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Algonquin By the People For the People Monday, November 24, 2014
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icon for post The Wine Challenge!

by Vic Harradine

It’s much easier to drink the same two or three wines you know and enjoy rather than trying to find new ones. Did you know, the LCBO offers more than 5000 new wines every year through Vintages and carries, on a regular basis, approximately 3000 others? It could become quite expensive sorting through those you don’t enjoy, but don’t worry! I’ve tasted the wines recommended below and am confident you’ll enjoy them.

Just to keep the record straight, the LCBO doesn’t pay me to convince people to drink wine or try new ones—they don’t pay me at all. I’m fortunate that I write, a long-standing, popular and free wine e-newsletter allowing me to taste, that includes spit, a few thousand wines a year.

What I’ve learned at those tastings, besides how to spit well—my mother would not be impressed—there are a few wines out there that aren’t worth the money and a few that are very good value. The vast majority are good wines at a fair price. I’ve also learned that I’m passionate about finding and sharing with others those good-value wines that rise above others in their particular price range.

And, I get just as excited discovering a $10 bottle of Chardonnay that soars above Chardonnay at twice the price as I do a $60 Riesling that does the same to other Riesling. It’s a thrill to unearth one and satisfying to share with others. The difficulty, of course, is that everyone’s tastes in food and wine differ. However, there are guidelines and indicators as to what most people like and drink. Given all this, I set myself a challenge.

The Challenge

With a total of $100 to spend, find 9 wines, enjoyable to most people when sipped on their own and when paired with a wide variety of everyday dishes. They must offer good flavour, good balance—a major component of food-friendly wine—and be readily available in the LCBO. Most importantly, they must offer really good bang for the buck. My ten recommended wines can be purchased for $99.70—and… you’d get $1.80 back on bottle returns!

The skinny

There are two whites (the raciest, good acidity, lighter-bodied first), one Rosé, and six reds (the most easy-going, lighter bodied first then moving toward more full-bodied with the final two displaying ripe tannin character—often described as ‘dry’ reds). All have been rated at least 4 stars out of 5 and published in winecurrent.

I’ve also made a number of food suggestions, not haute cuisine, but what many of us eat regularly. If you’re looking for more suggestions or have particular dishes you’d like to pair, fire off an e-mail and I’d be pleased to respond –

Please remember; drink in moderation, never drink and drive.

White wine:

4 stars – Drink now and over the next year
Open Sauvignon Blanc 2009
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $11.95 (178681) 11.9% alcohol
Value-driven and bursting with flavour, this is perfumed and flavourful with a racy, tangy aftertaste that’ll have you looking for more. There are oodles of aromas in the herbaceous and zesty lemon-lime zones. It then delivers a crisp and refreshing mouthful of zingy white wine. It’s just the thing for pairing with prawns, calamari, mussels or seafood appetizers, or tzatziki-dipped raw veggies. (Vic Harradine)

4 stars – Drink now and over the next year
Tini Trebbiano-Chardonnay 2009
IGT Rubicone, Italy $9.00 (179440) 12.0% alcohol
From the perfumed nose of honeydew melon and floral notes to the clean, crisp, citrussy finish, this value-packed blend earned its final ½ star on value dishing out a bottleful of flavour. There’s a tangy delightful wash of lemon-lime and white peach on the palate carried along on a smooth and generous mouth feel. It’s balanced, great for sipping and perfectly paired with appetizers, especially white meat, fish or seafood, or mac and cheese. (Vic Harradine)

Rosé wine:

4 stars – Drink now and over the next year
Julian Chivite ‘Gran Fuedo Rosado’ 2009
DO Navarra, Spain $11.95 (165845) 13.0% alcohol
Iridescent pink and brimming with aromas and flavour, this punches well above the price and you wouldn’t go wrong keeping a few bottles around the house given its versatility with food. Spice and mixed field berry fruit on the nose, there’s a lively wash of tangy fruit flavour—cranberry, strawberry and red currant. It’s light-medium bodied, balanced, nicely textured and sports a crisp, clean finish. This is paired perfectly with deli platter items, goat cheese, supermarket-rotisserie chicken, smoked salmon or pan-seared fish—earning its final ½ star on value. (Vic Harradine)

