Good Value Wines December 2004

By Natalie MacLean Print this page   Send this page to a friend

Note: It might appear that I have a special preference for Piper bubbles. I found those below delicious, but it's also due to the fact that I was able to taste much of their line-up a couple of weeks ago. Granted, some of them are not exactly value-priced, even for bubbly which tends to be more expensive, but since they weren't part of the monthly Vintages release, I'm including them here.

PIPER HEIDSIECK BRUT CHAMPAGNE, LCBO product number 462432, $44.95 Sugar Content: 1 (meaning not completely dry though it tastes dry to me) Champagne, France: Toasty, creamy champagne with lots of zesty citrus notes. The blend: 55% pinot noir, 30% pinot meunier and 15% chardonnay. Perfect with all those spicy nibbles on the holiday table, as well as oysters and shellfish. Score: 86/100.

BRUT CHAMPAGNE 1995, 915199, $59.95 Sugar Content: D (dry), Champagne, France Piper-Heidsieck: Lovely floral notes with lemon and grapefruit aromas. Long finish. Sigh. Would be amazing with any cream-based dish. Drink now. Score: 89/100.

Rosé Sauvage $64.95 Champagne, France Piper-Heidsieck: Available in the US and Europe now and in Canada February, 2005. Dry, balanced bubbles, with a gorgeous pink blush hue and a raspberry nose. Drink with pate, salmon and the love of your life. Ideal for Valentine's Day. Score: 88/100.

PIPER-HEIDSIECK CUVÉE RARE CHAMPAGNE 643734, $124.95, Sugar Content: D, Champagne, France Piper-Heidsieck: Sublime! Wondering what all the fuss is about expensive champagne? Try this and understand through a lace of bubbles. August, stately, long-lasting. Tropical fruit, white pepper and hints of happiness. Kept on the lees for 48 months. This one is lovely for its price. (Some premium bubbles are $200-$300. Yikes.) Score: 93/100.

BRUT RÉSERVE 991562, $17.95 Sugar Content: D Burgundy, France Caves de Bailly à Saint-Bris-le-Vineux Brut Reserve, Cremant de Bourgogne: A tasty (and more modestly-priced) alternative to champagne. The half bottle (ideal for two who want to get the evening rolling quickly) is just $10.95 (product number 641423). Aromas of green apples and citrus. Quite crisp, simple and refreshing. Excellent with seafood. Score: 86/100.

ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT 479758 $36.95 Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California (D = dry): When someone asks me to pick the best-value bubbly on the market, this is always my choice. It's not the cheapest, nor the most complex, but it's got the best combination all-round: citrusy aromas and flavor, good bubble length and lingering finish. Score: 89/100. Favorite Sparkling Wine

VEUVE CLICQUOT BRUT 563338 $58.05 12% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Champagne, France: When someone asks me for my favorite non-vintage champagne, this is it. It overflows with rich toasty aromas, loads of complex citrus fruit and a finish that will outlast the evening. It also comes in the 200 ml single serving size, 375 ml, perfect for two as a toast at the beginning of dinner, 750 ml and magnum. Score: 90/100.

Good Value White Wines

2003 HILLEBRAND TRIUS RIESLING V.Q.A. 303792 $13.95 11.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 2 Niagara, Ontario: Pleasant melon and peach fruit aromas. Light and zippy. Terrific with shellfish, seafood, creamy cheeses and as an aperitif. Score: 84/100.

2003 DEAKIN ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 560839 $9.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. Victoria, Australia: Crisp stone fruit with excellent minerality. Smells like a freshly cleaned boarding school jacket: crisp, with lots of potential. Needs (pleads for) food: seafood, shellfish, creamy cheeses, chicken, pasta. Score: 83/100.

2003 TORRES VINA ESMERALDA 165316 $11.95 11% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Penedes, Spain: Blend of moscatel and gewürztraminer grapes. I've recommended this pretty sipper vintage after vintage. It's light, floral, zippy and refreshing. Notes of lychee nuts and passion fruit. Perfect with seafood, avocado and pork. Score: 87/100. Best Value White Wine

2003 PINOT GRIGIO TRENTINO DOC CONCILIO 637595 $11.45 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Alto Adige/Trentino, Italy: Pinot grisio is the fastest-growing white wine, by sales, in North America, even though chardonnay is still number one. This zippy wine, with grapefruit aromas, works well as an aperitif or with seafood, cream sauce dishes and chicken. Score: 84/100.

2003 OBIKWA SAUVIGNON BLANC 527465 $7.95 12% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Africa, Distillers Corporation Limited: A lively and refreshing simple sipper. Not as grassy as New Zealand sauvignon blanc, more gooseberry. Perfect for chicken of almost any squawk, pasta and seafood. Score: 84/100.

2003 DOPFF AU MOULIN RIESLING 649772 $14.45 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Alsace, France: Lovely citrusy lime/lemon notes. Zippy and refreshing. Perfect for a wide range of dishes, including seafood, shellfish and cream sauces. An amazing value. Score: 86/100.

2003 PIERRE SPARR GEWURZTRAMINER CARTE D'OR 373373 $16.05 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Alsace, France: Viscous and full-bodied with those exotic gewurz aromas of lychee nuts, grapefruit and rose petals. The classic match for Asian and spicy dishes. Score: 85/100.

Good Value Red Wines

2002 INNISKILLIN PINOT NOIR V.Q.A. 261099 $13.95 12.2% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Niagara, Ontario: Light-med bodied. Dark cherries. Simple and easy-drinking. Perfect with salmon and pate. Score: 83/100.

2002 MISSION HILL PRIVATE RESERVE MERLOT V.Q.A. 496109 $15.95 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 British Columbia: Solid, easy-drinking red with mocha, red berry and plum notes. Medium bodied. Score: 85/100.

14% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1, New South Wales, Australia: A lovely wine that will have a wide audience of fans. Balanced, ripe, some food-friendly acidity. Dense and full-bodied. An incredible value. Score: 88/100.

2001 CABERNET/SHIRAZ/MERLOT Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2001 511600 13.0% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: D South Australia, Australia: Dark berries and mocha notes. Balanced and elegant, as always from this winery. Touch tannic, but will smooth with aging of 1-2 years or decanting of 1-2 hours. Drink with duck, game and lamb. Score: 87/100.

2002 MCGUIGAN BLACK LABEL SHIRAZ (BRIAN MCGUIGAN WINES) 325787 $11.20 12% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Australia, Australia: Look no further for your holiday party wine. In fact, why party? Just stay home and drink this. Terrific aromas of burstingly ripe plums plus some mint and mocha. More full-bodied than Sophia Loren. Score: 89.75/100. Best Value Red Wine

2002 ST. HALLETT GAMEKEEPER'S RESERVE 532176 $15.30 14.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Australia: Big honkin' shiraz (the alcohol alone puts up near to the fortified wine category). For those who like to whip their palates into submission. Delicious dark ripe fruit with some mint and mocha. Nice acidity for heart-flavored dishes. Score: 88/100.

2003 ROSEMOUNT DIAMOND GRENACHE SHIRAZ 476838 $12.95 13.9% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 New South Wales, Australia: Simple, round, full-bodied and buxom. Plummy and purply, lip-smacking good. Drink with barbecue ribs or chicken. Score: 85/100.

2001 PENMARA FIVE FAMLIES SHIRAZ 565929 $13.60 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 New South Wales, Australia: Sweet jammy fruit (though it is a relatively dry wine). Nice acidity. Score: 84/100.

2001 HEATHFIELD RIDGE WONAMBI SHIRAZ 599100 $12.70 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Australia: From the Limstone Coast in Australia, a wonderful region for shiraz. Simple and delicious with ripe red fruit. Ready to go when you are. Score: 84/100.

2001 STERLING VINTNERS COLLECTION MERLOT 622837 $15.45 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 California: A luxurious red with warm, ripe plums and blackberries. Score: 86/100.

2002 TALUS ZINFANDEL 469221 $ 12.10 13.8% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1, Lodi, California SEBASTIANI VINEYARDS: Very simple and oaky but it does the job. Aromas of blackberries. A crisp acidity and spiciness makes it stand up to tomato-sauce pasta, grilled meat and spicy sausage. Score: 84/100.

2001 FETZER VALLEY OAKS SHIRAZ 527143 $15.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 California: Full-bodied with red berries, strawberries and oak. Score: 85/100.

2001 REDWOOD CREEK CABERNET SAUVIGNON (E. & J. GALLO WINERY) 612531 $12.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 California: Delicious black currants and some oak. A very well-made wine. Med-full bodied. Score: 89/100.

2001 STONE CELLARS MERLOT (BERINGER VINEYARDS) 462473 $13.95 13.2% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 California: An exceptionally balanced wine with a silky texture and ripe red plums. Med-full bodied. Drink with fried or roast chicken. Score: 87/100.

2003 SANTA RITA "120" MERLOT 286179 $9.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol. Chile: Simple, ripe red cherries. Delicious. Score: 83/100.

2003 CONCHA Y TORO CASILLERO DEL DIABLO MERLOT 427088, $ 11.10 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content : 1 Chile: Notes of black plums and black cherries. Very similar in style to the shiraz below. Medium- to full-bodied with a slight grip on the palate. Drink with pasta in tomato or mushroom sauces. Score: 84/100.

2003 CONCHA Y TORO CASILLERO DEL DIABLO SHIRAZ 568055, $ 11.10 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content : 1, Chile: Simple warm aromas of mocha, dark plums and blackberries. Medium-bodied with a slight grip on the palate. Drink with spicy fare and heart-flavored meat dishes. Score: 84/100.

2001 CASA SILVA CABERNET/SHIRAZ 588749 $13.05 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Chile, VINA CASA SILVA: Lots more dark berries and plums. Score: 83/100.

2000 COUSINO-MACUL ANTIGUAS RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 212993 $14.35 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1, Chile: An awesome wine and value that I've recommended several times. Lovely rich cassis, plums and currants. Score: 89.75/100. Favorite Red Wine

13% Alcohol/Vol. Argentina: Med-full bodied. Classic cassis and black currants, elegant and balanced. The label alone looks twice the price. Marvelously well-balanced with great finesse. Drink with lamb, beef or debates about genomics. Score: 87/100.

2002 TORRES SANGRE DE TORO (MIGUEL TORRES) 6585 $10.95 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Penedes, Spain: An astounding value. Rich, round, med-full-bodied and mouthwatering. Mocha notes, lots of depth. Score: 88/100.

1998 CAMPO VIEJO RIOJA RESERVA 137810 $17.05 12.4% Alcohol/Vol. Rioja, Spain: A full-bodied wine with juicy red fruit, mocha notes. Touch tannic. Long finish. Perfect with stews and hearty meats. Score: 87/100.

2000 FONSECA PERIQUITA 25262 $9.05 12% Alcohol/Vol. Setubal, Portugal: Med-full bodied. Very different red for when you want to try something other than shiraz and cabernet. Ripe black plums and a long finish. Score: 88/100.

2002 DFJ VINHOS PEDRAS DO MONTE CASTELAO 565762 $9.35 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Setubal, Portugal: Silky, lovely texture. Medium-bodied. Bright, lifted cherries (whatever that means). Some plums too. Located south of Lisbon along the southwest coast of Portugal. Drink with roast and barbecue. Score: 86/100.

2001 DIEVOLE SANGIOVESE ROSSO TOSCANO 612705 $13.10 12.5% Alcohol/Vol. Tuscany, Italy: Med-full bodied. Perfect weekend wine. Drinks well with pizza and while wearing jeans (with a poncho). Ripe cherries, smoke and a touch of oak. Score: 86/100.

2003 ROCCA DELLE MACIE VERNAIOLO CHIANTI 269589 $11.80 12% Alcohol/Vol. Tuscany, Italy: Medium bodied and silky on the palate. Lovely, vibrant cherries. Long finish. Drink with pasta, pizza, lasagna. Score: 87/100.

2002 DA LUCA PRIMITIVO MERLOT TARANTINO IGT 588970 $9.95 14% Alcohol/Vol. Puglia, Italy: Rich ripe red with mocha notes. Med-full bodied. Great food wine: grilled meats; stew and ratatouille. Score: 87/100.

2003 LAMBERTI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 560508 $11.80 12% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Veneto, Italy: An amazing value. Lots of ripe red fruit, oak, smoke and alcohol. More full-bodied than I'd expect from Valpolicella. Perfect with pasta and pizza and grilled meats. Score: 85/100.

2002 FRESCOBALDI CASTIGLIONI CHIANTI 545319 $14.10 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Tuscany, Italy: Perfect for pasta (and lasagna, ratatouille, pizza, etc). Subtle and distinctive. Bright cherries and lovely acidity. Medium bodied. Score: 86/100.

2002 FRESCOBALDI CAMPO AI SASSI 201855 $15.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Tuscany, Italy: Lovely balance and mouth-watering acidity that makes this a wonderful partner to pasta, pizza, lasagna and ratatouille. Dark red fruit caress the middle of your palate. Silky texture. Someone turn on the Andrea Bocelli. Score: 88/100.

2001 PASQUA SAGRAMOSO RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA 602342 $17.05 13.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Veneto, Italy FRATELLI PASQUA S.A.S.: Delicious, rich red with black cherries. Med-full bodied. Juicy enough for tomato pasta or beef. Score: 86/100.

2001 FONTANAFREDDA BARBERA NEBBIOLO LANGHE 616284 $14.30 13.1% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Piedmont, Italy: Basic but good. Aromas of dark chocolate and blackberries. Med-full bodied. Perfect with roast and grilled meats, pasta with meat sauce.

2003 FARNESE SANGIOVESE DAUNIA 512327 $7.10 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Abruzzo, Italy: Med-full-bodied. Cherry aromas. Needs food for the considerable and mouth-watering acidity. This wine will stare down tomato-sauce pasta; it laughs in the face of spicy sausage. Warning: don't sip it on its own. Gotta love the price. Score: 83/100.

2001 CHATEAU ST. GERMAIN (J. CALVET & CIE) 152587 $13.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Bordeaux, France: Classic Old World restraint, balance and finesse. This is no fruit bomb, but offers lots of good, honest red fruit and smoke. Light-med bodied. Drink with lamb and game meats. Score: 84/100.

2000 CHATEAU BONNET (ANDRE LURTON) 99044 $16.95 12.3% Alcohol/Vol. Bordeaux, France: Scoop up the 2000 Bordeaux while they last: even the petites chateaux are excellent buys. What a vintage! Blackberries, currants and cassis. Elegant and stately. Drink 2006-2008. Score: 88/100.

2001 GINESTET ANTHOLOGIE BORDEAUX MERLOT 522698 $13.95 12% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Bordeaux, France: Surprising elegance and balance for a wine so well priced. It's like a Mini Me fifth growth. Dark red fruit with smoke and unresolved conflict. Medium bodied. Drink with steak or roast. Score: 88/100.

2003 CAVES DES PAPES COTES DU VENTOUX 569095 $9.95 14% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Rhone, France: Vibrant cherries and classic cedar notes. Touch tannic, but will smooth out with decanting of an hour or two. Score: 86/100.

2002 LOUIS BERNARD COTES DU RHONE RED 581645 $10.95 13.8% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 Rhone, France: Classic cedar and cherries. Touch tannic. Perfect for stews and hearty meat dishes. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 87/100.

1999 CUVÉE BARON' 650416 $16.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: XD Madiran, France Domaine du Crampilh: Good grip with deep smoky aromas of blackberry, currants and spice. Med-full bodied with a long finish. Drink with lamb or roast beef. Score: 88/100.

2002 TRIBAL MERLOT 623702 $9.10 13.2% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Africa S.A.V.I.S.A. PTY LTD: Ripe red fruit, simple pleasure. Medium-bodied. Score: 83/100.

2003 ROBERT'S ROCK CABERNET SAUV/MERLOT 544668 $8.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Africa: Smooth on the palate. Medium-bodied. Red currants and plums. Score: 83/100.

2003 BELLINGHAM SHIRAZ 554360 $13.15 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Africa: I've recommended this well-priced wine several times before. Lots of smoky oak with black plums. Full-bodied. Drink with grilled meat, roast beef, stew and pasta with meat-sauce. Score: 86/100

2002 NEDERBURG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 111526 $12.45 12.5% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Africa: Lots of full-bodied flavor for roasts, casseroles and stews. Ripe red fruit that's not jammy. Score: 86/100.

2003 OBIKWA SHIRAZ 527499 $8.45 13% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 1 South Africa: A medium- to full-bodied wine with ripe red fruit and some nice acidity to pair well with tomato-sauce pasta, pizza and ratatouille. Excellent price. Score: 85/100.

Good Value Dessert Wines

KOPKE TAWNY PORT 606426 $13.45 20% Alcohol/Vol., Sugar Content: 10 Douro, Portugal: Simple almond goodness, with caramel layers over the top. When Santa needs to stick to a budget, this tawny port is ideal. Score: 86/100.