Skip to main content
waters on wine

Wine marketing often promotes the idea that a good wine can make a meal taste even better, or that the right dish can bring out the best in a glass of wine: red wine with red meat, right? As a result, you’ll often see wine labels offer suggested pairings.

Case in point, the back label of Toro Bravo, the least expensive wine reviewed this week, declares it to be “an expressive wine with soft, round tannins ideal for braised and grilled dishes.” Even at its bargain price, one of the biggest triggers for consumer purchase, this Spanish red blend of tempranillo and merlot is looking to add value for consumers.

Critics have long complained the industry’s “right dish and the right wine” approach sends the wrong message. It turns the pleasure of shopping for a bottle of wine into a potential minefield that seems to require insider knowledge to be successful.

According to the Wine Market Council’s recent conference held in Napa, the wine-and-food relationship isn’t a consideration for a large percentage of wine drinkers in the United States. Asked why they drink wine, 47 per cent chose “it makes me feel more relaxed, laid back.” The second highest response was from the 35 per cent who enjoyed the taste of wine more than that of other alcoholic products.

The feedback was gleaned from 4,470 consumers weighted by age, gender, race and area of residence to match the population of the United States, including non-wine-drinkers since only 34 per cent of American adults drink wine. The majority surveyed believe wine is appropriate with “dinner at a formal/fancy restaurant,” but less than half said wine was their beverage of choice with weekday dinners at home.

While the American consumer market is different from Canada’s, which sees interest and appreciation in wine vary by province, I suspect wine is increasingly enjoyed on its own as opposed to with a meal. Whatever your motivation to open a bottle of wine, whether to serve with a meal or to sip on its own, here are eight recommendations to enjoy this month.

Antaño Crianza Rioja 2018 (Spain), $12.95

Rating:88 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

Produced at Marques de Carríon winery in the Rioja Alavesa subregion, this appealing red wine is produced from tempranillo and aged for 12 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels. The finished wine features a pleasant mix of ripe fruit, sweet spice and savoury flavours, with decent length. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in Ontario, $13.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $15.99 in Manitoba, $17.99 in New Brunswick, $18.49 in Nova Scotia.

Bogle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (United States), $23.95

Rating:90 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

Made in a rich and ripe style, this Californian cabernet makes the most of its plush texture and generous dark fruit, black olive and coconut flavours. The use of American oak shines through as part of a concentrated and easy-to-appreciate style that has acidity and tannin to balance. Vegan. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta, $28.98 in New Brunswick.

Brancaia N°2 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Italy), $33.95

Rating:92 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

Brancaia’s estate in Maremma on the Tuscan coast focuses its efforts on producing Ilatraia, a blend of cabernet, petit verdot and cabernet franc each vintage. This stylish 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon is called No. 2 because it’s created after the blend of the flagship wine is finalized. The aroma and flavour show more complex Tuscan character than classic cabernet notes, with complex savoury and cedar mingling with cassis. Decant for best enjoyment. Drink now to 2031. Available at the above price in Ontario, $29.95 in Quebec, $48 in Nova Scotia (Bishop’s Cellar).

Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino 2018 (Italy), $72.95

Rating:91 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

The Ghezzi family owns nearly 100 hectares of organically farmed vineyards in Camigliano, the subregion around Montalcino where this winery of the same name is located. This sangiovese showcases mature balsamic and earthy flavours as part of its rustic charm. The wine’s elegant structure and lingering savoury and sour cherry flavour suggest this will develop gracefully. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario.

Cune Crianza 2019 (Spain), $15.95

Rating:91 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

A blend of tempranillo (85 per cent) with small additions of grenache and mazuelo, this offers the easy-to-appreciate charm of a well-made Crianza-style wine from Rioja. This offers appealing structure and refreshment with cherry and pomegranate flavours with some fragrant herbal notes. The price makes it a great house-wine candidate. Vegan. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta and Saskatchewan, $18.99 in Manitoba.

Leacock’s Rainwater Medium Dry Madeira (Portugal), $23.95

Rating:90 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

Rainwater Madeira advertises a lighter, fresher and drier style of the rich and flavourful fortified wines produced on the Portuguese island. Leacock’s, one of Madeira’s historic labels, with good distribution in the country, shows typical bitter orange and caramel, with almond, ginger and dried grass notes. The style is best enjoyed as an aperitif or used in cocktails such as the Madeira Tonic (1.5 oz Rainwater Madeira over ice in a Collins glass, topped with tonic water). Once opened, a bottle of Madeira will keep for many months after opening in the refrigerator. (19 per cent abv, 69 g/litre r.s.) Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario and Quebec, various prices in Alberta, $28.70 in Saskatchewan, $38.99 in Prince Edward Island.

Toro Bravo Tempranillo Merlot 2021 (Spain), $9.95

Rating:86 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

Manufactured to deliver a smooth, soft and fruity style of red wine, Toro Bravo has been a bestseller since the 2017 vintage appeared in stores five years ago. The current release is the 2021 vintage, which suggests a mix of fruitcake, peppery spice and ripe berry flavours as part of its off-dry (6 g/litre r.s.) character. It’s made for mass appeal, but the push and pull between the sweetness and bitter tannins mars the lingering finish, which could really use some refreshment. Vegan. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $12.49 in Manitoba, $11.99 in New Brunswick, $12.79 in Nova Scotia.

Porseleinberg Syrah 2020 (South Africa), $103

Rating:96 /100

Open this photo in gallery:

One of South Africa’s top wines, this stellar syrah comes from a 70-hectare organically farmed estate atop the Porseleinberg mountain in Swartland. Winemaker and viticulturist Callie Louw lives on the property, where he tends the vines and makes the wine, which is aged in large oak and concrete vessels. There’s a remarkable fragrance and seamless texture to this impressive red that reveals an intriguing mix of peppery spice, fresh herbs and juicy red fruit flavours. Vegan. Drink now to 2038. Available at the above price in Ontario, available at, various prices in Alberta, $100.50 in Quebec.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe