As temperatures drop, tastes change. Cravings for slightly fuller-bodied whites and richer reds set in. So here are some of the best wines to stock up on this time of year — all under $10. Snap them up now though. Reliable sources say it’s going to be difficult to find bottles under that threshold in the new year when higher freight costs for imported wines kick in at the LCBO.
A white wine with a wonderfully round, generous mouth feel and chalky undertones is the 2020 Luccarelli Bianco IGT Puglia from Italy ($8.45 LCBO). This crisp yet mouth-filling blend of Malvasia Bianca, Chardonnay and Verdeca is immediately enchanting. It starts with a touch of cool stone and quiet citrus on the nose before beaming in and broadening out with satisfying generosity. More vinous than fruit forward, this smart little Italian suggests orange zest, candied ginger and crushed limestone on the palate with a light sprinkle of sea salt that lingers on the finish. Good buy. Score: 93
Also quite lovely this time of year is the 2021 White Blend Portugal by Casa Santos Lima Vinho Regional Lisboa ($8.45 LCBO) — a blend of Fernão Pire s— an underappreciated Portuguese grape variety — as well as Arinto, Moscatel and Sauvignon Blanc. The gift of this wine is its almost oily texture that offsets bright, exuberant fruit that flits from fresh pineapple to sliced pear and apple. Beneath this luminescence is an attractive note of green olive that emerges on the finish and leaves the palate primed for food. Deliciously good value. Score: 92
It’s an open secret that red wines from Portugal overdeliver at every price point. So little surprise three sub-$10 wines from that part of the world are worth your attention — starting with the 2021 Bacalhoa JP Azeitao Syrah Castelao Aragonez, Peninsula de Setubal ($9.45 LCBO). This blend of Syrah, Castelao and Aragonez swirls with flavours and aromas of ripe red fruit, freshly turned black earth and a whisper of violet, all captured in a medium-bodied, cashmere-textured structure. Just enough lip-smacking zip keeps it supremely drinkable. This charmer is a bit of a steal. Score: 94
Also exciting is the 2019 Passion of Portugal Reserva Tinto Vinho Regional Lisboa from Portugal ($8.55 LCBO). This bright, generous blend of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Borroca and Syrah spirals with suggestions of Christmas cake, dried sultanas and poached plum as well as caramelized sugar and dried earth. Then, a wispy little note of white pepper appears on the end. You’ll find lots of complexity packed in this tight little red wine that’s equal parts sweet and savoury. Score: 93
Dog lovers will want to buy a bottle of the 2020 Lab Red Vinho Regional Lisboa from Portugal ($9.65 LCBO) with the pup on the label. This jammy expression of Castelao, Tinta Roriz, Syrah and Touriga Nacional tastes like homemade bumbleberry pie. Think sweet and sour flavours of baked raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries that link with delicious notes of toasty pie crust and a touch of warm nut. Then, a little pink peppercorn note on the end lends interest. Score: 92
$10 can buy you a reliable red from Italy too.
The 2020 Tavernello Sangiovese Cabernet Rubicone IGT ($8.50 LCBO) offers outstanding value. The perfume immediately puts you in Italy with that unmistakable earthy, dusty cherry appeal. Then, it sweeps in with a velvety cloak of flavour-drenched goodness that suggests ripe figs, Aramena cherries, dark chocolate and espresso bean. This wine hangs together beautifully and could sell for more. Score: 92
Also earning a solid 92 points is the 2020 Luccarelli Negroamaro IGT Puglia ($9.45 LCBO). I recommended this wine in March, and it’s still showing beautifully with its fetching fragrance of dried plum and smoked cherry that leads to a polished entry. Each sip unfolds slowly with fig and coffee, graphite and black earth, and a touch of umami-rich meatiness somewhere. Very compelling wine for the money. Score: 92
And the 2020 San Marzano Primitivo IGP Puglia ($9.45 LCBO) is all about black fruit — blackcurrant and black cherry at first, then changes in the mouth. Expect a lush crush of muddled blackberries and dried plum that drifts toward a drizzle of bitter chocolate, cool graphite and hazelnut before tapering to a long salt and pepper finish. Splendid value. Score: 93
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