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waters on wine

Winemaker Riccardo Tedeschi poses among aging barrels at his family's winery in Italy's Veneto region. The winery's Capitel Nicolo Valpolicella Superiore 2017 is a terrific expression of the style.ALESSANDRO PIRAS/Handout

Even if you didn’t splash out with holiday spending, January is commonly viewed as an austerity month. Most virtuous New Year’s resolutions call for self-improvement via a marked reduction in excess, be it eating, drinking or spending. Of course, by the time you read this, most of those goals will have long since been abandoned or significantly downgraded: Perhaps I shouldn’t eat the whole pizza …

No matter where you stand on the opportunity for a fresh start in 2020 with January passing the midway point, there is sure to be interest in well-made wines that retail at a decent price. To that end, here’s a selection of wines I’ve tasted recently that stood out and delivered value for the money. The list includes some widely available labels that might not represent the pinnacle for their respective styles, but can certainly be viewed as benchmarks for quality.

Brancaia Tre 2016 (Italy)

Rating:88 /100

Tre refers to the fact that three red grape varieties from three different estates are used in the blend of this expressive Tuscan red wine. Mostly sangiovese, with a combined 20 per cent addition of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, results in an earthy and smoky wine, with nice structure and complexity. Available in Ontario for $24.95, $35.98 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $22.95 in Quebec, $36 in Nova Scotia.

C.C. Jentsch Cellars Syrah 2016 (Canada)

Rating:92 /100

Expressive and enjoyable, this Okanagan syrah pretty much checks all the boxes for the grape variety. It’s earthy, spicy and plummy, with attractive concentration and freshness. Fruit from sites on Black Sage and Golden Mile benches and aging in a mix of American and French oak barrels helps build complexity. Decant for best enjoyment or tuck away in the cellar for two or three years. Drink now to 2026. Available direct through ccjentschcellars.com for $31.90.

D’Arenberg The Olive Grove Chardonnay 2018 (Australia)

Rating:89 /100

Produced with grapes grown in McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills, this is a rich and fleshy style of chardonnay that offers peach, tropical fruit and toasted oak notes. The multiregional blend approach helps to limit vintage variation and plays to the strength of each area. McLaren Vale brings the riper components, while cooler Adelaide Hills brings the freshness. The result is generous, flavourful and refreshing, which makes it a solid white wine that’s ready to drink. Available in Ontario for $17.95. The 2017 vintage is available in Quebec for $19.95 and various prices in Alberta, while the 2016 is $30.34 in British Columbia.

Domaine de la Cendrillon Classique Corbières 2015 (France)

Rating:90 /100

A timely reminder of the value-for-money prospect of well-made reds from the south of France. The Languedoc has always been on the watch list for bargain bottles but rising quality and increasing focus on specific sites and villages means wine lovers should snap to attention. A prime example is this syrah-dominant blend from Corbières offers impressive complexity and concentration for the price. The mix of ripe dark fruit, herbal and earthy notes make this an excellent red for the winter months. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario for $18.95.

Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2017 (France)

Rating:88 /100

The latest vintage of this popular pinot noir from Burgundy offers a nice core of red fruit and savoury notes that speak to the variety and region. It’s on the brighter and lighter side of the flavour spectrum, which means it will be best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available for $23.95 in Ontario, $29.99 in British Columbia, $21.98 in Alberta, $30 in Saskatchewan, $29.99 in Manitoba, $33.79 in New Brunswick and $31.99 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, $32.90 in the Yukon Territories and $18.78 in the Northwest Territories.

Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 (Italy)

Rating:87 /100

The name translates to royal wolves, which pays tribute to the source of the grapes from vineyards inside a nature preserve for an endangered Italian wolf species in Abruzzo. This is a simple, fruity red with some spice on the drying finish. It’s a solid everyday house red that’s certified organic and vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario for $11.95, $11.35 in Quebec.

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Australia)

Rating:88 /100

This pleasurable shiraz-cabernet blend is responsible for making the Koonunga Hill label’s reputation. A mix of grapes (mostly shiraz with 23-per-cent cabernet sauvignon) grown in locations throughout South Australia, this multiregional blend can be counted on to deliver rich flavours every vintage. The current vintage offers a flavourful mix of red fruit, pepper and spice notes with smooth texture that makes it enjoyable with or without food. Available for $19.95 in Ontario, $19.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $19.99 in Manitoba, $16.95 in Quebec, $20 in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Yukon Territories.

Tedeschi Capitel Nicolo Valpolicella Superiore 2017 (Italy)

Rating:90 /100

A terrific expression of valpolicella from one of the region’s most notable producers, this is a rich and robust red wine with spicy and earthy complexity and a refreshing character. A dry red wine with bright acidity and warmth (from the declared 14-per-cent alcohol), this is best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2024. Available for $17.95 in Ontario, $22.99 in Nova Scotia.

Yalumba Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Australia)

Rating:90 /100

This vibrant and fragrant red wine is a welcome introduction to Coonwarra cabernet character. Made in a fresh and juicy style, this displays classic cassis, currant and menthol notes on the nose and palate. Aging in French oak has tamed the tannins, leading to an impressive smooth texture that carries through to a persistent finish. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario for $19.95. The equally gratifying 2016 vintage is $22.49 in Alberta.

Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand)

Rating:89 /100

Sporting a new label design with the release of the 2019 vintage, Yealands Marlborough sauvignon blanc offers enjoyable and concentrated tropical and stone fruit flavours. That ripe character is nicely countered by mouthwatering acidity that makes this a terrific aperitif or partner for any dish that would benefit from squeezing some lemon overtop. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario for $16.95.

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