A wine habit can get expensive, especially when you’re tapping into the vintages section. Just ask Stanley Bernard, co-owner, general manager and wine curator at Toronto’s East Thirty-Six. “I love wine so much, but after a while, it can make a dent in your wallet,” he tells us.
You’re probably thinking that buying cheaper wine can be a lot like a game of a chance, but what if it didn’t have to be? “I often challenge myself to try and find wine on the shelves that are in the $10 to $15 range that actually do drink well, Bernard adds. He holds a certificate in Food and Beverage Management from George Brown College, and he also studies with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Basically, he’s a wine connoisseur, and he knows his stuff.
To find good, cheap wine, you don’t need a studied nose (that’s why we’ve wrangled up a wine honcho). To buy like Bernard, just follow his nose. Bernard’s experience is sometimes non-traditional, and comes from thinking outside tried and true vineyards and looking to wines from “less-celebrated, but still established” regions. “Generally speaking, there is great value to be found in Chilean and Argentine wines, as well as those from Portugal.
He also advises us to look beyond popular favourites like Cabernet Sauvignon, and look out for less buzzy varietals like Malbecs or Cabernet Francs. Another hot tip is to try varieties that aren’t traditionally viewed as being native to a region – instead of buying a Burgundy or New Zealand Pinot Noir, look for one from Chile or Argentina.
Whichever of these tips you employ, Bernard encourages you to be adventurous. “Even if you end up buying what you consider to be a waste of a bottle, you’ll have only spent in the $10 to $15 range, and you’ll have one less wine to try!” Sounds like a great way to experiment. But if you want to know what’s both good and cheap right now (and what to pair with ’em), these nine bottles will get you through the weekends (and weekdays) to come:
Nine expensive-tasting wines you’d never know cost less than $15
Sparkling Under $15Name: Cavas Hill 1887
Notes + pairing: “This is a very good dry bubbly made in the traditional method. There are notes of citrus and some vegetal ones, too. It’s ideal for any time of day, and it pairs well with oysters, cheese, charcuterie and seafood.” LCBO
Whites Under $15Name: Remy Pannier Sauvignon Blanc Val De Loire IGP
Origin: France (Loire Valley)
Notes + pairing: “It features citrus, grass, gooseberry, and light mineral aromas; is dry and light-bodied with fruit and citrus flavours and a balanced acidity. It pairs well with salads, light fish dishes and chicken.”LCBO
Whites Under $15Name: Henry Of Pelham Estate Chardonnay VQA
Notes + pairing: “This medium-bodied white has hints of green apple, grapefruit, and some spice on the nose and palate, with a crisp acidity and citrus on the finish. It would be good with heavy fish like salmon, as well as pasta with cream sauce, chicken or veal.” LCBO
Whites Under $15Name: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio
Notes + pairing: “Here’s a well-made Chilean take on the fresh Italian style that shows ample character, offering notes of tropical fruit, pear, and lemon against a crisp spine. It pairs well with shellfish and medium-textured fish such as sea bass.” LCBO
Reds Under $15Name: Ascheri Barbera d’Alba DOC
Notes + pairing: “A beautiful ruby colour, you’ll smell black cherry, plum, and cedar on the nose. It’s a dry, medium-bodied red with blackberry and cherry flavours, and a balanced acidity with tight tannins. It goes great with game meats and sauces and aged cheeses.” LCBO
Reds Under $15Name: Domaine Jean Bousquet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Notes + pairing: “This concentrated red shows a savoury side with the dark cassis and black cherry notes, some mineral, and lingering coffee finish. Pair it with heavy meat dishes - think rib eye or NY strip steaks - and bold cheeses.” LCBO
Reds Under $15Name: Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec
Notes + pairing: “Medium-plus body with dark plums, blackberries, and vanilla notes; features dark fruit and coffee flavours with smooth tannins to finish. This Malbec pairs well with any red meat, as well as sharp cheeses like a strong blue.” LCBO
Reds Under $15Name: Mezzomondo Negroamaro Puglia IGT
Notes + pairing: “A full-bodied red with aromas of cherry and some vegetal notes; it has a smooth texture with ripe cherry and plum flavours. Pairs well with tomato-based pasta dishes, burgers, BBQ and stews.” LCBO
Reds Under $15Name: Torres Sangre De Toro Garnacha
Notes + pairing: “This is a medium-bodied fruity red with cherry, black raspberry and spice alongside a bit of earthiness. Try pairing it with comfort foods like ribs, wings, pulled pork, mac and cheese or meatloaf.” LCBO