The Hamilton Spectator

Under $15 and outstandin­g value

It’s hard to find a deal these days, but we’re spoiled when it comes to great wines at good prices

- CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND

The fastest growing price range for wine at the LCBO is $10 to $15. Not a shocker. With fierce competitio­n, the quality of wine has never been better at lower price points. But it’s a crowded space. Here are five of the best budget bottles on shelf — including three that launched this year.

The 2018 Antaño Crianza, Rioja DOC from Spain (LCBO $12.95) is a knockout buy. While most 2018 wines at this price point would be well past their best-by now — this charmer is drinking beautifull­y. Each sip starts with the bouquet of sun-warmed cherries, blackberry preserve, tapenade and fig. The colour is pale ruby and sweeps in with frank drinkabili­ty — bright but well-balanced, clean-fruited and bone dry. The aromatics echo on the palate layering in a certain vanilla warmth before drawing to a quick close. The only thing that might hint at the price point is its short length. But it’s a wine that quickly draws you back and keeps you sipping. Outstandin­g value. Score: 94

From the Yecla region of eastern Spain comes the 2019 Toro Bravo Oak Selección White Label Cabernet Sauvignon Monastrell (LCBO $13.95). Here, the fragrance is warm and welcoming, soft-spoken but articulate. The scent of cassis from the Cabernet is met by plum jam and a dusting of cocoa from the Monastrell. That invitation leads to a gently bracing entry that’s both mouth-watering and palate drenching with a pure pashmina texture. The crush of blackcurra­nt laced with brambly underbrush and a quiet minerality lends character and depth to this dry Spanish red that persists on the finish. A textural tug gives the grip you want to stand up to tapas and such, holding the fruit in place. Slightly upmarket addition to the popular, sub-$10 range of Toro Bravo wines. Score: 92

You may be familiar with the everpopula­r Bartenura Moscato d’Asti DOCG from Italy in the eye-catching blue bottle, which has been at the LCBO for eons. Now, this wine comes in a new half bottle size.

The 2022 Bartenura Moscato d’Asti DOCG (LCBO $13.15/375mL) is delicious in that sweet-fruited, lip-smacking, low-alcohol way for which Moscato is known — this wine clocks a mere five per cent alcohol. Wildly aromatic, each fizzy glassful bursts with honeyed apricot aromas before flooding in with sweet-tart generosity. Each mouthful spirals with dried apricot, mandarin orange, white flowers and honeydew melon for open-handed refreshmen­t. Enjoy this sweetie on the rocks and quaff it cocktail style. Or serve it with spicy food such as hot wings or sizzling curries to offset the heat. Score: 90

While the wines noted are new the LCB, two bottles under $15 rolled out last year and are soaring in popularity.

The 2022 Latte Miele Pecorino Terre di Chieti IGT from Abruzzo, Italy (LCBO $13.95) launched in April 2023, went out of stock four times since then and has sold more than 25,000 bottles so far in Ontario. It’s delicious.

Each swirl of the glass draws you in with white peach, ginger, salt and white pepper allusions before sweeping in with lively vinosity. Juicy but dry with a mere 4g/L of sugar, this Pecorino tastes shiny bright with plump orchard fruit laced with salt and dried herbs. The finish tapers to cool stony finish with suggestion­s of, you guessed it, milk and honey. Score: 91

Arguably the best value red to launch last year in Ontario was the 2022 One Pound Per Acre Shiraz from South Australia, which is now a bestseller (LCBO $9.95). Since its release in July, it sold out for eight weeks in November and December, and consumers have snapped up 62,000 bottles to date. The 2022 One Pound Per Acre Shiraz is an inky dark red that’s ripe, smooth and full of fruit. Find the classic choco-berry richness on the nose and palate. Then, as the wine recedes, coffee, black earth, damson preserve, and black pepper emerge and linger. Good buy. Score: 93

The splurge

This week’s splurge is relative at less than $20. It’s the 2021 Puente Astral Reserva Privade Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colchagua Valley of Chile (Vintages $16.95). The nose is a fragrant synergy of fire-roasted red peppers, macerated berries, whisper of gunpowder, smoked meat and touch of pink peppercorn. The attack is bright and peppery with a certain easy and immediate appeal. Then, flavours shift from charcuteri­e and cherry to bell-pepper and briny olive before tapering to long, slow finish. Score: 92

Every time the Puente Astral Reserva Privade Cabernet Sauvignon is released through Vintages, it sells like hotcakes. No wonder. It tastes like a wine worth more than its price.

CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND IS A TORONTO-BASED WINE WRITER AND A FREELANCE CONTRIBUTI­NG COLUMNIST FOR THE STAR. WINERIES SPONSOR SEGMENTS ON HER YOUTUBE SERIES BUT DON’T SELECT THE WINES SHE REVIEWS. HER OPINIONS ARE HER OWN. PRICES SUBJECT TO CHANGE. REACH HER VIA EMAIL: CAROLYN@CAROLYNEVA­NSHAMMOND.COM

With fierce competitio­n, the quality of wine has never been better at lower price points

 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada