Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – October 2012

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Three great reds from Chile and Six new wines to my Top 50 

Carmenère is probably the most improved red grape in the last 5 years. Until recently, this grape mostly made green tasting wines with strange aromas that even armfuls of oak chips could not cover up. However Chile’s talented grape growers and winemakers have now discovered how to make great wine from it; in some cases these days it’s the best wine of the winery.

Carmenère originates in Bordeaux, but since it is so late ripening, it has virtually disappeared from its home, where it never made good wine I am told. Plants mostly arrived in Chile labelled as merlot and many vineyards were planted with a mix of the two, which was disastrous for the wines sold as merlot. Today the two varieties have largely been separated in the vineyards, making the merlots better and often great carmenerès.

The French pronounce the grape car-men-ur but recently I have heard some Chileans pronounce it car-men-er-ay. They say it’s now their grape so we should say it the Chilean way and write it without the French accent. Take your pick.

There are three Carmenères on the Top 50 List. If you like cabernet sauvignon or merlot then you should like these. But check out the other 47 wines on my Top 50 Value Wines list, since all offer great value.

There are six wines that are new to the list since last month. Read past the next three wines to find more bargains and to discover how the Top 50 is systematically selected.

Carmen Carmenère Reserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile $10.95

Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2011

A fruity aromatic wine with pure blackberry and black currant fruit aromas and flavours. It is great value with a degree of elegance not common for such an inexpensive wine. There is some complexity to the fruit with cedar, tobacco and white pepper spice in the mix. Well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Best 2012 to 2015. Try with grilled meats.

P K N T Carmenère 2010, Central Valley, Chile $10.95

P K N T Carmenere 2010

This is a vibrant well balanced red with good varietal character. Expect earthy black cherry fruit with some warm spicy and tobacco notes. The palate is super smooth and full bodied with supple juicy fruit not at all spicy as might be suggested by the label. It is clean and fresh with very good length. Best 2012 to 2014. Try with mildly spicy bbq meats

Casillero Del Diablo Carmenère 2010, Chile $12.95

Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere

Carmenère is consistently the best value among the many Casillero reds. It is quite complex for a wine at this price point. 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 midweight and quite elegant with good focus and very good length. Try with roast lamb or beef. Best 2012 to 2014.

October 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

Six new wines arrived on the Top 50 list this month, including the Carmen Carmenère Reserva that I mentioned above.

I am just back from two weeks in Sicily and was again impressed by the white wines; pity there are so few on the LCBO shelves. Ideal ripening conditions produce bold yet fresh white wines with oak rarely necessary.

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2011, Sicily $8.95

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2011

A ripe fruity rich pinot grigio from sunny Sicilian vineyards. It is awesome value when compared to other more expensive dull examples on the LCBO shelves. Expect simple fruity aromas of ripe apple and melon with some floral and mineral tones. The palate is medium bodied and dry with decent length. Try with creamy pasta dishes or bbq chicken.

It seems only a few months ago I was heralding the arrival of the next wine so I was dismayed to see that it is already been discontinued. It is tough to survive on the LCBO shelves but the sale price gives a great buying opportunity while stocks last. There are around 2800 bottles at present.

Parducci Sustainable Red 2006, Mendocino County, California $11.95 was $15.45

Parducci Sustainable Red 2006

An easy drinking red blend of zinfandel, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and carignan from grapes that are grown using sustainable farming practices. The nose is nicely lifted and harmonious with ripe red cherry and strawberry fruit plus some gentle oak spice and a hint of lavender. It is midweight juicy with a degree of elegance. Finely balanced with very good length. Best 2011 to 2014. Try with roast or grilled meats.

The next wine is another recent listing that has also been discontinued. Nelson is next door to Marlborough at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. It is getting a reputation for riesling and this one is especially good. It’s now at a great price and there are over 1300 bottles in stock.

Trout Valley Riesling 2009, Nelson, New Zealand $9.95 was $11.95

Trout Valley Riesling 2009

Expect aromas of ripe pear and melon fruit with some mild spice and lemon citrus plus a hint of petrol quite common in riesling. It is off-dry midweight to full bodied with the fruit well balanced by acidity. Very good length. It finishes dry. Try with grilled shrimps.

Western Australia is known for producing fresh, cool climate, lightly oaked wines and again it is disappointing to this relatively recent new listing below also be discontinued. It was a great buy at $14.95 so grab a few at this price. Around 1800 bottles are in stock.

Xanadu Next Of Kin Chardonnay 2009, Margaret River, Western Australia $10.95 was $14.95

Xanadu Next Of Kin Chardonnay

A cool climate oaked chardonnay that delivers a lot for the money. The nose shows baked apple with butterscotch peach and oak spice. The palate is quite heavy with the oak becoming very evident on the finish. Very good length. Try with deep fried tempura.

My last highlight is a brand new listing at a great price that I sincerely hope will survive at the LCBO. Argentina is not renowned for chardonnay but there are a few special high altitude sites in the Uco Valley to the south of Mendoza that are well suited.

Finca El Origen Chardonnay 2010, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina $10.95

Finca El Origen Chardonnay 2010

An elegant gently oaked chardonnay that is one of the best values on the LCBO shelves. It is refined with mineral tones to the simple nose and palate aromas and flavours of melon and apple fruit. It is very smooth with the lightweight palate well balanced by vibrant acidity. Good length. Try with roast pork or mildly flavoured chicken dishes.

Steve's Top Value WinesTop 50 Value Wines at LCBO

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top50, 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 if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

It is very easy to do this. Click on Suggestions & Feedback or send an email to [email protected]. 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.


Steve Thurlow

Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir