It's that time of the year again when my friends at Wine Access magazine release their list of the top 25 Killer Wine Values in the country based on a massive tasting of more than 1,100 wines, all priced under $25. We probably shouldn't use the "killer" word when we talk about the absolute best value wines sold in Canada today but the thinking is more along the lines of its slang or street use as in: having impressive or effective power, or impact.
Let's face it. When you put 25 highly opinionated and widely experienced judges in the same room as 1,100 wines selling for $25 or less, you have the potential to come up with one amazing (or killer) wine list that speaks to value. Yes, you could suggest it is arbitrary or subject to individual will or judgment without restriction. It could be contingent solely upon one's discretion — but you know what? It isn't.
The judges have no idea what the price is of any wine. Their job is to simply assess the wine versus its peers and give it a mark based on quality.
Once they are finished I can play with the data and select the highest scoring wines at the lowest selling prices and, voila, you have the "killer values." The even better news is that they come from all around the world.
Here in Canada all but one provincial government operates a liquor monopoly. If they have any redeeming value, and we can't think of many, it is that there has to be an illusion of fairness when it comes to which wines get listed. That means a lot of wines from a lot of countries are on store shelves, especially below $25, and that's where the Wine Access Value Wine Awards come in.
For the purposes of this column I wanted to share 10 of the highest ranked wines with you that you can find in B.C. government stores to kick off the fall sipping season.
No. 10: McWilliam's 2010 JJ McWilliam Cabernet-Merlot, South Eastern, Australia $11. Blends are all the rage in Australia at the moment and this wine is a perfect example of what can be done on the cheap. Look for plenty of cocoa and spice on the nose before a whack of dark red fruit reflecting the 75/25 mix of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. An easy sipping barbecue red that will show best with grilled meats beginning with hamburgers.
No. 9: The Beachhouse 2010 Red, Western Cape, South Africa $12. Another successful blend, this time mixing 65/20/15 shiraz, mourvèdre and viognier. Fruity and spicy, it hits all the right notes on entry with soft succulent fruit with bits of cocoa and dried herbs and an obvious savoury undercurrent. Grilled meats or cheese are all good fits for food. Surprisingly clean and fresh for a cheap South African red. Enjoy.
No. 8: Obikwa 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape, South Africa $9. Fairly simple stuff this barbecue red has an aromatic peppery, tobacco leaf, black olive nose with a streak of menthol. The attack is fresh and supple with a hint of sweetness before its roasted bell pepper, cassis, espresso, cedar finish. Try this with stews or rustic meat dishes for best results.
No. 7: Hardys 2011 Stamp of Australia Riesling Gewürztraminer, South Eastern, Australia $10.50. Aromatic white wines can be very versatile with Thai/Chinese/Indian menus and this edition from Oz hits all the right notes. The nose is spicy with floral, red apple and peach notes. The attack is just off-dry to cool down spicy dishes with bits of lemon and lime rind, apricot skin with lemon meringue and a hint of petrol in the finish. A fun white you can serve solo or with appetizers and or spicy dishes.
No. 6: Barefoot NV Pinot Grigio, California $10. We expect a certain level of quality in pinot grigio in B.C. because we grow it but it's hard to match this wine at $10. Floral citrus blossoms preview a surprisingly fresh palate albeit with some residual sugar in the back end to smooth it all out. Chicken or tomatoes with pasta or pizza would be the match. The blend is 91 per cent pinot grigio, with a mix of muscat, malvasia bianca and symphony to freshen up the finish.
No. 5: Obikwa 2011 Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa $10. Similar to the last edition, the highly affordable Obikwa Shiraz comes with a smoky, spicy, saddle leather nose. The attack is soft with some sweetness; the palate a mix of leather, coffee, resin, smokey, meat and plum flavours. Your basic pizza or barbecued ribs red.
No. 4: Castillo de Monséran 2010 Garnacha, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain $11. A perennial best buy, the latest Monseran has a grapey/black raspberry, cherry jam nose flecked with licorice. The attack is round with more raspberry jam, orange, mineral and licorice flavours. Definitely a wine the over delivers for its price. Try it with grilled lamb chops or barbecue pork ribs.
No. 3: Terra Andina 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Valle Central, Chile $10. A tasty upgrade on previous editions, albeit in a friendly commercial jacket. The attack is soft with a mix of sweet dark fruits, dried herbs, black olives and cedar plum notes. The tannins are soft. Great with spaghetti Bolognese or chicken cacciatore.
No. 2: Jose Maria da Fonseca 2009 Periquita Red, Vinho Regional Terras do Sado, Portugal $10. Periquita wasn't always a drinkable wine but things have changed in Portugal. They're not making New World wine but they are making much better Old World wine. That said, bright fruit greets your nose with bits of spice and dried herbs. The palate is soft and juicy with more red and black fruits with a cedar and earthy finish.
No. 1: Mezzomondo 2010 Negroamaro, Puglia, Italy $9. Fittingly fragrant, the number one pick is 100 per cent negroamaro an indigenous grape grown in Apulia. Blackberries, plums, dark chocolate with a savoury undertone over deliver for the price. So round and fun to drink, it's ridiculous value for $10. You can even age this another three years and it will improve.
Anthony Gismondi is a West Vancouver-based freelance wine writer who travels the globe in search of terroir-based wine.
May 19, 2013, 9:15 AM
Owners watch helplessly as flames and smoke pour out of their home More...
May 18, 2013, 2:00 PM
Investigation into Paradise Valley water source for mountain resort continues More...
May 17, 2013, 11:02 AM
Sea to Sky Highway to be intensely monitored for high-risk driving More...