Welcome to expanded coverage of wines on the LCBO’s “General List”. Each month there will be a report on a regional or grape variety theme, a selection of new release recommendations, and an updating of Steve Thurlow’s Top 50 Value List. (We are very sorry about the inconvenience, but due to the postponement of a VINTAGES tasting and the very recent return of David and John from a trip to South Africa, VINTAGES Preview will be published Friday at about noon)
South America’s Fountain of Value
By Steve Thurlow
I have just returned from a two-week trip to Chile and Argentina leading a tour group that included many WineAlign readers. All were delighted by the quality and even more pleased by the value. At virtually every winery we visited there were at least two or three outstanding value wines. Quality is evident at all price points, but at less than $16 wines from these countries dominate the shelves at the LCBO for value.
For some time now, I have been visiting this region about twice a year. South America benefits from low labour and land costs and both places have weak currencies. In many cases wineries also have low capital costs due to infrastructure paid for a hundred years ago. They compete ferociously for market share and export revenue is very important. So costs and hence prices have always been low, while quality improves in leaps and bounds. Take advantage now since it may not last for ever.
I have updated my notes with the latest vintages, including nine highly recommended wines that have made it onto my Top 50 Values list (see more below). Use WineAlign to create and print your list of those available at your local store. Furthermore, thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available as of March 24th of all the wines below. And if you find yourself enjoying them over the next months, perhaps you might be tempted to join me when I return to South America with another group in March 2015? See www.stevethurlow.com
Top 50 White Picks
Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.95). This is a beautiful lightweight viognier with tropical fruit aromas with tangerine blossom, peach and baked apple fruit with spice and nutty tones. It is light to midweight with the fruit well-balanced by vibrant acidity. Great focus and very good length with a long fruity finish. Its terrific value. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled with party nibbles or at the table with poultry dishes or sautéed seafood.
Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Central Valley, Chile ($9.95). You get a lot of wine for your money with this juicy ripe sauvignon. It had a lively fruity palate with the passion fruit and pear fruit flavours finely balanced by soft lemony acidity. Very good length. Expect mild aromas of lime and melon fruit with mineral tones. Try with oysters or fresh goats cheese salad.
Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($11.95). A delicious lightly oaked chardonnay with a creamy lively palate. Expect aromas of melon, oak spice and lemon with toffee notes. It is very smooth on the palate with soft acidity which keeps it feeling light. It finishes dry and a little bitter with very good length. Try with white meats, creamy cheeses and seafood. Don’t overchill.
Amalaya Torrontés Riesling 2012, Salta, Argentina ($10.95). This is a complex aromatic white from the Salta region, in northern Argentina, which is the home of the aromatic indigenous torrontés grape. It is a blend of 85% of that grape with 15% riesling; the addition of which gives some zip to the mid palate and finish. Expect floral aromas of honeysuckle with ripe melon and canned pear fruit with ginger spice. The palate is mid-weight, rich and creamy with very good length. Enjoy as an aperitif or with mildly spicy Asian cuisine or rich seafood dishes. Delisted there are around 1000 bottles remaining.
Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Aconcagua Coast, Chile ($15.95). This is an exceptionally good sauvignon from the cool Aconcagua coastal region. Expect pure clean mineral aromas of green apple skin, nettle, dill and cucumber with lemon freshness. It’s light to midweight and well-balanced with very good to excellent length. Good focus. Try with poached fish with a tangy lemon dill sauce.
Top 50 Red Picks
Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45). A fruity aromatic wine with fresh black cherry and plum fruit aromas and flavours. It is great value with an elegant pure fruity, vibrant palate. There is some complexity with cedar, smoke and tobacco in the mix. Well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Best 2014 to 2018. Try with grilled meats.
Trapiche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($11.95). This is an opaque cabernet with none of cabernet’s greenness and a delicate nose. Expect aromas of blackberry fruit with some subtle oak spice, dark chocolate and a hint of black olive. It finishes dry with the fruit balanced by acidity and fruit. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2016.
Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.00). This is a finely balanced cabernet with complex aromas and flavours. Expect violets, blackberry and prune fruit with mild oak spice and some earthy tones. It is medium to full-bodied with a balanced finish and mild tannin. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2020.
Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile $13.95 until March 30th was ($15.95). Cousino Macul has been making Antiguas Reservas for decades and it keeps getting better. Still very youthful, this is a cellar candidate that’s fine now but even better if you decant for an hour or so before serving. It is very classy with a degree of elegance rarely found in such an inexpensive wine. The nose is youthful with the cassis fruit aromas complicated by tobacco, dark chocolate, menthol and herb notes. It is medium to full-bodied and very smooth with the ripe fruit balanced by soft acidity with a little dry tannin giving some grip to the finish. Very good length. Will develop more complexity with a few years in the cellar. For now, decant for an hour and enjoy with a steak. Best 2014 to 2020.
New Releases on the LCBO General List (GL)
Here are recently encountered new releases worthy of note; sometimes for quality, sometimes for value, or because they add something new to the mix. Click on the links to see reviews by WineAlign critics.
New GL Whites
Wayne Gretzky 2012 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ($13.95). This is a great buy with real Niagara nerve and authentic riesling persona. Low alcohol is key to its buoyancy.
Riverview 2012 Gewürztraminer Angelina’s Reserve, Niagara River ($18.95). This big, buxom and almost blowsy gewürz has been turning heads, and not just in this vintage. Alsatian gewürz fans should have a look.
Hugel 2012 Sylvaner, Alsace, France ($14.95). Always under-stated and often under-rated dry Alsatian sylvaner is offer an ideal backdrop to subtle fish and pork creations – and asparagus.
New GL Reds
Louis Latour 2011 Gamay, Burgundy, France ($18.95). Here’s a rare French gamay this is not from Beaujolais. Not a world beater but interesting for fans of this increasingly popular light red.
Michel Lynch 2011 Merlot, Bordeaux, France ($16.95). This is a decent, mid-weight fairly fleshy Bordeaux merlot (100%) from a well-regarded negociant. A but more charm than other basic Bordeaux.
Bellingham 2012 Big Oak Red, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.80). This is a fairly hefty, good value shiraz cabernet blend named for a tree on Bellingham’s property, not necessarily length of time in oak barrels.
Goats in Villages 2011 Shiraz Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95). This over delivers for the money – a fairly rich, smooth yet not soupy blend that captures syrah pepper and pinotage acidity and curranty fruit.
Bodega Volcanes 2012 Summit Cabernet Syrah, Rapel Valley, Chile ($10.95). Decent value for an approachable, youthful and smooth fruit centred red. Chill a bit.
Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines at LCBO
There are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so VINTAGES Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. 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.
Once you have tried a wine, you can use the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to agree or disagree with our reviews. Or better yet, you can add your own review and join our growing community of user reviewers. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf, or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. It is very easy to do this. Click on Update This Wine or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.
Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!