Published On: Sun, Mar 11th, 2018

Five fine examples of undersung and undervalued wines

It’s an open secret every region has its flagship wine style. New Zealand has its Sauvignon Blanc, Argentina makes Malbec, Napa is the go-to for killer Cabernet Sauvignon and so on. But what really shows you’re in the know is serving a little known wine style that just sings or pouring a popular variety from an unexpected place. Both are very stylish moves, which can also save you money since undersung wines are often undervalued. Here are five fine examples on shelves now.

Wine recommendations

Dry Red from the Dao, Portugal

2014 Quinta de Cabriz Colheita Selecionada, DOC Dao, Portugal (Vintages 247973 $ 13.95 in stores only)

We all know Portugal makes Port, but it also can make incredibly good value dry reds wine too. Taste this stellar bottle to see what I mean — it drinks like a wine worth twice the price. It starts with shy cherry-and-tobacco perfume that moves to a swirling, velvet crush of red and black fruit that slowly unfolds with gentle allusions of cigar, blueberry, dried cherry, black earth and dark toffee. It’s a captivating expression of both power and elegance. Snap it up and pour it with everything, especially dry-cured ham.

Score: 94

Negroamaro from Italy

2016 Luccarelli Negroamaro Puglia IGT, Italy (LCBO 380972 $ 9.00 in stores and online)

Negroamaro is a grape variety from the “heel” of Italy — a region called Puglia — that can produce outstanding wines of richness and grace from the Negro Amaro grape. And Luccarelli’s version just shines. Warm aromas of smoke and dried plum lead to a compact, sweetly-fruited entry that saturates the palate then evolves quickly to reveal dark flavours of tar, espresso bean, smoke, bittersweet chocolate, dried plum and fig. The endnotes of iron and granite lend gravitas to this muscular, brawny, deeply coloured red. Hands-down a best buy and excellent with roasted meat. (Don’t confuse this bottle with the similarly labeled Luccarelli Primitivo, also on shelves but not as delicious.)

Score: 95

Pinot Grigio from Germany

2016 Dachshund Pinot Grigio, Rheinhessen, Germany (LCBO 539536 $ 11.80 in stores only)

Germany is famous for its Riesling, Muller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris, but certainly not Pinot Grigio. But that Northern European nation can made interesting Pinot Grigio that’s not only crisp and light, but also rather sophisticated as demonstrated by Dachshund, a new listing at the LCBO that’s expected to be available at some grocery stores soon. Its tightly-wound grapefruit center that tastes dry but not bone dry unfurls in the mouth with notes of white flowers, lime zest and slate. It’s a serious wine with a funny little label and rock bottom price that’s well worth tasting. Pour it chilled with roasted nuts.

Score: 92+

Pinot Noir from California

2014 Frei Brothers Reserve Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (Vintages 91025 $ 28.95 in stores only)

Sure, Burgundy, New Zealand and Ontario are well known for producing pretty precious Pinot Noir. But California? Actually, yes. The Russian River Valley is a cool climate pocket in Sonoma very well-suited to Pinot Noir, spinning out spectacular versions such as this bottle that just hit shelves. Expect a lifted raspberry core laced with red licorice, violet, and pink peppercorn, and underpinned by a certain chalkiness that lingers on the finish. Sheer elegance. And very good value for money for what it is. Pour it with poultry pan-fried in butter with a few fingerling potatoes and some green beans.

Score: 91

Chardonnay from New Zealand

2016 Oyster Bay Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand (Vintages Essential 326728 $ 19.95 in stores and online)

New Zealand might be best known for its Sauvignon Blanc but it makes equally good, full-throttle Chardonnay — and this bottle is a fine example. It douses the palate with wildly exuberant flavors of Granny Smith apple and key lime — all uncluttered and ample. Then, the high-voltage shock of flavour slowly dims and gives way to a touch of creamy nougat on the finish. Very well made Chardonnay with outstanding balance and concentration. It’s a fabulous cocktail alternative to serve with spicy finger food such as hot wings, spicy cheese straws or Thai chili crab cakes.

Score: 90

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at

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Five fine examples of undersung and undervalued wines