Red wines for taxing times 

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As you contemplate your tax return — or lack of it — and before winter is a complete memory, I'm suggesting some late-season red wine therapy, as in, some of the best value red wines on the market.

I've come to appreciate value at all price points. In one of my many other wine lives, I taste some 3,000 wines a year in search of best value wines. Along with notes, I keep track of the score I give each wine, all of which leads to an impressive database from which to choose my favourite values of the week, month or year.

The complex calculation takes into account the score (out of 100) awarded to the wine and its retail price, as well as when it was last tasted and how long it has been in the market. The resulting e-valuator numerical quotient, or EQ, measures and ranks the performance of each wine I taste.

In the wake of the 34th Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, where Chile was celebrating its claim to be a value wine producer, I decided to run the computer through its paces to see which other countries could lay claim to the "best buy" moniker in this market over the past six months.

Suffice to say, there is something for everyone no matter how big or small your tax return may be this year, and all of today's picks are sold in government wine stores.

Spain remains an excellent place to prowl for bargain reds, beginning with Winemaker Daniel Castano's interpretation of Australia's coveted grenache/syrah/mourvèdre or GSM blend. The La Casona de Castaño Old Vines G-S-M 2009 ($9.50) from Yecla, finally listed in government stores, is fresh and tight, even somewhat lean on the palate with white pepper, orange, plum, rooty, savoury, mineral flavours. A simple, well-made tasty barbecue red you can buy for a song.

A slightly richer red from Mendoza, Argentina is the Punto Final Malbec 2009 ($16). I like the supple, fresh peppery palate and its mineral, savoury bay leaf and licorice notes that undercut its black cherry flavours and warm black raspberry aftertaste. Grilled meat seems an obvious choice, but try serving your steak with a fresh chimichurri sauce for the ultimate match.

Much has been written about the '09 Cote du Rhone vintage, as in, it's excellent. Certainly, the Delas Saint Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2009 ($18), a syrah/grenache blend, would attest to that if it could speak. The attack is soft and smooth with fresh acidity and light tannins. Black cherry, peppery, licorice and chocolate mixes with meaty, savoury, thyme flavours to entertain. A solid, fruity red wine that works for dinner most nights.

Still in the Rhone, I would also suggest you check out the Réserve Perrin Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2009 ($18) that mixes grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault from the southern Rhone Valley to see just how good the 2009 vintage is from the Rhone. The fruit is ripe and round in '09 with a fresh, open peppery, meaty nose flecked with the famous scent of wild herbs or garrigue. The palate is almost glossy with fine texture and rich, ripe, plummy, black cherry flavours flecked with mandarin skin. Super value. Stock up.

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