Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (June 2014)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO this month

By Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am excited to have found another 20 wines under $20 this month to be your focus for value for the next four weeks. Top 20 Under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection.

The selection came from some new vintages of wines tasted recently that are better than the last vintage and from a large raft of discounts (Limited Time Offers – LTOs) and Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) announced by LCBO on Monday. Especially interesting are some big discounts on wines on the VINTAGES Essentials list. There are around 120 Essentials wines that are always available in the VINTAGES section of stores – $2 discounts make some of them more affordable for the next four weeks.

Check out the 20 selections below of wines on offer and also wines that have joined my ongoing list of Top 50 Best Values. (Read on after the wine reviews to find how a wine is selected for Top 20 under $20 and the list of Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines). You can use WineAlign to create and print your list of those available at your local store. Furthermore, thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published.

On Sale This Month (LTOs and BAMs)

Here are the best of the best among the Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections this month. They are on sale until June 22nd, so take advantage right now.


Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $12.00 was $13.00

This is a finely balanced cabernet with complex aromas and flavours. Expect violets, blackberry and prune fruit with mild oak spice and some earthy tones. It is medium to full-bodied with a balanced finish and mild tannin. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2020.

Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010, Sardinia, Italy $14.95 was $16.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

This is one of my house reds. It is an honest well balanced versatile mid-weight Italian red for a good price. It is made from grenache (Italy:cannonau) with a harmonious and fairly complex red cherry fruit nose with mild spice, tobacco, and herbal and floral tones. It is mid-weight and fruity with some nice savoury herbal and bacon flavours and finely balanced with firm lemony acidity and mild structural tannin. Needs food. Very good length. Goes well with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes. Best 2014 to 2017.

Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010Gran Feudo Reserva 2007Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2011

Gran Feudo Reserva 2007, Navarra, Spain $14.95 was $16.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

This is an evolved mature Spanish red with blackberry fruit, mild spice with earthy and herbal tones plus well integrated oak aromas. It is elegant and juicy with a soft yet structured palate that comes with mature wines. The tannins have folded into the wine giving additional complexity yet enough remain on the finish to give some firmness. Very good length. Enjoy with lamb cutlets. Best 2014 to 2016.

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2011, Tuscany, Italy $16.95 was $18.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

A very typical Chianti that’s correct for a good price. Expect aromas of dried black cherry fruit with some herbal and oaky notes and an earthy tone. There is some vibrancy to the palate with a degree of elegance and a dry fruity and mildly tannic finish. Very good length. Try with a Bolognese sauce. Best 2014 to 2017.


Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $8.45 was $9.45

There is a lot going on here for the money. The 2013 is one of the best vintages in a long time with a fresh nose of zesty lemon apple pear fruit. The palate is juicy and flavourful with good focus and good length. Try with sautéed seafood or bbq chicken.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile $9.95 was $11.95

A delicious lightly oaked chardonnay with a creamy lively palate. Expect aromas of melon, oak spice and lemon with toffee notes. It is very smooth on the palate with soft acidity which keeps it feeling light. It finishes dry and a little bitter with very good length. Try with white meats, creamy cheeses and seafood. Don’t overchill.

Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $12.80 plus 8 BAMs

This wine has been sadly absent from our market for a few years so it’s a welcome return to the LCBO.. It is an oaked chardonnay with just enough oak to add complexity to the nose and palate. Expect aromas of baked apple with vanilla, caramel, with lemon and cinnamon notes. The palate is rich and very smooth with intense flavours and very good length. It is old school but well done. Try with fish and chips.

Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2013Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013 Willm Réserve Riesling 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Willm Reserve Riesling 2012, Alsace, France $14.95 was $15.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

The 2012 is classic Alsatian riesling, clean fresh and vibrant; one of the best vintages I can remember. Expect aromas and flavours of fresh apple with apple skin and mineral tones with some floral notes. It is midweight dry and crisp with lots of flavour and finely balanced. Try with sautéed seafood. Very good length.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Aconcagua Coast, Chile $15.95 plus 10 BAMs

This is an exceptionally good sauvignon from the cool Aconcagua coastal region. Expect pure clean mineral aromas of green apple skin, nettle, dill and cucumber with lemon freshness. It’s light to midweight and well balanced with very good to excellent length. Good focus. Try with poached fish with a tangy lemon dill sauce.

New to Steve’s Top 50

To round off the 20 Under $20, here are other great value bottles that have joined the Top 50 this month LCBO.


Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012, Greece (1000mL) $9.95 plus 4 BAMs

A clean fresh red wine from Greece that is fruity, midweight, well balanced and a good everyday wine. Agiorgitiko is one of Greece’s best red grapes The nose shows red berry fruit with some hints of spice and tobacco. The palate is fruity with good to very good length. Good value. Try with BBQ meats. Best 2014 to 2016.

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011, Ontario $10.95 was $11.95

Pelee Island continues to improve its grip on this variety that does well in this part of Canada. A lively fruity midweight red with modest tannin and vibrant acidity. The nose is shows mild red berry aromas with a hint of smoke, raspberry jam and tobacco. The palate is juicy and well balanced with very good length. The finish is fruity with some chewy tannin. Enjoy with roast beef. Best 2014 to 2016.

Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2013, Sicily, Italy $11.00

This 2013 vintage of this fruity Sicilian red is one of the best ever. The nose shows bright pure aromas of blackberry and raspberry fruit with lemon tones. It is midweight and juicy with enough tannin for structure and acidity for liveliness. Very good length with a lemony dry finish and some fine tannin to give a little grip. Try with roast or bbq meats or hard mature cheeses. Best 2014 to 2017.

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012 Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011 Cusumano Nero D'avola 2013Hardys The Chronicles Butchers Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Hardys The Chronicles Butchers Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012, South Australia $13.50 was $15.00

Sangiovese, the Chianti grape from Italy, is blended in this wine with shiraz to deliver a fresher more vibrant wine than one normally expects from this region. Expect aromas and flavours of blackberry and blueberry fruit with earthy and herbal notes plus dark chocolate. It is soft and smooth on the palate with very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2018.

Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Maipo Valley, Chile $14.45 was $15.95

The 2012 is one of the best vintages in a long while, with a perfumed nose of sweet basil with blackberry and black cherry fruit with some jammy notes and soft oak spice. The palate is very smooth and juicy with enough acid and tannin to give it some structure. Very good length. Try with bbq meats. Best 2014 to 2017.


Apelia Moschofilero 2013, Greece (1000mL) $9.95 plus 4 BAMs

Moschofilero is one of Greece’s best indigenous white grapes. This is a fresh dry white that pinot grigio adherents should try. The nose shows lifted aromas of floral apple with a green olive herbal tone plus some mineral notes. The palate is midweight and simple with lots of fruit flavour and it is well balanced. Good to very good length. Enjoy with seafood and creamy pasta sauces.

Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio 2012, Osco, Molise, Italy $8.45

This is among the best pinot grigio on the shelves at the LCBO despite being one of the least expensive. Expect mild aromas of pear and melon fruit with nutty and lemon tones. The palate is very fruity and creamy with the lively acidity well balanced by the fruit. It is dry and clean with very good length. The finish shows lots nutty fruit. Don’t overchill and enjoy on its own or with seafood, white meats and mild cheese.

Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2012, California $9.95 was $11.95

Great value for a charming, apparently unoaked, chardonnay with a nose of apple and mango fruit with some nutty and floral tones. The palate is creamy smooth with the ripe fruit well balanced by soft acid. Very good focus, very flavourful and very good length. It is pure clean and juicy. Enjoy on its own or with pastry based appetizers.

Apelia Moschofilero 2013 Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio 2012 Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2012 Goats Do Roam White 2013 The Wolftrap White 2013 Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2012

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $11.85 plus 5 BAMs

This is a consistently great value white. The 2013 vintage is an aromatic blend of three white grapes with lifted floral fruity aromas and an intensely flavoured palate. The nose shows apple and custard with pasty, floral orange and white peach fruit. It is medium-full bodied with firm balancing acidity and a long firm finish. Very good length. Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.

The Wolftrap White 2013, Boekenhoutskloof, Western Cape, South Africa $13.95

This is an amazing white for the money with its intensely flavoured palate and pure complex nose. Expect aromas of melon and baked pear fruit with lemongrass and floral heather plus some typical South African minerality. The palate is intense and very solid with some bitter tones nicely closing the finish. It’s a bit chunky and does not have the elegance of the 2012 vintage. Very good to excellent length. Match with sautéed pork chops.

Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2012, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $ 17.95

This wine is consistently one of the best values in Niagara riesling and the 2012 does not disappoint. Despite the warm vintage, which has led to a greater intensity of flavour and aroma, it is has a steely mineral and acid backbone to give it a fine balance. Expect aromas of pear and white peach with mineral and mild petrol notes. The lively palate is clean and elegant with very good to excellent length. Try with baked ham.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 Under $20

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the Vintages Essential Collection.

– On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

– Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect AirMiles then you will be getting Bonus AirMiles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

– Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 wines on the Top 50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your current needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50, 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 us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

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.

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.

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 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines
All Limited Time Offers
All Bonus Air Miles

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