With most of Whistler hunkering down
for an economically challenging ski season, visitors and operators alike are
looking for deals. So I’m thinking, what about wine?
If you haven’t noticed, wine is big
business in Whistler, and while some of the world’s greatest bottles have been
flowing effortlessly in many local restaurants for a decade, this may be the
winter best-value wines make their return to wine lists and wine shops.
Whether they do or don’t, you can
save some big dollars and still drink some terrific wines just by checking out
the list below the next time you go wine shopping.
But the question remains: where is
the real value?
Each year I taste somewhere between
2,000 to 3,000 wines, record their notes and keep track of my scores. It’s all
recorded in my database at
But this year I’ve gone one step
further in search of great value wines. Recently, I’ve developed a new program
that allows me to determine which of all the wines I’ve reviewed in a single
year represent superior value. The complex calculation takes into account the
score (out of 100) awarded the wine, its retail price, as well as when it was
last tasted and how long it has been on the market. The resulting e-valuator
numerical quotient measures and then ranks all the wines tasted in 2008.
So to herald the Christmas holiday
season and wrap up the year, here are my picks for the current top 10 most
valuable wines tasted in 2008. Each sells for less than $25 and most are sold
in government liquor stores. It’s a great holiday shopping list for wines and
unlike any other, this one really does over-deliver.
Mission Hill Sauvignon Blanc Five Vineyards
from Okanagan Valley makes the
list with this ultra-fresh and zippy white. The latest edition is creamier
— a fine offset to the lime rind, kiwi fruit, pear, gooseberry and
mineral flavours. Think white meats, white sauces, white fish when you reach
for this very good white wine.
Chile is capable of turning out delicious syrah as
evidenced by this
Chono Reserva Syrah 2006 ($18)
from the Elqui Valley, the home of Pisco. I love its
smooth, supple, forward style and liquorice, menthol, black cherry, meaty,
white pepper flavours. Attractive style for current drinking.
The Toro region of Spain is the source of
Toro Tinta de
Toro 2006 ($15, private wine stores only)
The grape is 100 per cent local tinta de Toro or tempranillo. Typically soft
and fruity, this red is best when it is decanted vigorously to get some air on
it. The Toro is mix of berries earth and spice, with just the right twist of
rusticity and a glossy, smooth, dry finish. Think meat or spaghetti Bolognese.
Back in stock and just a crazy value is
Blue Nun 2007
from Rheinhessen, Germany.
This wine over delivers, to say the least, with its bright fruit and zingy
acidity. Do not confuse this wine with the sweet original Liebfraumilch, and do
not underestimate its price/quality ratio. Surprise your guests with some Thai
or Chinese food and Blue Nun Riesling.
A perennial star in this market
Finca Los Primos Malbec
from San Rafael in southern
Mendoza has “party red” written all over it, and that’s a lot of writing. Showy
black fruit, liquorice and savoury notes fade into its soft and supple
Check out the latest
Pentâge Winery Pinot Gris 2007
($18, private wine shops only)
the spectacular Skaha Bench in the Okanagan Valley. The entry is ripe and
round; the palate is fresh and elegant with pink grapefruit, lime and mineral
flavours spiked with green apple skin, honey and light lees flavours. Love the
citrus character with fine intensity and finesse. Good value here, and
certainly now among the finest pinot gris made in British Columbia.
Another Argentine bargain, this time from Rio Negro, is
Diego Murillo Malbec 2007 ($10)
with its peppery, savoury, liquorice nose; dry, supple palate; and black
cherry, meaty, licorice, savoury, spicy, plum flavours. Fine fruit in an
easy-sipping style. A budget “turkey red” you should decant for maximum
pleasure. Big value.
No. 3: Dow's Late Bottled Vintage
Port 2001 ($24)
is a very pretty port you
can savour over the holidays. Look for ripe sweet black cherry fruit with
spice, liquorice, coffee and tea aromas. Fresh and floral on the palate, with
excellent balance and very pretty peppery, black cherry jam fruit flavours
flecked with chocolate and smoke. A stylish LBV — simply open, pour
yourself a glass, recork, and store in a cool place.
Among the finest vintages of the past 100 years has spawned
Quinta do Crasto Douro Vinho Tinto 2007 ($20)
, with its fabulously fragrant black fruit nose. On the
palate, it swarms the senses with rich peppery, black plum fruit with that
quintessential cocoa/Christmas pudding finish. Super intense, yet fragrant, and
with a surprisingly low alcohol level of 13.5, the result of cool nights in the
Upper Douro. No oak, just the essence of the Douro. This is a special bottle.
I could have chosen a number of Cono Sur labels for this
slot, from the viognier to the pinot noir, but my pick is the
Gewurztraminer Limited Release 2007 ($11)
Much like last year, the ’07 is made from fruit grown in the cold Bio Bio
Valley. It opens with big floral orange peel notes with bits of honey and
spice. The flavours are fruit forward with ginger, orange, nectarine and
grapefruit all with a splash of minerality. Perfect for turkey, but just as
versatile with Indian or Thai food.
Happy Holidays, be safe and, please,
Anthony Gismondi is a
globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British
Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto