Top Values at the LCBO (April 2020)

Buying Wines in the COVID-19 Era

by Steve Thurlow

The world has certainly changed since I last wrote. I hope that you are all well. I am doing fine and have just completed my 14 day quarantine following my return from Australia.

(Note from WineAlign regarding the Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES April 4th release: Due to COVID-19, VINTAGES has suspended media tastings until at least the end of April. We are scrambling for opportunities to taste the April 4th wines, and once they are on shelves today and tomorrow we hope to be able to acquire more samples, taste them Monday and Tuesday, then have a report ready for Thursday of next week. Going forward, until the COVID crisis is over, the VINTAGES Buyers’ Guides will be published the Thursday after the release date.)

Nobody knows yet how long these extraordinary circumstances will persist. However, I do know that today we are one day closer to the day that I will again be able to leave my home safely.

With everyone staying indoors for the next few weeks we should be grateful that the government has decided that wine is an essential commodity! Consequently, wineries and the LCBO’s retail and wholesale operations are open for the present.

There are also several ways that you can get wine delivered to your door. Winery tasting rooms are closed but they are still shipping to their customers and most are shipping for free (here is a list). The wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake are also offering free shipping across Ontario. Restaurants are also now allowed to include wine with their takeout meal service. So, if you are ordering food for takeout, you can now add wine to your order.


LCBO Shop Online is open and Canada Post is still delivering on their behalf, but you now have to collect from the nearest Post Office, since they will no longer deliver directly to your door, and the number of wines available is much reduced from what you could get a few weeks ago.

WineAlign Exchange members have just received their March cases on their doorsteps. These wines were all tasted and selected by me and the rest of the team at WineAlign. If you are not already a member, go here to sign up for a June delivery. There are many options to choose from.

Get restaurant-only wines without restaurant markups for delivery in mid-April

As you may know, wine importing agencies sell wine to restaurants by the case using the LCBO’s consignment program. Such wines are not in LCBO stores nor can you buy them at LCBO Shop Online.

With dine-in meals at restaurants eliminated for the time being, some of these wines are now available to regular consumers. We at WineAlign are helping out our agency colleagues by offering mixed cases from their consignment portfolios using the technology and logistics developed for the WineAlign Exchange program. Most of these wines were only to be found on restaurant wine lists, though some of you may already buy by the case from agents.

The ‘sampler’ agency cases of 12 different wines are hand-picked by the agencies, not us, and will be delivered in mid-April by courier to your door. And if you love a wine in your sampler case, you can easily order a full case from the agent in a few clicks. Discover great wines, support local businesses, never leave the house!

However if you are still willing to venture out to visit an LCBO store, I have selected twelve wines below that are on my current Top50 Best Value List and most are on offer for the next month.

All are available in LCBO stores but none are currently included in the limited LCBO Shop Online selection.

I have chosen three whites and nine reds, so below there are 12 to read about.

I write about those joining the list and some, that were on last month’s list, but are now discounted this month. So even better value. However, I do encourage you to consult my entire Top50 Best Values List given all the discounts (LTOs) and BAMs for the next 4 weeks.

Among the wines in today’s report:

  • Nine wines that joined the Top 50 this month.
  • Five for less than $12.
  • Some big discounts; one is $2.50 off.
  • Two Vintages Essentials.
  • All wines scored 87 points or more.

The current promotional period runs until April 26th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

To quote Oscar Wilde… “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

Stay safe and healthy….. 

Top Value Reds

Barone Montalto Nero D’avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Sicily, Italy ($9.45) – Top50 April
This is a juicy midweight to full-bodied red blend of cabernet sauvignon with the indigenous Sicilian grape nero d’Avola. Expect aromas of black and red berry fruit with dry herbal and spicy notes. It is fruity and well structured with soft tannins and vibrant acidity. Very good length. Try with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.

Bodegas Bianchi Finca Los Primos Malbec 2018, Mendoza, Argentina ($9.85 was $12.35) – New to Top50, Delisted
This is a lovely, rich, finely balanced, dry malbec with a fragrant nose of blueberry and blackberry fruit with floral and sweet herbal tones. The midweight palate is quite refined with just enough tannin for structure and soft lemony acidity. Very good length. There is a degree of elegance for such an inexpensive wine. Try with grilled meats. Over 1300 bottles remain.

