Dear wine-column friends, might I ask that you keep the noise to a minimum this morning? Your correspondent is nursing a wee pumpkin-beer hangover.
Well, in truth, I'm writing this prior to Halloween because I must file these words in advance to meet the early deadline. But that was the plan for All Hallows' Eve, a fat, hollowed-out pumpkin "keg" filled with delicious seasonal beer, dispensed through an inserted spigot, as I described weeks ago. I have found through much experience that alcohol and sugary Oh Henry! bars – my other Oct. 31 weakness, ingested in embarrassing quantity from the bowl I keep at the door for scary children – tend to make for a rough morning.
With yesterday's celebration a fading memory, Nov. 1 marks the unofficial start to what party planners call pre-holiday entertaining season. It's a while yet before the revelry begins in earnest, I know, but perhaps not too early to start thinking about stocking up on good-value drink for the gatherings you may host.
With that in mind, I propose something of a house-wine cage match: a list of bargains worthy of your scrutiny. The reviews that follow are by no means the final word on well-priced reds and whites. I, in fact, welcome reader suggestions for potential future columns on the subject. (But, please, no white zinfandel or liebfraumilch!) They simply represent some of the standouts among the new-vintage bargains I've sampled in recent weeks. No surprise: Chile figures prominently. I hope you'll find one or two to spare you the fiscal hangover of party-planning debt.
Tabali Reserva Chardonnay 2012 (Chile)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $13.95
Grown in northern Chile just 29 kilometres from the ocean's cooling influence, this is a crisp and clean white, aged in stainless tanks rather than chardonnay's more common oak barrels. Medium-bodied and brimming with pear, apple and citrus, it shows good ripeness and depth of flavour, succulent yet not at all sweet. It's versatile at the table and it's not to be confused with the higher-priced Tabali Reserva Especial. Various prices in Alberta.
Aveleda Vinho Verde Fonte 2013 (Portugal)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $8.95
Perfect for party-season moderation, here's a white with just 10-per-cent alcohol, a refreshing detour from today's generally potent wines. Not that low-alcohol is it's greatest virtue: A venerable old brand with a fresh new label, this delicate, very light gem contains a whisper of classic vinho verde spritz, which makes it a superb aperitif. Crisp as autumn air, it hints at lemon-lime zest and herbs. Various prices in Alberta, $11.49 in Manitoba, $11.80 in Quebec, $12.99 in Nova Scotia.
Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (South Africa)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $11.95
Rich and velvety, Nederburg's Winemaster's Reserve cabernet is a mouthful of sweet dark-skinned fruit and smoky overtones set against elegant, polished tannins. Meaty, saucy dishes work best with this red. $12.99 in B.C., various prices in Alberta, $14.99 in Saskatchewan, $13.49 in Manitoba.
Caliterra Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Chile)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $9.95
There's an almost liqueur-like depth to Caliterra's ripe red. It calls to mind an Italian ripasso, infused with a leathery, woodsy aromatic quality as well as more typical cabernet nuances of mint and black olive. It would do well with earthy dishes such as roast pork tenderloin wrapped in pancetta or bacon. Various prices in Alberta.
Miguel Torres Las Mulas Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Chile)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $12.95
Light and crisp, with pronounced grapefruit, lemon and tangy herbs, this organic white also serves up a hint of gun powder (yes, I stand by that descriptor) long after the shot's been fired. It's a good choice for salads. On sale for $11.95 in Ontario until Nov. 9. Various prices in Alberta.
La Fiole Côtes du Rhône 2012 (France)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $15.05
Supple cherry and strawberry notes come through with good concentration for a reasonably priced, medium-fullbodied Côtes du Rhône. It's also carries lovable notes of lavender and herbs and fine-grained, gently sticky tannins. This would be perfect for lamb roast or beef with roasted vegetables. $19.99 in B.C., various prices in Alberta, $19.99 in Manitoba, $17 in Quebec, $18.49 in New Brunswick, $16.79 in Nova Scotia.
The Pavillion Chenin Blanc Viognier 2013 (South Africa)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $10.95
Marvellous for the money, The Pavillion blend of chenin blanc and viognier serves up silky, succulent tropical fruit flavour and floral aromatics, finishing clean and crisp. It's a fine white for fish. Available in Ontario.
Leyda Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 (Chile)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $11.50
Commendably true pinot character here for the price, it's light-medium-bodied, with suggestions of jammy berries, smoke, underbrush and herbs, supported by fine tannins. Nice for duck breast or grilled pork chops. Various prices in Alberta.
Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2013 (Italy)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $7.75
A reader recently thanked me profusely for mentioning this one a few weeks ago. I think it bears revisiting in the context of today's house-wine theme. Mid-weight and supple, it offers up succulent cherry fruit framed by bright acidity, finishing with a salty tang. Try it with roast poultry or steak or cheese – it's that versatile. Various prices in Alberta.
The Flavour Principle, co-written by Beppi Crosariol and Globe food columnist Lucy Waverman, recently took home top prize for best general English cookbook at the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards.