The LCBO’s blockbuster $10 deals

The LCBO’s blockbuster $10 deals

After tasting virtually the entire LCBO general list in preparation for the annual Toronto Life Eating & Drinking guide, I know it’s rare to find a great value wine for less than $10. This year’s tasting process is just getting underway, and while you may be sipping wines on the deck or dock this June and July, I’m tasting dozens of wines daily and want nothing more than a cleansing ale by shift’s end. (I ask no pity because I know none is forthcoming.) The upside to all this is having an up-to-date repertoire of the best bargains at the LCBO.

Of particular note are the terrific 2007 releases from Chilean winery Cono Sur, which has given us four great buys: shiraz, pinot noir, merlot and white viognier. Cono Sur—a reference to the “southern cone” of South America, not a play on “connoisseur”—is a smart, modern, organically inclined winery operated by a young team that’s an offshoot of giant Concha y Toro. The fruit purity, balance and generosity found for $10 is astonishing. The wines don’t have the length, finesse and complexity to score 90 points, but if price were a factor in the ratings, they would breeze past that mark.

Here I present 10 great deals, some a bit more expensive, but worth their price.

Cono Sur 2007 Merlot, Chile ($9.95, 457176, 86 points)Merlot should be mellow. This one obliges with smooth texture, and pure, sweet berry fruit and a touch of vanilla, plus a hint of dusty herbs and earth on the finish. Mid-weight and easy, with very fine tannin. A great garden party sipping red.

Cono Sur 2007 Shiraz, Chile ($9.95, 64295, 88 points)Dark, thick and brooding, as only syrah can be. It’s full bodied, fairly thick and soupy, but loaded with typical ripe black cherry, smoke, leather and clove flavours. Dense, concentrated and hot on the finish.

Cono Sur 2007 Viognier, Chile ($9.95, 64287, 87 points)You will not find a better value viognier in the world today than this bottle, a stunning achievement for less than $10. Shows purity, with focused, perfumed star fruit, lemon and licorice. Medium weight and balanced, with freshness and vitality. Very good length.

Cono Sur 2007 Pinot Noir, Chile ($10.45, 341602, 86 points)Amazing pinot accuracy (a variety that’s rare in Chile) for the price, if a bit too full, loose and ripe for pinot purists. Cherry, beetroot and earth notes. Very good length.

Marqués de Cáceres 2007 Rosado, Spain ($12.55, 622142, 88 points)A very finely tuned dry rosé with pale pink colour. Lifted, complex aromas of persimmon, strawberry, orange, evergreen and wet stone. Fresh yet creamy palate that drives well, with herbs and pleasant bitterness on the finish. Very good to excellent length. Try it with salmon.

Bodega J&F Lurton 2007 Pinot Gris, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.95, 556746, 87 points) A perennial best buy. A fruit-driven and rich yet fresh pinot gris that mixes Italian and French styling. Look for peach, yellow flower and honey–on–white bread aromas. Medium weight, soft yet fresh, with a brisk, slightly grapefruit-like finish. Good to very good length.

Cousiño-Macul 2007 Doña Isidora Riesling, Maipo Valley, Chile ($11.95, 57182, 89 points)A rare pocket of old riesling vines in Maipo is yielding incredible complexity and concentration for the price. Bright pale yellow colour. Rich honey, yellow pear, apricot and wonderfully spicy aromas. Medium-full bodied, warm and a touch sweet. Excellent length.

Binderer St. Ursula 2006 Dunavár Pinot Blanc, Hungary ($7.90, 565820, 86 points) The new package and screw cap closure signal an attitude shift for what used to be dull wine. Soft, sweet ripe melon and buttercup nose. Medium-full, fleshy then lively carbon dioxide palate that slims down to a nervy, if simple lemon powder finish. Very refreshing.

Gotto d’Oro 2007 Marino Superiore, Lazio, Italy ($7.45, 206516, 85 points) Four native varieties—malvasia, trebbiano, bombino and bellone—converge on the volcanic hills southwest of Rome to produce a mild but pleasing fresh white, with hints of minerality. Light, very subtle white melon, apple and stony aromas. Mid-weight, zesty palate, with a tangy finish.

Rémy Pannier 2007 Rose d’Anjou, Loire Valley, France ($10.90, 12641, 86 points)Very bright pale ruby with carbon dioxide spritz. Mild candied berry, pine and chalky aromas. Light bodied (10.8 per cent alcohol), spritzy and fresh, with some tart rhubarb, cherry. Great quaffing, pure flavours, clean and delicate.