Off the beaten track 

Getting the biggest taste bang for your wine buck

It’s that time of the year when many of us find ourselves short of funds. Worse, with the annual Revenue Canada tax deadline looming for most Canadians it’s going to be a while before any of us are likely to reach for the most expensive wines on the shelf.

I’ll admit that disposable wine income is a relative concept but it doesn’t really matter how much or how little money you have to spend on wine because when it comes to paying, no one likes to feel as though he or she has paid too much.

Everyone wants to drink best value wines. The only trick is knowing what a best value is and then ultimately locating one to buy.

Value means getting the most for your money, so don’t be fooled into thinking only inexpensive wine can offer value. Not surprisingly there is wine value at all price points. The trick is to buy wine that over-delivers in flavour and taste for its price. That’s what being wine savvy is all about.

You may find that retailers and restaurateurs will compliment you when you make a savvy wine selection but don’t count on either to help you find too many "great buys," otherwise they would be out of business.

After 30 years of serious wine buying in a heavily controlled government monopoly market, I’ve become a savvy wine buyer as a matter of survival.

A good place to begin the value hunt is off the beaten track among varietal or regional wine – labels that are off the radar of everyday consumers. Instead of heading into the chardonnay or merlot section of California you might want to look for a pinot gris from British Columbia, or viognier from the Pays d’Oc.

In fact, as weird as it sounds, the tougher the name is to pronounce, like the juicy nero d’Avola grape of Sicily, the more likely it will be priced below its true value because so few buyers will reach for it.

Viognier is a great example of delicious wine that has yet to penetrate the mainstream, most likely because few can pronounce the name, vee-OWN-yay. The grape originates in the northern Rhone, but the bargains are not from there. There are, however, three very diverse offerings from the rest of the globe that might pique your interest.

Cono Sur in Chile has done a fabulous job with viognier and it sells for less than $12 across the country. Yalumba and Smoking Loon have set new standard at the $16 to $18 mark with viognier that will scare you they are so good – the former is made in Australia the latter in California.

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