Steve’s Top 50 at LCBO – Dec 2013

Value Wines for Holiday Entertaining

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

This is the busiest time of the year in every wine store. When the stores are so crowded, I have found that it’s best to shop with a prepared list. So to ease your wine-buying stress I have selected eight wines, all less than $15, from my Top 50 list that could be all you need to take to parties, stuff into stockings or have on hand at home over the next three weeks. These are all great inexpensive wines that will surely please. There simply is no reason to drink poor wines when there are so many good wines you can easily buy. Use WineAlign to search your local store and print your list from the Top 50. With your shopping list in hand, you’ll be equipped with lots of good wine, while saving some dollars.

Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available as of all the wines below. (By registering with your postal code, you can find the inventory at your closest LCBO store). Here’s a list of eight great value bottles to put on your personal WineAlign shopping list.

The Reds

Inexpensive good pinot noir is a pretty rare find. Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95) combines good varietal character with a good depth of flavour. It is well structured and is a match for a wide variety of mildly flavoured dishes. Fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable it must surely be the best value pinot at the LCBO.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2009If you looking for something more full-bodied then Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.00) is good value for an elegant red with a complex nose of cassis and blackberry fruit with some earthy tones, subtle oak spice and sweet basil notes. The palate is finely poised with the fruit supported by some finely grained tannin which give nice grip to the finish. It will be best appreciated with some red meat. Try it with a fine cut of roast lamb or beef.

Probably the best value red at the LCBO comes from southern Spain Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2009, Yecla, Spain ($11.80). The monastrell grape makes many delicious juicy dark, full-bodied reds like this one. It is wonderfully smooth with vibrant acidity that gives it a degree of elegance that would cost you over $20 normally. Expect aromas of blackberry with fragrant lavender, vanilla and cocoa plus some raspberry jam notes. The palate is rich yet not heavy and it finishes dry with some meaty notes and fine tannin for grip. Very good length. Try with strongly flavoured mature hard cheese, like cheddar or parmigiana.

Montalto Nero d'Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Santa Carolina Merlot 2011I don’t usually have much time for single varietal merlot. This grape is often so much better when blended with others, but there are exceptions and for value and its bright beautiful fruit you can’t beat Santa Carolina Merlot 2011, Chile ($8.95). It abounds with pure aromas of raspberry and red cherry fruit with some jammy tones and herbal hints. The midweight palate is brimming with lively vibrant 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.

Finally for a more full-bodied red at less than $10, I can recommend Montalto Nero d’Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sicily, Italy ($8.95). It is very fruity and well-structured with soft tannins and vibrant acidity. Very good length. Well balanced, it’s ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces or hard mature cheese.

The Whites

Poultry and most cheese and pastry nibbles go best with white wines, so try one or all of these three.

Chateau des Charmes Barrel Fermented 2011 Chardonnay, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($13.95) is a juicy well-made chardonnay with just enough oak maturation to add complexity and structure without adding too much unnecessary flavour. It shows how good Niagara chardonnay is these days and at less than $14 it’s great value.

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2011Trapiche Broquel Chardonnay 2010Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2012My next pick has unfortunately been delisted and is now on sale. Trapiche Broquel 2010 Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina was $11.40 is now $8.45. It has soft creamy texture with lots of flavour plus aromas of melon and pear fruit with just a little oak. Over 2200 bottles are still in stock so you should be able to find it, if not at your store, at one close by.

My final white pick is a classic sauvignon blanc from New Zealand that is $2 off until Jan 5. Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand was $16.45 is now $14.45. It is a very bright, juicy wine with a fine nose of passion fruit, nettle and lemon. It’s fresh and well-balanced with a hint of sweetness and a dry lemony finish.

There are another 42 wines on the Top50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your holiday needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

I 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.

Steve's Top Value WinesTo 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 Update This Wine or send an email to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

When I compiled the Top 50 this month, twelve wines joined the list. 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

Editors Note: You can find Steve Thurlow’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!

Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines


Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne