10 Great New Values join Steve’s Top 50 at LCBO

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Top 50 list changes all the time. Prices go up and down, new vintages of current listings arrive, over 200 new products are launched each year and as a consequence around the same number of wines are discontinued.  All these cause changes to the list.

This month there are ten wines that are new to the list since December 2012. So let’s look at the arrivals in detail, but please also check out all the rest of the wines on my Top 50 Value Wines list, since all offer great value. So read beyond the new entrants to find more values, and to discover how the Top 50 is systematically selected.

Bolla ValpolicellaMontecillo Reserva 2006New to the Top 50

Ten wines arrived on the Top 50 this month.

Less than $17

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2006, Spain
$16.55 on sale until Feb. 3 was $18.55

The is a classic Rioja reserva from Montecillo with a sophisticated blue label to describe a very classy wine. It shows fine lifted aromas of raspberry and cherry fruit with sandalwood spice, and hints of mocha and prune. The palate is midweight finely balanced with very good length. Try with roast lamb. Best 2013 to 2016.

Less than $11

Bolla Valpolicella 2011, Veneto, Italy
$10.95 on sale until Feb 3 was $12.95

This is a beautiful lightweight Valpolicella, that should appeal to pinot lovers with its pale ruby colour, firm dry finish and soft fruity palate. Expect aromas of dry cherry with raspberry tones and a hint of warm spice and cranberry jelly. It is lightweight with soft dry fruit, well balanced with good to very good length. Try with pizza or tomato based sauces. Best 2013 to 2014.

Jackson Triggs Black Series ChardonnayJackson Triggs Black Series Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula
$10.95 on sale until Feb 3 was $11.95

There is a lot going on here for a chardonnay at this price with lifted aromas of ripe apple pineapple fruit with mild oak spice honey and vanilla tones. It is full bodied, rich and creamy with a powerfully flavoured dry palate. Very good length. The finish is maybe a bit green, but it persists well. Try with strongly flavoured white meat dishes or strong mature cheese. It will gain in complexity and integration with another year or two of bottle age. Best 2013 to 2016.

Less than $9


Sicily is one of my favourite wine places to visit. I been there many times and am looking forward, as snow falls here in Canada, to bathing in its warm sunshine again this fall. Try these two value sun-Montalto Pinot Grigio 2011drenched wines to warm up your winter.Montalto Nero D'avola Cabernet Sauvignon

Montalto Nero d’Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

This is a juicy full bodied red with a nose that shows red berry fruit with herbal and spicy notes. It is very fruity and well structured with soft tannins and juicy acidity. Very good length. Well balanced except it is just a bit hot on the finish from alcohol. Ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces. Best 2013 to 2015.

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2011

A ripe fruity rich pinot grigio from sunny Sicilian vineyards. It is awesome value when compared to some 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.


Chile is delivering fine wines at all price points. Santa Carolina is a major player in Chile and you get a lot for your money across their entire range of wines. These two reds are excellent everyday wines for enjoying with pizza, meaty pasta sauces, Santa Carolina Cabernet SauvignonSanta Carolina Merlot 2011grilled meats or strongly flavoured cheese or simply sipping on their own while enjoying the company of friends and family.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

This is a fresh, pure and clean cabernet with a good depth of flavour, decent structure and very good length. There is a lot going on for the money, with mild aromas of black cherry and cassis fruit with spicy and earthy tones. It is midweight, juicy and very drinkable. Try with bbq meats. Best 2013 to 2014.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2011

A nice vibrant fruity merlot from Chile. Expect pure aromas of raspberry and red cherry fruit with some jammy tones and herbal hints. The palate is brimming with lively bright fruit with enough tannin for balance and good to very good length. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes.  Best 2013 to 2014.


Partager Reserve Merlot 2010Its time to take another look at French table wine. Those ordinary big bottles with their boring contents have been replaced in recent years by more exciting, vintage dated, varietally labelled wines like this one from the south of France.

Partager Reserve Merlot 2010, Pays d’Oc

The Partager label has been in our market for decades so it was due for a makeover. This wine is labelled merlot and vintage dated 2010 and comes from Pays d’Oc in the south of France and is a great buy. Expect a deep purple red with mild aromas of black and red berry fruit. It is full bodied and flavourful with a long dry finish. It needs some juicy grilled meat or rich cheese for best enjoyment. Decant for an hour before serving. Best 2013 to 2015.


Emu Amontillado Medium Dry SherryAustralia has long made wines, fortified by brandy, in the style of both Sherry from Spain and Port from Portugal. In fact until 30 years ago such wines formed a major part of  Aussie wine production. This is a medium dry wine, not at all like the sweet cream Sherry that is favoured by my aged aunts.

Emu Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry

A delightful light slightly sweet sherry with aromas of candied orange peel, honeysuckle and baked apricot. It is lightweight with good acidity and finishes dry so would work well with cold creamy sweet red pepper and tomato soup, or enjoy well chilled on its own or with biscotti while watching tv.  I tried it with Chinese sweet and sour pork and it was just perfect. Very good length.


Finca Flichman Misterio MalbecThere are many great value reds on the Top 50 list from Argentina. Look out for malbec, cabernet sauvignon and blends of the two.

Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2011, Mendoza

This is a simple, fruity wine which with a slight chill is very drinkable. Expect prune and blackberry fruit with spicy and jammy nuances, there is not much tannin and its a bit flabby so it will benefit from modest chilling before serving. It is clean pure and quite quaffable with decent length considering the price. Best 2013. Try with pizza or a ham and cheese sandwich.

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.

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

Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines


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