Ontario, many don’t realize that for a couple of dollars more this 100% malbec from the same company delivers more structure, tannins and depth off flavour; such that this is where I go on the shelf. Expect blackberry fruit with notes of mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla and a hint of prune. Medium-full bodied with good length.
Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2009 – Chile, $7.45 86pts
This is a very correct cabernet sauvignon with recognizable varietal character on nose and palate and it is less than $8. It is simple with cassis fruit yet it is well balanced with decent length considering its price. Drink while young with roast meats.
Passion Of Portugal 2009 – Portugal, $7.45 86pts
This is yummy, fruity, youthful red for current consumption and is just as good as the 2006 vintage which hit the LCBO’s shelves before Christmas. A blend of tinta roriz (tempranillo), tinta barroca and pinot noir it shows clean fresh vibrant berry fruit on the nose and palate with juicy acidity and soft tannins. Not a lot of complexity but there is much more here than you would expect at this price. Length is good, enjoy slightly chilled. Best 2010 to 2011.
Domaine Boyar Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Bulgaria, $7.65 86pts
Domaine Boyar is one of the top producers in Bulgaria and makes a good range of very inexpensive yet well made varietal wines like this cabernet. The nose shows cassis and plum fruit with some spicy and jammy notes. It is midweight very soft with dry tannin on the finish. Good length.
Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2009 – Argentina, $7.95 86pts
This is amazing value for a well balanced fully flavoured fruity malbec. Lifted aromas of blackberry fruit with floral, herbal and jammy tones lead to a medium to full bodied palate with good length. This is more than a sipping wine; try with roast meats. Best 2010 to 2012
Concha Y Toro Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009 – Chile, $8.00 86pts
Bright ruby red in colour with an earthy dry cherry nose. Midweight juicy fruit over the top of some sourness which comes through on the finish. Vibrant, youthful and wild it needs taming with some hearty food. Best 2010 to 2011.
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – New Zealand, $16.05 90pts
This is classic Marlborough sauvignon which delivers on many levels for a wine at this price. Aromas of ripe green apple, with gooseberry and grapefruit plus some dry hay, ginger and mineral notes are very enticing. The palate is elegant with lively mouthwatering grapefruit acidity and midweight richness. It finishes as it starts, fresh and clean with very good to excellent length.
Bodega Francois Lurton Pinot Gris 2009 – Argentina, $11.00 89pts
Probably the best value white on the LCBO’s list. Ample fresh aromas of lemon marmalade, baked apple with smokey and mineral notes. Midweight and fairly rich yet nicely structured with some zesty acidity. Very good length and a very pure finish. Try with sauteed seafood.
Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009 – Chile, $9.00 88pts
A zesty fruity sauvignon for a great price with aromas and flavours of citrus, gooseberry and guava with hay and celery notes. The palate is rich and creamy with loads of flavour for the money and is well balanced with enough acidity to keep it flowing. Good length.
Cono Sur Viognier 2009 – Chile, $9.95 88pts
Fabulous value with lots of tropical fruit aromas and flavours well balanced by some firm acidity. Expect peach with floral orange and pineapple. Very good length with the fruit lingering for a while, ending up fairly dry.
Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – South Africa, $10.95 88pts
Excellent value in juicy sauvignon. The nose shows apple, melon fruit with a touch of grass and lemon citrus. Midweight and juicy with mouth-watering acidity and ample fruit. Good to very good length and well balanced. Try with roast chicken or veal or herby pasta dishes.
Trapiche Astica Sauvignon/Semillon 2009 - Argentina, $7.95 87pts
What a great buy this is for a semillon sauvignon blend; the basis of white Bordeaux. Loads of aroma and flavour for its price. Expect aromas of green apple, lemon and green pepper with celery and some hay notes. The palate is rich and creamy well balanced with good length. Perfect for cheesy pasta sauces or sauteed seafood.
Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio Osco 2009 - Italy, $8.50 87pts
Amazingly one of the least expensive Italian pinot grigio at LCBO is one of the best; so popular that they are apparently having trouble keeping it in stock. It is soft creamy flavourful, well balanced with good length. The nose shows subtle aromas of melon pear fruit, flavours which are repeated on the palate. Focus is well maintained onto the finish which is very long and lingering. This is more than a patio sipper, don’t overchill and try with seafood, mildly flavoured white meats and creamy pasta sauces.
