Food and Drink 

Looking for Mr. Good Bargain

Canada's annual "best wine bargains" list is out courtesy of Wine Access magazine, and the results of the 2010 International Value Wine Awards, held each summer in Calgary, Alberta, are well worth noting for the upcoming entertaining season. I mean, seriously, who doesn't like a bargain?

As the chief judge for all six competitions, I can easily state that the 2010 results are by far the richest in terms of winners and bargains, and because I'm responsible for assembling the 25 talented Canadian-based wine tasters who spend a week tasting some 1,100 entries, believe me, the results are worth noting. Many of the wines are tasted twice by different panels to finalize a list of winners that sell for less than $25 somewhere in Canada.

Since we pay the most for wine in Canada and seldom see the lowest price for any wine it only makes these results more useful. I've chosen the most interesting categories for this time of the year and will share some of the top scoring wines that are available here in British Columbia. Two things are certain - you can rely on these wines to over-deliver for the price and you can be confident that under blind tasting conditions (the judges are told only the grape content of each bottle) each wine twice defeated dozens of its competitors to become a category champion or to rank among the top 10 picks labelled "judges' choice" by the IVWA.

For complete results look for a copy of the Wine Access , October/November issue on newsstands around the city, or better yet order your own subscription online at



Fifty years should stand for something. It's been that long since the now departed Rodney Strong set up his cabernet sauvignon shop in the Alexander Valley, where the days are warmer and the vineyards escape the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean. The 2006 is a delicious drop of red with that characteristic Alexander Valley black fruit and chocolate undercurrent. Judges' Choice: Rodney Strong 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, United States $23


Too much oak has been the mantra of wine writers for more than a decade so when wineries get it right, especially in this price range, we pay attention. So it was that we selected two Category Champions: Errazuriz 2009 Estate Chardonnay, Valle de Casablanca, Chile $14 and Beringer 2008 Founders' Estate Chardonnay North Coast, California $20


Just when you think unoaked chardonnay as a category is finished, along comes Cono Sur's 2009 organic version and all is right in the wine world. Too much oak in chardonnay shouldn't be the motivation for making unoaked chardonnay. Pureness of fruit, lively acidity and intelligent lees management can build structure in a pleasing manner that supports the fruit without overwhelming the wine. Category Champion: Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay 2009, Valle de San Antonio, Chile $14


Authenticity and reliability are the story of Famiglia Bianchi Malbec. Of course the dense lush fruit and its savoury undercurrent make this glossy red an attractive dinner option especially with grilled meats. Category Champion: Famiglia Bianchi 2007 Malbec, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina $18


There is something about Central Otago pinot noir that makes it so appealing in the glass. In this case, the Rabbit Ranch is soft and round on entry with black cherry, mineral aromas and spicy, thyme, rhubarb, black cherry, orange peel, celery root flavours. A solid, uncomplicated pinot that pairs well with duck or pheasant. Category Champion: Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago, New Zealand $25


In five years this Minervois that blends 60 per cent mourvèdre with grenache and carignan from 70-year-old vines has performed admirably. The wine has a supple sweet ripe fruit entry, fine length and tasty mocha, sweet spicy fruit. Another Languedoc success story. Still a bargain at this price in B.C. Category Champion: Château de Sérame 2007 Minervois, Minervois, Languedoc, France $26


Frescobaldi's Remole is predominately sangiovese with a bit of cabernet sauvignon tossed in for structure and it helps. The judges loved the freshness here and the complexity of the blackberry, cherry fruit and peppery, earthy, undercurrents. Spaghetti Bolognese, anyone? Category Champion: Frescobaldi 2008 Rèmole, Tuscany, Italy $15


The judges cited the elegant styling of this Washington riesling as the key to the success and surprise of this wine. Expect it to be floral with peachy, ripe red apple flavours and of course refreshing acidity. Washington State has the largest riesling plantings outside of Germany, which explains the moderate price. Think Pan-Asian foods. Category Champion: Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, United States $15


Our annual appraisal of Segura Viudas Brut at seldom wavers, and it would appear the judges at Wine Access agree. The palate is fresh, with a creamy mousse and more dried pears, citrus, apple, nutty honey almond flavours. A grade "A "sparkler made for appetizers or light meals. Judges' Choice: Segura Viudas N/V Brut Reserva, Cava, Spain $16


It was nice to see an Australian shiraz back near the top of the category: Yalumba 2007 Y Series Shiraz Viognier, South Australia $18 , but the home run hitter was a screw-cap syrah from the Languedoc. Three Winds charmed the judges in the preliminary and final rounds with its spicy, smoked meat and savoury nose and soft/generous fruit with bits of mocha, black cherry, plum and liquorice root flavours. Category Champion: Three Winds Syrah, Languedoc, France $14


Hooray for Greece and something old but new. Moschofilero is so refreshing, with hints of lime, lemongrass and mineral/floral notes that reflect this wine grown in the hills of Mantinia. No oak and modest alcohol makes this a winner with food. Try it with sushi, seafood and chicken dishes. Category Champion: Boutari 2009 Moschofilero, Northern Greece $19.


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



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