Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – February 2012 – Four New Reds that Over-Deliver

Steve Thurlow Attention bargain hunters! Four new red wines recently arrived on the LCBO shelves have caught my attention and jumped straight into my Top 50 Value Wines list. Overall there are 17 wines that are new to the Top 50 list since last month. Read beyond these four great buys to find even more bargains, and then discover how these wines are systematically selected.

Vidal Fleury 2009
, Cotes Du Rhone, France $14.95
An elegant soft Cotes du Rhone with a very appealing nose of blackberry fruit with tobacco, fig and floral complexity. It is midweight and very smooth with some finely divided tannin giving nice mouthfeel. Well balanced with very good length. Will develop more complexity with a year or two in the cellar. Best 2013 to 2016. Try with roast meats or brie cheese.
Vidal Fleury 2009

Veedha Red 2008, Douro, Portugal $12.95
This is an elegant, fresh, clean red from the Douro Valley in Portugal made with the same grapes used to make Port. The nose is very fragrant with ripe blackberry fruit, vanilla, honeysuckle and dark chocolate aromas. It is medium bodied, well balanced and quite charming with very good length. Try with roast meats or hard mature cheese. Best 2012 to 2015.
Veedha Red 2008

Caldora Sangiovese 2010, Terre Di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy $9.95
A fruity, very pleasant sangiovese from the south of Italy. It shows correct aromas of raspberry fruit, with some spice and earthy tones. It is midweight juicy and very fresh with good to very good length. Best 2012 to 2015. Will work with a wide range of meats and cheeses.
Caldora Sangiovese 2010

Curious Fruit Carignan Grenache 2009, Vin De France $9.95
A nice well balanced red made from Carignan and Grenache, grapes that are the basis for many wines from the south of France. Expect mild aromas of blackcurrant jello with some oak spice tones. It is midweight with good depth of flavour. Well balanced with fine tannin and nice vibrant acidity. Very good length. Try with grilled lamb cutlets. Best 2012 to 2016.
Curious Fruit Carignan Grenache 2009

February Top 50 Values List

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. The selection process is explained in more detail below, but I review the list every month to include newly listed wines and monitor the value of those put on sale for a limited time. An unprecedented 17 wines joined my Top 50 list this month.   Go herefor all the reviews and a searchable list.

Less than $9

Pasqua Sangiovese 2010, Puglia, Italy (1500ml) $12.85
For less than $6.45 for a bottle (750ml) this is a fine Italian red that will work well with tomato based sauces. The nose shows cherry fruit with some herbal and spice tones. It is very juicy with a lot of flavour for such an inexpensive wine. It is fairly simple but is well balanced with good length. Best 2011 to 2014.
Pasqua Sangiovese 2010

Obikwa Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
, South Africa $8.95
A youthful bright cherry red with delicate berry aromas and lots of flavour. Expect mild aromas of earthy black cherry with jam and leathery tones. The palate is juicy with soft red fruit and fine tannin and there is good length. It finishes dry and needs a juicy hamburger or maybe some sausages. Best 2012 to 2014.
Obikwa Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina $8.25
This is a simple, fruity wine which with a slight chill is quite drinkable. Expect prune and blackberry fruit with spicy and jammy nuances, there is not much tannin and its a bit flabby so that is why it will benefit from modest chilling before serving. It is clean pure and quite quaffable with decent length considering the price. Best 2012. Try with pizza or a ham and cheese sandwich.
Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2011

Less than $16

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand $15.95
This is consistently the best value in sauvignon blanc from Marlborough at LCBO. It is classic Marlborough sauvignon and delivers on many levels for a wine at this price. Aromas of lemon and ripe green apple, with some dry hay, ginger and mint notes are very appealing. 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.

Sterling Vintner’s Collection Merlot 2009, Central Coast, California, $15.00
A vibrant juicy merlot with very subtle oak treatment that’s a step up from the 2007. It is fresh and pure with aromas of blackberry and blueberry fruit with chocolate and floral hints. It is medium to full bodied and well balanced with lively acidity and just enough firm tannin to give some grip to the finish. Very good length and focus. Try with a steak.
Best 2012 to 2015.
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2011Sterling Vintner's Collection Merlot 2009

Less than $18

Lenswood Hills Pinot Noir 2010, Adelaide Hills, South Australia $17.35
A fruity juicy pinot with a degree of elegance not often seen at this price point. Expect aromas of red cherry with raspberry plus some subtle oak spice and a touch of pine. It is midweight and very fruity with the ripe fruit well balanced by acid and tannin. It finishes with a little spicy heat so would be best served slightly chilled. Very good length. Try with smoky duck breast. Best 2012 to 2015.

Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2009, Alsace, France $17.00
Another excellent vintage for this classic gewurz from Alasce. Expect aromas of lychee and orange blossom with a sage herbal tone plus lemon marmalade with floral complexity. The palate is rich with the fruit well balanced by firm acidity. Very good to excellent length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.
Lenswood Hills Pinot Noir 2010Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2009

Why does the Top 50 change so often?

The LCBO is constantly renewing the list of wines available in their stores. Often as many as five new wines arrive each week and as a consequence as many as five are discontinued. They have become much better in the last couple of years at this task of bringing in better new wines and retiring lesser quality ones. So that is one reason why so many wines keep getting added to my Top 50.

Another reason for changes to the Top 50 is that new vintages of existing listings arrive refreshing the stock of wines on the shelf. Since so much wine gets sold in November and December, it is at this time of the year that many new vintages appear. In some cases there is little change when the 2010 replaces the 2009, especially with wines from warmer climates where vintage variation is less noticeable. Wines from cooler regions like northern France, Ontario and northern Italy are much more susceptible.

When a new version of a wine arrives that is better the wine may join the Top 50. The reverse is also true. So when the new vintage or batch that arrives is not as good a wine can fall out the Top 50.

This is a trait that the buyers at the LCBO and LCBO customers are well aware of, since it applies to many products and services. A winery may have an exceptionally good vintage or decide to put higher quality wine into a particular batch. They are delighted when that wine is bought by the LCBO and launched as a new product. Furthermore when reviewers like me praise the wine and customers buy it enthusiastically they are very content. However the next vintage may not be as good or subsequent batches when blended do not receive so much of the best wine leading to a decline in quality. Sales should be affected, my new review should not be as favourable and the LCBO buyers and quality assurance team should notice and take action; but all this takes time. Meanwhile lots of the inferior wine is bought.

So I encourage you to pay attention to the vintage you are buying and consult the Top 50 since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews tell us please why we got it wrong and also if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since we all like to hear when we are doing a good job.

There’s an easy way to do this at the bottom of any WineAlign page:

Suggestions and Feedback

Click on Suggestions & Feedback or send an email to [email protected] .

How I Chose the Top 50

I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. You can easily find my all Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

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.

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.


Steve Thurlow