General counsel // Short Cellar

The Short Cellar helps you navigate the LCBO's General List

By Matthew Sullivan

On Thursday May 20th, 2010

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photo by Alisha HillThe LCBO’s “General List” is the name given to everything in the store that’s not cloistered in the tiny Vintages section. Vintages stocks small quantities of fine wines that appear and vanish on a weekly basis, while the General List is filled with bottles that are available year-round and all across the province.

The General List is often ignored by wine snobs because it is usually comprised of mass-produced plonk, some of which is genuine donkey spit. However, there are also some real treasures to be found in the madding crowd of the General List; in this Short Cellar, I pay these stalwarts tribute.

If you are looking for some bang for your weekday wine buck, here are my recommendations (and one to maybe steer clear of):

Castello Di Neive 2006 Barbaresco, Italy ($20.10, LCBO #160143)
This is a well-structured wine with engaging tannins and acidity, giving it a classical profile that goes well with traditional meals like veal, risotto or eggplant parmesan. Or use it as a particularly elegant accompaniment to Chef Boyardee. Hints of white mushroom, red cherry and earth add a satisfying complexity. 89/100

Maison Rigal 2009 The Original Malbec France ($9.25, LCBO #159178)
I generally find French Malbec (aka “Cot”) to be more tannic than its popular Argentinean cousin. This is no exception — especially since it’s had very little time to age in the bottle. The sweaty and earthy nose is rather attractive in a manly, cowboy sort of way. The palate is a stew of plums and raspberries, seasoned with hints of tobacco leaf. Good value. 87/100

Maison Rigal 2008 Les Terrasse France ($13.95 [Ed. note: No longer available], LCBO #148718)
Maison Rigal’s “Les Terrases” is a fine example of the classic Malbec of the Cahors region, and it stands up to any similarly priced Malbec from Argentina. It’s a textured wine: smooth, satiny fruit greets you at the beginning, but it transforms into a rustic finish of tannic burlap. Nuances of cocoa and green pepper add complexity. Delicious. 88/100

Barefoot Non-Vintage Shiraz, California ($9.95, LCBO #54015)
I can’t write about the General List without giving the high hat to at least one bad bottle. After all, I am a snob. The Barefoot is non-Vintage, meaning that it’s blended with juice from various harvests in order to create a homogenous product from year to year. The result? A thick soup of flavours that come close to tasting like wine, but don’t quite make it. I picked up hints of Nutella, glycerin and grape jelly. It’s drinkable, though, and vastly better than no wine at all. 82/100


Matthew Sullivan is a civil litigator in Toronto. He blogs weekly here on lawandstyle.ca. The Short Cellar column also appears in the print edition of Precedent. Matthew can be reached at matthew@lawandstyle.ca. Follow along on Twitter: @shortcellar.

Photo by Alisha Hill