Lately some great bargain wines have been trickling into the LCBO. During the middle of summer, it’s not always so good. The shelves are crowded with “BBQ wines”: code for excruciatingly fruity reds with all the subtlety of a propane mishap. Wine doesn’t need to be good to stand up to shortribs slathered in sauce — it just needs to be angry.
However, now that summer is holding the door open for autumn, BBQ wines will cede to some more subtle and dignified specimens, especially a couple fantastic deals from Europe.
Here are my top picks:
Santa Duc 2003 “Les Buissons” from Cairanne, France
$17.95 [Ed. note: No longer available], Vintages #17079)
Cairanne is one of the 19 villages that compose the Cotes Du Rhone Villages denomination — and it produces perhaps the best wine out of them all. To make this wine even more attractive, Les Buissons has already had six years to mature, which is a necessity for any serious Rhones.
This is a lovely, lighter style of red made mainly with the Grenache grape. It has a lattice of tannins balanced nicely with the easy acidity. This is a food wine: it is designed to complement a roast or some mushroom risotto. Like all excellent bottles, it really shows off its quality in the finish — that’s when you can taste its maturity, emerging as an earthy smell of brambles and fertilized soil. 90/100
Montecillo 2005 Reserva from Rioja, Spain
($18.55, LCBO #621003)
This classic Rioja is similar to Les Buissons. Like the Southern Rhone, Rioja is a region famous for producing lighter reds with tart acidity and a distinctive earthiness. But whereas Rhones have a wild quality to them, Riojas are mellow and a little funky. This wine mixes crisp cherry with the crumbly flavour of over-ripe raspberries, all accented by wet leather and loam. It is aging well, and will continue to improve for five years — a rare thing a wine so cheap. The best part is that it is available year round in the LCBO’s general list. 90/100
Puklus Szamorodni 2002 Dry Tokaji from Hungary
$13.95 [Ed. note: No longer available], 500ml, Vintages #48058)
Are you tired of drinking the same old white wines: oaky Chardonnay, and zippy Sauvingnon Blanc? This will cure what ails you.
The Szamorodni tastes like nothing else in the world. It is dry as the Gobi desert and full of character. I tasted raw almonds, yeast, dried apricots, lemon zest and something that reminded me of plaster. It’s strange, but utterly delicious, especially when paired with olives, goat cheese, butter and crusty bread. Drink over the next two years. 91/100
Matthew Sullivan is a civil litigator in Toronto. He writes a weekly blog entry here on lawandstyle.ca. The Short Cellar column also appears in the print edition of Precedent. Matthew can be reached at email@example.com. Follow along on Twitter: @shortcellar.