Red wine:

4 stars – Drink now and over the next two years
Fish Hoek Shiraz 2009
WO Western Cape, South Africa $9.95 (129734) 14.5% alcohol
Here’s that hidden gem someone else always brings to the party—now it’s your turn to be the frontrunner. It’s fresh, lively and chockfull of rich, fruity flavour—red cherry/berry, spiced black plum and hints of cassis. It’s balanced with good mouth feel and a deliciously long finish—a food-friendly crowd-pleaser at a great price. What’s not to like? Lovely sipped on its own, it works well with vegetarian cuisine, burgers or meat-laden, spicy pizza as well as wings or spicy, Asian stir fry. (Vic Harradine)

4 stars – Drink now and over the next two years
Rigal ‘The Original’ Malbec 2009
Vin de Pays du Lot, France $11.95 (159178) 12.5% alcohol
Lifted aromas of dark field berry fruit and mint-infused cherry segue a persistent wash of ripe, fruit flavours with cassis, black currant and lip-smacking lively pie cherry galore. It’s nicely balanced, medium bodied with a rich silky mouth feel sporting a lengthy fruity finish. Well paced, crowd-pleasing and value-packed, it pours well alongside pasta in tomato-based sauce or pizza. (Vic Harradine)

4 stars – Drink now and over the next two years
Carmen Vineyards ‘Reserva’ Carmenère 2008
DO Colchagua, Chile $10.95 (169052) 14.0% alcohol
This is fruit filled and balanced, punching well above the price and offering great value. Deep purple, almost opaque, aromas of spice, vanilla and black currant waft freely. It brims with rich, luscious flavours of ripe mulberry, black juicy cherry and mocha. The deftly balanced finish lingers with a wisp of oak and a glorious array of dark berry fruit. This is great with rack of lamb, lasagna or smoked and grilled ribs. (Vic Harradine)

4 ½ stars – Drink now and over the next two years
Castillo de Moncéran Garnacha 2009
DO Cariñena, Spain $8.95 (73395) 12.5% alcohol
This is rich with good balance and loads of flavour—mostly dark, juicy berry mingling with spice and mocha. It has a lovely mouth feel, round and full of texture, while the finish layers on even more fruit with cherry and spiced black currant predominant. This delivers a cartload of value, earning its final ½ star because of it. Put a couple in your cart for grilled steak, burgers or gourmet sausage. Did I mention pizza? (Vic Harradine)

4 ½ stars – Drink now and over the next three years
Carmen Vineyards ‘Gran Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
DO Maipo Alto, Chile $17.05 (358309) 14.0% alcohol
Look for delicate aromas of bramble berry, spice notes and wood smoke. Rich, elegant flavours of black currant and mint-laden black cherry coat the palate framed by moderating acidity underpinned by ripe, sweet tannin. Medium bodied with a generous mouth feel, it finishes dry and balanced. Low-yielding, hand-picked fruit and scrupulous site selection coalesce in this flagship red. Classy to bring as a hostess gift, it also fronts up beautifully to grilled strip loin and other fine cuts of beef or hard, aged cheese. (Vic Harradine)

4 stars – Drink now and over the next four years
Finca Flichman ‘Misterio’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Mendoza, Argentina $7.95 (163949) 13.5% alcohol
This opens with aromas of dark berry fruit, aromatic bitters and spice box. Rustic and tangy on the palate, it delivers a persistent stream of flavour with racy red cherry, black currant and spiced black plum predominant. There’s perceptible tannin, adding interest and structure, and a good moderating spine of acidity. It finishes lengthy with a generous dollop of sweet dark berry fruit. Good to pour now alongside rare-grilled red meat, hard, aged cheese or Philly Cheesesteak sandwich - recipe—it earned its final ½ star on value. (Vic Harradine)

posted by Vic Harradine in Live and have Comments (14)


  1. Comment by Susan Thompson on November 3, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Algonquin Blog Archive


    A challenge and a ready made shopping list, thank you.

    Is this the same gentleman with a radio “spot” on CBC Ottawa?

  2. Comment by Vic Harradine on November 3, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Hi, Susan,

    Thanks for the kind comment! I’ve done a few talk shows on wine, but don’t have a regular show.

    Cheers, Vic

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