Ten Killer Values Under $25

Ten Killer Values Under $25

Wine of the Week Farnese 2005 Sangiovese Daunia, Italy ($7.45, 87 points, 512327)A major winemaking achievement from the south of Italy for this price, with clean, ripe berry-redcurrant fruit, leather and marzipan typical of sangiovese without any hint of acetic problems common in this area. It is almost satiny smooth and has an easy-drinking sweetness followed by a dry, sour cherry finish. Not great length but surely good enough at the price. Will grace any casual meal from pizza and pasta to wings, ribs and Mexican fare. It ranked ninth in the Top 25 Killer Values at the International Value Wine Awards.

A few days ago, Wine Access magazine announced the results of its second annual International Value Wine Awards, with the complete story now online at www.wineaccess.ca. Held in Calgary in late June, the competition was open to any wine sold in Canada this year for less than $25. The current issue of Wine Access identifies the Top 25 Killer Values. As a judge through the preliminary and final rounds of over 1,000 wines, I am in the position to be able to offer tasting notes on some of the “killers” that are available at the LCBO. The ratings below are mine, not those of the IVWA.

IVWA Rank #1 Cathedral Cellar 2005 Chardonnay, South Africa ($14.95, 89 points, Vintages 328559)This packs incredible intensity and complexity for the price, wowing the judges again and again as it rose to the top, eventually being named White Wine of the Year. It does lack some finesse that would give it 90 points in my books, but chardonnay fans will love the intense peat smoke, cashew and garlic toast aromas. Full, creamy and vibrant on the palate with excellent length. Coming October 27.

IVWA Rank #2 Farnese 2006 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy ($7.45, 86 points, 621912)Ranked second as best-value red overall, this is one of two Farnese reds on the list, proving the winemaking is no fluke. I thought the sangiovese was a bit more interesting, however, there’s lots here for the money. Youthful with pure plummy fruit, spice and licorice on the nose. Fleshy, soft and a touch sweet with virtually no drying tannin. Hot finish however. Now to 2010. Also available in magnum-sized bottles.

IVWA Rank #3 Castillo de Almansa 2003 Reserva, Spain ($11.10, 87 points, 270363)From the Almansa appellation in southeast Spain, this blend of Tempranillo, mourvèdre and Grenache was aged 12 months in oak then bottle aged. For it to arrive here at $10 is amazing. It’s a classic, warm, Spanish red with leather, ripe plum-blackberry fruit, cedar and woodsy notes. Mid-weight, fairly soft and even with tannin that should hold it another two to three years. Good length.

IVWA Rank #4 Pascual Toso 2005 Malbec, Argentina ($12.95, 88 points, 35170)I did not taste the 2005, but have the following note and 88-point rating on the 2004, which is likely very similar. Deeply coloured and richly aromatic with sweet plum-blackberry fruit, clove, coffee and mocha. Full, supple, delicate, sweet and drenched in flavour. Almost no tannin, but some alcohol heat. Excellent length.

IVWA Rank #5Aveleda 2005 Charamba, Portugal ($8.65, 85 points, 352963)Captures surprising complexity, if not great depth, for well under $10. Ripe cherry, rhubarb-berry pie, leather and spicy aromas. Mid-weight, firm, a touch brittle and dry with good length. 2008 to 2010. Good autumn house red. Also available in magnum-sized bottles.

IVWA Rank #11 Cono Sur 2006 Merlot, Chile ($10.10, 87 points, 457176)Plush, easy-drinking merlot, which is what merlot is supposed to be. Blackberry, plum, herbal tea and a few floral and spicy notes on the nose. Medium bodied, soft, rolling texture with loads of ripe fruit. Very good length for $10. Now through 2009.

IVWA Rank # 13Moselland 2006 Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay, Germany ($9.45, 86 points, 15875)While the 2005 vintage was tasted at the IVWA, this note is for the currently available 2006, from an equally warm vintage. Niftily translates Mosel charm, delicacy, purity and fresh fruit as well as most wines twice the price. Ripe pineapple, paraffin and grapefruit aromas. Light, low-alcohol (9.5 per cent), slightly spritzy, off-dry palate.

IVWA Rank #17Jacob’s Creek 2004 Reserve Shiraz, Australia ($17.15, 89 points, 665471)Very good cellaring value. Muscular shiraz. Rich, well-integrated bouquet of ripe blackberry-cherry fruit, eucalyptus, chocolate and touches of leather and coconut. Full-bodied, powerful, dense with firm acidity and loaded with tannin. Excellent length. Best 2009 to 2014.

IVWA Rank #24Vineland Estates 2006 Semi-Dry Riesling, Ontario ($13.85, 86 points, 232033)Always a value leader among Ontario Rieslings and still holding its price. This has intense lemon-lime, pineapple and green-herb flavours captured in a light, zesty, mouth-watering style. A touch of sweetness softens the finish. Quite tender and very refreshing. Good to very good length.