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Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO’s best bottles of wine for $20 or less

They’re totally acceptable for special occasions (but also for any given Tuesday)

By André Proulx and Michael Pinkus
Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
Citra Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

$8.95 | Italy Despite its young vintage, this is a solid wine to enjoy over the holidays, with hints of smoke layered over ripe blueberry and cherry flavours. It’s dry, but a hint of sweetness that lingers after a sip really enlivens the fruit. LCBO 446633

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2019 Château Le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages

$15.95 | France This grenache (70 per cent), syrah (20 per cent) and mourvèdre (the rest of it) blend is brimming with juicy black currant aromas—and rich fruit flavours match its nose. It’s an affordable wine that would benefit from a few years in the cellar, but we don’t blame you if you want to drink it now. LCBO 224592

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2020 Wolftrap

$14.95 | South Africa The smokiness on the nose makes way for juicy cherry and blackberry notes. And for a wine that’s bone-dry, fruity flavours explode on the palate and the finish is long and smooth. Pairs well with: a roaring fireplace and a leather-bound book. LCBO 292557

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2019 Peljesac Red

$15 | Croatia If you’ve never heard of plavac mali (and there’s a decent chance you haven’t) then this bottle is a great introduction. The Croatian grape is versatile and can be found in wines both light and full-bodied. This bottle belongs to the former category, offering up elegant notes of cherry and hints of spice on the finish. LCBO 460873

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2019 Creekside Cabernet Merlot

$15.95 | Ontario Niagara may have experienced a challenging growing year in 2019, but you wouldn’t know it based on this bottle. The medium-bodied merlot is elegant on the palate with flavours of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry. It’s a wonderful option if your festive feast includes roasted red meat. LCBO 431106

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2020 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz

$16.95 | Australia This is a textbook Australian shiraz with jammy notes, bursting with plum and cassis. Notes of smoke and vanilla add some complexity to all the juicy fruit flavours. It’s a super-smooth, well-balanced sip. LCBO 506691

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Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2018 Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso Di Torgiano

$19.95 | Italy This cherry- and berry–forward Umbrian wine is a blend of sangiovese and colorino grapes fermented in stainless steel before being barrel-aged for 12 months prior to bottling. To bring out its best qualities, decant it for a bit before drinking. Vintages 368548

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2020 Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir

$17.95 | Ontario While we were all preoccupied with the pandemic during 2020, Niagara’s vineyards did not get the memo—that summer will go down in history as one of the best for growing grapes. Pinot noir at this price point can be a risky, but this bottle—brimming with ripe Niagara cherry notes—is a hit. LCBO 13904

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2019 Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon

$18.95 | California The fruit for this well-balanced bottle was sourced from three key growing regions in California: Paso Robles, San Lucas and Lake County. It all spent six months swimming in American and French oak barrels, taking from them just a hint of vanilla. This bone-dry but fruit-juicy wine is possibly the LCBO’s best Californian cab-sauv at this price point. LCBO 15760

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2018 Errazuriz Max

$19.95 | Chile Widely considered one of the best vintages to come out of Chile in recent years—which is saying something for a country that consistently produces outstanding vintages—this truly might be the best Max we’ve tried to date. It’s dominated by dark fruit (floral and cocoa notes play supporting roles), with nice complexity and a long finish. LCBO 335174

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2020 Creekside Sauvignon Blanc

$15.95 | Ontario Creekside is often associated with syrah, but their sauvignon blanc is always a standout and this bottled liquid sunshine reflects the year’s hot growing season. Honey, grapefruit and tangerine play a delicious attack on all the senses (okay, two of them). The crisp acidity on the finish keeps it light on the palate and very food friendly. LCBO 620724

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Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2021 Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc

$9.95 | South Africa If you’ve never tried South African chenin, this bottle is a great place to start without breaking the bank. It starts and finishes with some seemingly sweet notes—but it’s the fruit that’s sweet, not added sugar: delicious apple and pear with just a touch of lemon drop for balance. Drink it now but also keep it in mind when patio season rolls around. LCBO 495507

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2020 Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay

$19.95 | Washington This wine checks all the boxes if you’re big on chardonnay. Warm-climate notes on the nose with tangerine? Check. Orchard fruit flavours with a bit of baking spice? Check and check. It’s broad on the back palate with nice texture, but bright acidity keeps this wine perfectly balanced. LCBO 232439

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2019 Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhône Rouge

$16.70 | France Dark fruit and floral notes first hit the nose before doing an encore show on the palate, while adding in white pepper, mocha, black cherry and blackberry. A layered finish brings nice depth and there’s some cellaring potential here, but it’s also something worth drinking right now. LCBO 17779

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2017 Chateau D’Aigueville Cotes du Rhône Villages

$16.55 | France This Rhône Valley blend of grenache, syrah and carignan—plus a few other unspecified grapes for good measure—has a pretty simple nose of white pepper and dark fruit, but the palate is layered with smoke, spice, blackberry and cassis. Buy a bunch so you can drink some now and cellar the rest. LCBO 544031

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2018 Lisbon by Night Red Blend Lisboa

$9.80 | Portugal This is lovely and chuggable wine with plenty of character. Flavours of cocoa and mocha are followed by black cherry and plum, and the tannins are soft and supple. The Starry Night–inspired label is pretty nice, too. LCBO 18998

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Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2018 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon

$19.95 | Australia Talk about a wizard of Oz! There is so much to love about this Australian cab. With a flavour profile that includes cassis, black raspberry, black cherry, dark chocolate, anise, cigar box and even some salty black olive, there’s nice complexity with every sip. LCBO 744235

Holiday Wine Guide: The LCBO's best bottles of wine for $20 or less
2020 Chapoutier Belleruche Cote Du Rhône Blanc

$17.15 | France Honey and lanolin with some apple and apricot get this party started, but then there’s a turn towards notes of citrus—both pith and zest—with a pleasing note of minerality on the finish. Tip: if you can find the 2019 vintage, it’s worth grabbing as well. LCBO 245340

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