If your resolution this year is to drink better wine — without spending more money — here’s the road map to get there. Read on for eight exciting wines under $15 at the LCBO that could sell for more, starting with a brilliant $9 find.
While most whites under $10 taste dirty, dilute or shrill, the 2021 Mare di Sirena Pinot Grigio from Italy (LCBO $8.95) is none of those things. Instead, each glassful shines star-bright and swirls with pristine, delicate aromas of lemon zest with a touch of wet stone. The attack is brisk, satiny and dry with surprising mid-palate concentration, body and length. Flavours of lemon zest and grapefruit spiral in then taper off toward a lingering sea spray and cool mineral finish. Score: 93
A bottle that should be a bestseller but isn’t — yet — is the Thalia Sauvignon Blanc + Assyrtiko from Greece (LCBO $11.70). Having earned the respect of critics and connoisseurs, the Assyrtiko grape native to Greece can be excellent on its own or blended with other varieties, which is the case here. Flashing a pale sunlit straw in the glass and clocking a low 11.5 per cent alcohol, this bone-dry thriller shows restraint on the nose with hints of flint, lime and dried herbs. Then it streams in tasting luminous and lifted with everything found on the nose echoing on the palate, as well as a touch of green olive and a lime zest finish. Score: 92
From Portugal is the 2021 Julia Florista White Vinho Regional Lisboa (LCBO $8.95). This dry white blend of Fernão Pires and Arinto — two Portuguese varieties — erupts with easy, quenching, polished appeal. The flavours flit from juicy pineapple, mango and pear to delicate, fluttery notes of white flowers before leaving a long, salted grapefruit peel finish that scrapes that palate clean and leaves it nicely seasoned. Score: 92
If wooded Chardonnay is your pour of choice, snap up the 2020 Canyon Road Chardonnay from California (LCBO $9.95). This creamy white offers classic scents of buttered toast and roasted nuts before streaming in with baked apple and vanilla cream goodness laced with allusions of popcorn and praline. Tasting glossy, round and certainly well-made, this wine is not technically completely dry — each five-ounce serving contains about ½ teaspoon of sugar — but it’s very well-balanced with mouth-watering acidity. So it tastes dry and instantly appealing. Score: 91
Fans of Spanish reds will find joy in the 2020 Beronia Tempranillo from Rioja (LCBO $14.45). Expect heady aromas of blackberry, cherry, almonds and cream that lead to a smooth entry underpinned with just enough tension to hem in the ripe fruit. On the palate, blackberry-cherry purity engages the senses before toasted tobacco, roasted coffee bean, black olive and peppercorn nuances emerge and unfurl. Each mouthful is long with an attractive little tug on the finish that holds the fruit in place. This bone dry, full bodied wine is sophisticated tasting — and a bargain. Score: 92
Also dry but more medium-bodied is the 2021 Fairview Goats do Roam red from the Western Cape of South Africa (LCBO $14.45). This critic found this wine to be fabulous years ago, but it hasn’t been showing well — now it’s back to its fabulous old self. Each juicy-ripe sip beats with conviviality. Inspired by the wines of France’s Côtes du Rhône region, this blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault with splashes of Tempranillo and Durif offers layered flavours of black stone fruit and berries laced with charcoal, dark chocolate and grilled meat. Long too. Score: 92
For something brighter and more red-fruit driven, there’s the 2021 Porta 6 Vinho Tinto from Lisboa, Portugal (LCBO $13.95). It’s a blend of Tinta Roriz, Castelão and Touriga Nacional — three Portuguese grape varieties — and emits scents of warm violet, dried fig and pie crust before sweeping in and drenching the palate. Suave, mouth-filling goodness cascades with muddled figs and black raspberry jam before shifting with suggestions of cherry pie, black earth, violet and a sprinkle of pink peppercorn. Deliciously easy to drink. Score: 91
The last find is a here-today, gone-tomorrow Vintages release. Just 400 cases of the 2019 Boas Quintas Gandarada Dão DOC from Portugal (LCBO Vintages $14.95) arrive in stores January 21. Made from Portuguese Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz grapes, this impressive red packs equal parts power and finesse with its shifting interplay of flavour and texture. Expect to be drawn in by its poached plum and graphite fragrance and its plush, complex entry. Graphite, espresso, cassis, slate, cigar box and more unfurl with endless motion. This serious-tasting wine is sure to sell out. Score: 94
These wines are reminders that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a great-tasting wine. You just need to know which bottle to buy.
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