Arriving home from holidays spent with my family in Ontario late on Boxing Day, I have wine on my mind and lists at my fingertips.
This time of year is particularly good for amassing long wish lists. Wines you'd like to buy yourself, wines you'd like to store into the new year to share with others. The timing is particularly good for me. That's because, for a change, I'm perusing the aisles in the Ontario Liquor Board's Vintages. Or being generous and not following a budget to more freely make wine purchases.
I also equate this time of year with an opportunity for me to enjoy wine at lunch and at dinner (as my grandfather pointedly made known to all my relatives gathered around the Christmas dinner table -- I'm still not sure if his comments were a pat on the back for my resilience and earnest enthusiasm or the start of a future intervention).
THE ANNUAL BEST OF LIST . . .
My Annual Best of List for the last 12 months will be appearing here over the next five days. I won't have one single favourite as I did in 2005 and 2006, when I selected one top wine. This time, I'll be singling out a handful. They are all wines that I haven't yet posted any reviews for here, mostly because I was saving my notes until the end of the year to anoint my number one drink-it-everyday, anyway-you-like-it wine.
The gauge is drinkability plus affordability: Charming, masterful wines that are ready to drink now and come in at around $20 or less (even in Canadian dollars and including a hefty Quebec tax -- so these will not break any banks). Hmmm... Shall I offer some examples of what I am talking about?
One wine you won't see on my list but clearly could have is the Poggio alla Badiola IGT Toscana 2005 from the vaunted Mazzei house. You also won't see it in Ontario's LCBO flagship store at Yonge and Queen's Quay, as I was there and looked hard, hoping to find just one bottle of the four cases that was indicated on the LCBO website. They must've been scooped up fast because this baby is a special "Give me all 48!" bargain. Wannabe Chianti? Why not.
As of today, I've only briefly tasted this wine after picking it up at the SAQ. I desperately want to search out more for proper note-taking but already I'd easily make this bottle a top runner-up for the year or an honourable mention or whatever it is that makes people sit up and take notice. It could be the greatest Italian wine value that's out there. And since well-made Italian wines are not usually cheap, especially in Quebec, this is certainly one to watch out for.
OLD WORLD MALBEC
While I'm allotting space for bottles that didn't make my list, here's a couple more notable 2005 reds that amaze me. (What is it about 2005?) They are both from Cahors in Southwest France. I call them the CDC 05 and CLC 05 -- the Chatons du Cèdre 2005 and the Clos la Coutale 2005 -- and they're just the ticket if you ever find the general repertory section of the SAQ a little drab. These are very cheap and very widely available. Having had them both many times over many recent years, it seems to me that they've never been better. Priced at $12.45 and $14.25 respectively (and that's in Canadian funds after all taxes), they are below my daily wine budget's typical range.
Amid the mass-produced alternatives that they share the shelf with, and amid all the ersatz Fuzion in the Argentina section that stares them down from across the store, these two are real standouts of the moment.