Steve’s Go-To Six from the LCBO Top 50 Value Wines – Dec 2012

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Like most wine writers I am often asked “what is your favourite wine?”. Usually I reply that I have many and refer the curious to the thousands of wines I have reviewed on WineAlign. However I do have a few “go-to” wines that I often drink at home. So as a Holiday special I have picked six of my favourites that you too can enjoy in the days and weeks ahead – a pair for your Holiday turkey, another pair of party wines, and finally a duo for those hearty winter meals.

Please also check out all the rest of the wines on my Top 50 Value Wines list, since all offer great value. There are four wines that are new to the list since last month. Read beyond my go-to’s to find more values, and to discover how the Top 50 is systematically selected.

Roast Turkey Dinner

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir A red and a white that are both delicious and will be perfect with a roast turkey dinner.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2011, Central Valley, Chile $10.95

This wine is consistently one of the best values in inexpensive pinot each vintage. The 2011 is an excellent straight forward pinot noir that does what a pinot noir should do: put a happy smile on your face. It is ruby-red in colour with complex (for this price) aromas of red cherry and raspberry fruit with some spice, smoke and herbal notes. The palate is mid-weight with the fruit supported by acidity and mild tannin. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very yummy. Match with roast turkey, cold roast beef or baked salmon. Very good length.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile $11.95

A delicious, hardly oaked, chardonnay with a beautiful creamy lively palate. Expect a lifted nose of complex aromas of peach, melon and grapefruit with honey and toffee notes and a hint of oak spice. It is rich and creamy on the palate with lovely soft lemony acidity which keeps it feeling light. It finishes dry with very good to excellent length. Try with white meats, creamy cheeses and seafood. Don’t overchill.

Party Wines

We all need to have wines in stock at this time of the year for when guests drop in for a drink and a nibble, or for planned parties where we need lots of wine to supplement what is brought as gifts. You can never have enough of these two in stock in my opinion.

Trapiche Reserve SyrahCono Sur Bicicleta ViognierTrapiche Reserve Syrah 2010, Mendoza, Argentina $11.95

A soft juicy syrah with aromas of blueberry and blackberry fruit plus dark chocolate and vanilla notes. It is midweight and creamy smooth with the fruit flavours balanced by soft lemony acidity and gentle fine tannin. Good to very good length. A very classy wine at a great price. Sip on its own or try with grilled meats or strongly flavoured cheese. Best 2013 to 2015.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile $9.95

Lifted tropical fruit aromas give a great start to this wine with orange blossom, baked apple, ginger and nutty complexity. It is medium to full bodied and very rich with the fruit well balanced by vibrant acidity. Very good to excellent length. It’s terrific value. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled with party nibbles or at the table with rich poultry dishes or sautéed seafood.

Stews, Casseroles, Steaks and Roasts

Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet SauvignonFarnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano D'abruzzoAs it gets colder, we tend to eat more hearty red meat dishes; so some reds for the table will be needed over the Holidays.

Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2010, Abruzzo, Italy $9.95

There is a lot going on in this Italian red for under $10. The complex nose shows black berry fruit, toffee, plum jam with mild oak spice, hints of vanilla and a touch of mocha. It is very smooth on the palate with the clean bright fruit well balanced by soft acidity and soft tannin. Very good length. This is stunning value for such a complex and elegant wine. Try with roast game, stewed lamb or beef or roast lamb. Best 2013 top 2016.

Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Maipo Valley, Chile $15.95

This small Chilean winery makes some very classy wines at a great price. Rarely do you find such a degree of elegance in such an inexpensive wine. It is 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, beef casserole or roast beef. Best 2013 to 2018.

December 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

Four wines arrived on the Top 50 this month. I wrote about the Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir above, and here are the other three:

La Posta Cocina Tinto BlendNegroamaro Rosso SalentoLa Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2010, Mendoza, Argentina $12.85

This red blend of malbec with syrah and bonarda is an opaque purple wine with aromas of blackberry jello, blueberry and prune fruit with herbal and floral tones. It is full bodied, flavourful and well structured with some firm tannin giving grip and acidity for vibrancy. Very good length. Try with a steak. Will gain in complexity with a year or two of bottle age, but fine now. Best 2013 to 2016. The 2011 vintage of the wine below is just as good as the last four vintages so it keeps its place on the Top 50 this month.

Pezoules Cabernet SauvignonMezzomondo Negroamaro 2011, Salento, Puglia, Italy $7.95

This has been one of the best value reds at LCBO for years. It’s less than $8 and you get a lot for the money. The nose is black cherry fruit with some earthy spicy tones and a hint of pine. It is medium bodied, juicy and well balanced with good to very good length and enough tannin for balance. Try with strongly flavoured cheese, pizza or bbq meats. Best 2013 to 2015. The next wine is on sale for a month and so jumps into the Top50 for a while.

Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Peloponnese, Greece $10.60

This is great value for a clean lightweight cabernet. Expect mild aromas of cassis fruit with red currant and tobacco tones. It is midweight dry and well balanced with some chewey tannin showing up on the finish. Very good length. Try with bbq meats or creamy Brie cheese. Best 2012 to 2015. ($10.60 until Jan 6th; was $11.60).

How I Choose the Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesI constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. You can easily find all of 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.

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 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

Garofoli Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi

Rosehill Wine Cellars