Domaine De Sérame Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Pays d’Oc, France ($11.95 was $13.95) – New to Top50 
This is a tasty, dry, well balanced cabernet, with a lot going on for the money. The nose shows cassis fruit with some spicy and earthy tones. It is midweight and very juicy with the fruit well balanced by soft acidity and fine tannin. Very good length, with some dry dark chocolate flavours mixed with the blackberry fruit on the finish. Nicely done. Try with grilled meats or rich cheese like brie.


LAN Rioja Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain ($14.95 was $16.95) – New to Top50
This is a very drinkable, fruity, classic Rioja with a warm sandalwood nose. It is quite traditional in style with a nose that shows red cherry and raspberry fruit with the same flavours continuing on the midweight palate. Well balanced with a long fruity finish. Very good length.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2018, Swartland, South Africa ($15.95 + 5 BAMs) – Top50 April and Vintages Essential
The nose shows aromas of dried black and red cherry fruit with black pepper, smoked meat and mild oak spice with a hint of licorice. It is full bodied and quite thick and smooth on the palate with lively acidity and peppery, spicy, ripe fruit. Very good to excellent length. Try with a steak.

Melini Chianti Classico Reserva 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($16.95 was $19.95) – New to Top50
This is a finely balanced, mature Chianti with a lot of class for a wine at this price. The nose shows black and red cherry fruit with earthy and leathery tones from the extended barrel aging. It is midweight and clean on the palate with integrated tannin and soft acidity. Very good length. There is a degree of elegance to this refined wine. For fine dining with meats and cheese.


Monte Zovo Sa’ Solin Ripasso Valpolicella 2017, Veneto, Italy ($17.95 was $19.95) – New to Top50 and Vintages Essential
This is a classy, elegant Valpolicella that is lighter in weight than most ripassos. Expect aromas of red cherry and raspberry fruit with hints of cranberry jelly and soft spice notes. The fruity, flavourful palate is juicy and smooth with soft yet vibrant acidity and fine tannin. Good focus with a fruity dry finish. Very good length. Try with grilled meats or hard mature cheese.

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA ($18.25 was $20.25) –New to Top50
There is a lot going on here with this elegant clean cool climate cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Ynez Valley about 90 minutes drive north of Santa Barbara. It is dry and ripe with aromas of cassis and blackberry fruit with pine cone, dark chocolate, tobacco and mocha notes. The oak is well integrated and adds complexity to nose and palate. Well balanced with soft acidity and gentle tannin. It will gain in complexity and integration with another 2-3 years in the bottle but is fine now with prime rib. Best 2020 to 2023.

Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2017, Burgundy, France ($22.45 was $24.45) – New to Top50
This a a classic red Burgundy that is pure clean and lively with lots of flavour and has a fine structure. Expect aromas of red cherry and raspberry with some tobacco and warm spice notes. It is midweight and structured with very good length and a dry mineral finish. Try with grilled lamb cutlets.


Top Value Whites

Costa Del Mulino Pecorino 2016, Abruzzo, Italy ($9.75 was $11.75) – New to Top50, Delisted
Pecorino is a light-skinned wine grape planted in Italy’s eastern coastal regions. We do not often see these white wines in Canada. This is a delicate neutral white with mild aromas of pear and white peach fruit. The palate is smooth and mildly flavoured, and well balanced with very good length. A versatile food wine; try with mildly flavoured seafood and white meats. Around 800 bottles remain.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier Reserva 2019, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.65) – Top50 April
This is an inexpensive, fragrant and very rich white. Expect perfumed aromas of apricot, honeysuckle, tangerine, vanilla, and anise with a hint of ginger spice. It has an appealing freshness and vitality with well integrated flavours and a round, firm baked lemon and licorice finish. Finely balanced and pure with very good length. Enjoy as an aperitif or with mildly flavoured Asian cuisine or white meat dishes.

Chapoutier Belleruche White 2017, Cotes Du Rhone, Rhone Valley, France ($14.05 was $17.05) – New to Top50
This is a flavourful unoaked white that is made from a blend of Rhone white grapes and has a fresh nose that shows apple and yellow plum fruit with grapefruit and floral notes. It is midweight with a good depth of flavour and is well balanced by firm acidity. The finish is long and focused. Try with sautéed pork or veal.


How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

Today’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1,600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. 

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. (You can access these lists under the Wine tab on WineAlign.)

• 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 Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles 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 that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General 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.



Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

Editor’s Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine 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!