Value through the grapevine
Sampling suggested best quality-to-price deals
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A couple weeks back I wrote about the great quality-to-price ratio of red wines from France’s Rhône Valley. And with many still nursing post-holiday bills — plus with rising inflation and such — I was curious about discovering other wines that deliver good bang for the buck.
So I put the question out on social media to see what others had found to be good value wines, then scoured through the replies and searched out some other folks’ favourites — plus found a few killer deals of my own.
One response mentioned New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc — a great suggestion — but I wanted similar quality for even less dough. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is typically similar to their Kiwi counterparts, and the Viña San Pedro 2022 Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc (Central Valley, Chile — $10.49/750ml bottle, Liquor Marts and beyond) proved to be a good pick. It’s pale straw in colour, bringing simple but fun lime, green apple, gooseberry and herbal aromas. It’s light-bodied and dry but juicy, with a very subtle fizz working with the zippy acidity to ramp up the tart citrus and green apple flavours, followed by a whiff of grassiness and a modest finish (it’s 12.5 per cent alcohol). It also comes in a three-litre box that retails for $34.49, but is on sale for $27.70 until the end of January. A solid house white to tuck into the corner of your fridge. 3/5
There were many mentions of French rosés, one of which was the Côté Mas 2020 Rosé Aurore (Sud de France — around $15, private wine stores). Pale pink in colour, this blend of red Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes brings ripe peach, watermelon candy, strawberry jam and Swedish berry candy notes aromatically. It’s a light-plus bodied, mainly dry rosé that delivers peach, raspberry and candied fruit notes with modest acidity, plenty of ripeness and a medium-length finish (it’s 12.5 per cent alcohol). Fun and fresh on its own, but could work with anything from salads to cheese boards to milder Thai dishes or curries. 3.5/5
Italy makes plenty of great-value wines, and one red mentioned in response to my query was the Pasqua 2021 Sangiovese (Puglia, Italy — $13.29/750ml bottle, Liquor Marts and beyond), a red made from the same grape used to make Chianti but coming from the Puglia region (think the heel of Italy’s boot). Brambly raspberry and blackberry aromas are quite appealing, especially with a modest herbal, almost-leafy note. It’s medium-bodied, with just the slightest touch of sweetness that’s not obtrusive, but rather works with the zippy acidity to bring a liveliness to the raspberry, tart cherry and blackberry flavours. Tannins are quite light, and the 12 per cent alcohol is refreshingly modest. Close your eyes, picture the checkered tablecloth of an old-school Italian restaurant, and tuck into some spaghetti or pizza with this juicy red. It also comes in a 1.5-litre bottle for $21.39. 3/5
Another crowd-sourced value wine was the Hardys 2021 Stamp Shiraz Cabernet (Australia — $13.99, Liquor Marts and beyond), which offers plush cherry, plum, vanilla and hints of violet on the nose. It’s medium bodied and brings a hint of sweetness that ramps up the ripe fruit flavours, while tannins are modest and the finish doesn’t come with excess heat. It’s a bit too plush for my liking and doesn’t bring loads of character, but it’s on sale for $10.44 until the end of the month, and at that price works just fine for burgers or pizza. 2.5/5
I stumbled upon the Finca Flichman 2022 Poncho Criollo Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina — $14.99/1L, Liquor Marts and beyond) while scouring the shelves for a good deal, and boy was I glad I did. Plum, blackberry, dark chocolate and a hint of black olive show really well on the nose of this Argentine red. It’s dry, medium-bodied and quite juicy, with vibrant dark berry, plum, ripe cherry and cassis flavours coming with the subtlest hint of chocolate, no oak whatsoever and very light tannins before the slightly warm finish (it’s 14.5 per cent alcohol). Chill this approachable red down for 15 minutes and enjoy. 4/5
One of the most common responses I got about great-value wines were Spanish reds, with the Monasterio de las Viñas 2017 Reserva (Cariñena, Spain — $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) mentioned by name more than once. This blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cariñena and Cabernet Sauvignon offers plum, leather, blueberry, eucalyptus and vanilla, the latter coming from this wine having spent 12 months in oak. It’s full-bodied and dry, with blue-black fruit delivered along with chocolate, white pepper and resinous woody/vanilla flavours, grippy tannins and a medium-length finish. A great value if you’re looking for something rustic — especially while it’s on sale for just $11.99 until the end of the month. Stock up while you can. 4/5
What other killer values have you tried that I should take for a test drive? Let me know.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.