Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – March 2012 – Four Reds from Chile that Over-deliver

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Four red wines from Chile caught my attention at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival last week. All four are great value, as are all the wines on my Top 50 Value Wines list. There are eight wines that are new to the Top 50 list since last month. Read past the next four reds to find more bargains and then continue to discover how these wines are systematically selected.

The 34th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is the best wine lover event in Canada with a large range of wines, wineries and winemakers from all over the world. But more on that later.  Chile, which has long been known for value, was the 2012 theme region, and the source for my picks this month.

Four Reds from Chile

Cousiño Macul 2009 Antiguas Reservas Cabernet SauvignonMontes 2009 Classic Series Cabernet SauvignonCousiño Macul 2009 Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley $15.45
2009 is the best vintage for a while from this small excellent Chilean winery. It is very classy with a degree of elegance for which you would pay way more if it came from most other wine regions. It is still youthful with a tightly wound nose of cassis fruit with tobacco, dark chocolate, menthol and sage notes. It is medium to full bodied and sexy smooth with the ample 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 2013 to 2018.

Montes 2009 Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley $12.95
Great value for a well-balanced fruity cabernet. The nose shows cassis fruit with prune, menthol and leathery complexity. The palate is soft with ripe fruit plus good balancing acidity and soft tannin. It is full bodied but somehow seems lighter than that on the palate. Very good length. Easy drinking but not simple. Try with roast meats. Best 2012 to 2014.

Santa Carolina 2009 Carmenère Reserva, Rapel Valley $12.05
A well made juicy carmenère with the greenness often associated with this grape being well tamed. The lifted nose shows blackberry fruit with dark chocolate and soft spice with a nice touch of vanilla. The palate is juicy mid-weight and lively and the finish shows modest tannin and lots of juicy fruit. Very good length. Try with bbq and roast red meats, casseroles or mature hard cheese. Best 2011 to 2013.
Santa Carolina 2009 Carmenère Reserva

Casillero Del Diablo 2010 Carmenère, $11.95
The 2010 carmenère is again the best value among the Casillero del Diablo reds. It is quite complex for a wine at this price. The nose is very harmonious with red cherry, plum and raspberry fruit plus well integrated oak spice with dark chocolate, cranberry jelly and mocha notes. The palate is well balanced mid-weight and quite elegant with good focus and very good length. Try with roast lamb or beef. Best 2012 to 2014.
Casillero Del Diablo 2010 Carmenère

March 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.

New to the Top 50

Cono Sur Bicycle ViognierTrius Riesling DryCono Sur Bicycle Viognier 2010, Colchagua Valley, Chile $9.95
2010 is another great vintage for this splendid yet inexpensive wine from Chile. Expect lifted aromas of floral tangerine, baked peach with butterscotch and sweet herbal tones. The palate is very rich yet lively with some soft acidity balancing the big fruit. It finishes dry with the focus well maintained. Very good length. Try with mildly spicy white meat dishes or rich poultry. Don’t over chill or you’ll risk missing the best bits.

Trius Riesling Dry 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula $13.95
The 2010 riesling dry from Trius is a fine wine with good extraction and balance. Expect aromas of melon with beeswax, mineral and floral complexity. The palate is dry but very full with lots of fruit and very good length. It is elegant and stately with a zesty finish. Try with cheesy sauces, sautéed seafood or white meats.

Argento Chardonnay 2011, Mendoza, Argentina $9.95
A rich creamy chardonnay that delivers a lot for less than $10. Expect aromas of apricot with butterscotch and sweet herbal notes. The palate shows a good depth of flavour with the ample fruit well integrated with the oak and balanced by lively acidity. It is full bodied with very good length and finishes dry. Try with fish and chips. Chill lightly since it is very rich.
Argento Chardonnay

Why was I in Vancouver last week?

Every year, at about this time for the last 34 years, the world of wine has arrived in Vancouver for a week long festival encompassing dozens of events. The largest events feature all the wineries with grand tastings spread over three days but even that was not long enough for me to cover all that I wanted. In addition to the tastings there are many varied side events from wine dinners and wine grazing events plus seminars delivered by icons of the wine world. All are well done, being classy without being snooty and are delivered effortlessly with the help of an army of volunteers.

This annual event raises loads of money to support the Vancouver Playhouse, while allowing wineries to display their wines to consumers and the hospitality trade; all who attend have fun from this informative entertainment. If you love wine you should maybe consider spending a few days next year at this time and take a spring break in Vancouver at the festival. The theme region in 2013 will be California.

As I said above, the theme region this year was Chile with over 30 wineries in attendance. This week they proved to all those attending, I am sure, that their ‘El Cheapo’ reputation should be long forgotten. We have been mostly buying wines for less than $10 for decades despite Chile delivering quality wines at all price points. Anyone looking for value and quality should be spending time in this section of the LCBO or scanning the Chile section of any wine list. In addition to the four reds above there are another eight wines from Chile in the Top 50; so Chile takes 25% of the list. And there are hundreds more at


Steve Thurlow