Hardys Stamp Series Riesling/Gewurztraminer 2009 – Australia, $8.95 87pts
This off dry aromatic white shows well gewurztraminer’s characteristics of honeysuckle, lychee, orange and mild spice using riesling’s acidity to keep it in balance. It is midweight to full with good length.
Argento Pinot Grigio 2009 – Argentina, $9.95 87pts
A vibrant and fresh, quite rich pinot grigio, excellent value for its price. Expect lifted floral aromas with honey, pear and nutmeg. The palate is midweight very juicy and well balanced with a lemony end. Try with Thai food or creamy pasta sauces.
Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2009 – Portugal, $9.95 87pts
This is the vinho verde to buy at the LCBO; it the best of those on offer and is the most genuine being an ideal seafood wine that will be great with salty morsels sprayed with lemon juice. It is in a pretty light blue bottle and has deliberatively been made a little sparkling. This spritz lightens it on the palate. Expect aromas and flavours of lemon, mineral and green apple. The palate is creamy smooth with plenty of flavour and the finish is very long and refreshing. Bring on the oysters.
Concha Y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – Chile, $10.00 87pts
Excellent sauvignon with the fruit well balanced by some racy acidity. Expect aromas of green apple, gooseberry with lime citrus and asparagus. Midweight very dry with good length.
Rocca Ventosa Trebbiano 2009 – Italy, $7.15 86pts
A clean dry fresh white wine perfectly balanced for oysters or delicately flavoured seafood. Trebbiano is a very neutral grape and it is well done here with mild aromas of dry apple and flinty stone. It is midweight with delicate apple, melon fruit well supported by soft acid. Good length. What a great buy.
KWV Chenin Blanc 2009 – South Africa, $8.00 86pts
Chenin blanc was at one time the most widely planted grape in South Africa since it lends itself there to deliver high yields per hectare for making cheap wine. This wine shows that South Africa can make good inexpensive chenin with a good depth of flavour and well structured. The nose shows apple pear fruit with lemon and mineral notes. The palate is midweight with ripe fruit balanced by lemony acidity. Good length. Try with seafood or white meats.
Errazuriz Estate Chardonnay 2008 – Chile, $11.00 89pts
A very sophisticated elegant chardonnay for an amazing price. It is hand harvested and barrel matured all for less than $11. The nose shows ripe melon, pear, peach fruit nicely enhanced by some fragrant oak. The palate is midweight super smooth with a perfect balance between oak, fruit and acidity. Very good length. Use wherever you would consider fine white Burgundy.
Feudo Arancio Grillo 2008 – Italy, $9.95 87pts
I think that grillo, an indigenous Sicilian grape, is also probably its finest. It is normally used for creating rich whites which sometimes benefit from maturation in oak. This is a milder version with a soft, clean nose of pear, pineapple and mild spice. It’s medium weight, with a fleshy feel but a nice crisp, long dry finish. Try with mildly flavoured seafood or white meats.
Big House White 2009 – California, $9.95 87pts
What a great price for this is a delightful aromatic white from malvasia bianca, muscat canelli, viognier and rousanne. Expect honeysuckle, apricot, tangerine and pear aromas to soar from the glass, so don’t chill too much or you risk missing the full effect. The palate is nicely flavoured and well balanced and there is a long lingering finish. A great summer aperitif wine or for mildly spicy bbq seafood or white meats or Thai cuisine.
Argento Chardonnay 2009 – Argentina, $10.00 87pts
The 2009 again offers great value. It is more restrained and softer than previous vintages, a little classier and better balanced for food. The nose shows aromas of ripe apple, melon with melba toast and floral notes. The palate is midweight creamy and well balanced with the oak nicely integrated. Good to very good length. A great wine-by-the-glass pour don’t overchill or you might miss some of the nuances.
Fuzion Chenin Blanc Chardonnay 2009 – Argentina, $7.45 86pts
Great value for a summer drinking white with chenin blanc dominating the blend. It is unoaked with pear and honeysuckle aromas and flavours with some mild ginger spice. It’s light to mid-weight, dry, yet creamy with lots of ripe fruit. A lot going on for the money with good length.
Dunavar Muscat Ottonel 2008 – Hungary, $7.95 86pts
Muscat ottonel is a less aromatic version of the muscat grape common to central Europe. Expect mild floral and tropical fruit aromas not unlike viognier with herbal and lavender notes. It is quite rich well balanced with good acidity and good length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.