Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

Some of the cheapest wines offer the best value

The widespread misconception is that the best-value wines run between $ 12 and $ 25. But the truth is, value can be had at every price point — you just need to look hard enough. I’m in the midst of tasting the 500 bestselling wines in the United States priced at less than $ 15 (U.S.) for the second edition of my book, Good Better Best Wines. The process is a candid reminder that you don’t need to spend a bundle to drink well. Since many of the bestsellers in the United States are global brands available in Ontario too, I thought I’d share five incredibly good value wines I’ve tasted recently — all cost less than $ 12.

Wine recommendations

NV Flipflop Pinot Grigio, California (LCBO 494187 $ 9.95 in stores and online)

Casual but polished, this focused, fresh and fruit-forward style of Pinot Grigio tastes like the best gourmet lemon-lime sorbet you’ve ever tasted — in adult form. The kiss of sweetness offsets the taut, mouthwatering acidity to create impeccable balance while the saturated centre tastes sunlit and pure. Pair it with California-style spicy fish tacos for a getaway in a glass.

Score: 92

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2016 Lindeman’s Bin 50 Shiraz, South Eastern Australia (LCBO 145367 $ 11.95 in stores and online)

The initial thunderclap hit of poached plum, wild blueberry and milk chocolate gives way to layered complexity as warm stones, clove, cola and salted grilled meat emerge through the ripe fruit. That is quite a lot of complexity and dry, brawny concentration for the money. Match the wine’s umami-rich appeal with firm, aged cheeses for a greater than the sum situation. Spaghetti cacio e pepe, that classic Italian dish that tosses pasta with olive oil, butter, black pepper and grated pecorino or parmesan, works marvelously with this wine.

Score: 91+

2016 Concha y Toro Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile (LCBO 116426 $ 8.95 in stores and online)

This bright, juicy style of Cabernet Sauvignon will please those who prefer a lighter, more lifted expression of the variety. Think wild strawberries and other soft red fruit laced with a gentle sprinkling of dark cocoa and toasted hazelnuts. It’s beautifully balanced, relatively delicate and tapers to a whisper of black olive, coffee bean and walnut on the finish. Pour it with that mid-week meal of meatloaf, sausage or shepherd’s pie.

Score: 89

NV Flipflop Wines “Left Coast” Cabernet Sauvignon, California (LCBO 494179 $ 9.95 in stores and online)

Catch the little tongue-in-cheek “left coast” on the label, which is an ironic play on Bordeaux’s “left bank” where some of most expensive Cabernet in the world is grown. Flipflop is of course decidedly unpretentious. The initial impression of homemade black cherry jam on the nose and palate quickly morphs to a dry-tasting, slightly more serious wine as flavours of espresso, blackcurrant liqueur and bittersweet chocolate emerge and then slowly recede, leaving a lingering coffee-cherry-nut finish. Pair it with oven-barbecued brisket piled high on buttered buns for a real treat.

Score: 92+

2016 Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay, Australia (LCBO 142117 $ 10.95 in stores and online)

This popular wooded Chardonnay tastes silky-rich, generous and juicy with a baked apple, pineapple-citrus middle imbued with creamy notes of toasted nut and butter pastry. I like to pair it with richer foods such as fried fish, pasta in a cream sauce or even salted potato chips, which brings the bright citric core to the fore and transforms the wine into a more delicate-tasting drop while maintaining enough weight and power to hold its own.

Score: 91

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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Some of the cheapest wines offer the best value