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A funny thing happens when you taste through thousands of wines each year: an unerring picture of quality comes into focus. Members of our tasting panel continually taste new wines from all over the world, looking for the best bottles to share with you.

Wines Of Argentina
Wines Of Australia
Wines Of Canada
Wines Of Chile
Wines Of France
Wines Of Italy
Wines Of New Zealand
Wines Of South Africa
Wines Of Spain
Wines of USA
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The wines in this section were individually assessed and assigned a rating based on criteria that include: aromatics, flavour profile, balance, finesse, overall enjoyment and its relation to varietal characteristics from its region.

  Andrea Fujarczuk (AF)
  Christopher Waters (CW)
  Daenna Van Mulligen (DVM)
  Lindsay Groves (LG)
  Rod Philips (RP)


Bodega Santa Julia 2009 Magna

Argentina, Mendoza   $16  (117440)
Familia Zuccardi's Santa Julia Magna is made from almost equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec with a dash of Syrah. It leads with dark briary fruit, bittersweet cocoa and mocha followed up by plenty of peppery spices. It is medium-to full-bodied with a chewy palate that carries savoury spices, grilled herbs, smoke, dark mocha and dark earthy flavours. This is a wine for roasted meats, grilled Portobello mushrooms and hearty pastas.  (DVM)


Wakefield Wines 2011 Riesling

Australia, Clare Valley   $14.95 (301523)
Only a few select places in the world can produce Riesling like this — pure, precise and refined. Alluring notes of lime cordial, Granny Smith apple, freesia and melon. Dry and lean with a taut acidity and 13 percent alcohol. Great value here and a no-brainer where shellfish is concerned.  (LG)

Peter Lehmann Wines 2009 Futures Shiraz Muscadelle

Australia, Barossa  $24.95  (301309)
Here's an odd blend that pays homage to a page from the early days of Peter Lehmann Wines. Winery founder Peter Lehmann started fermenting the white variety Muscadelle, the rare white grape that Bordeaux winemakers sometimes blend with their Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with his Shiraz in the 1960s to make a smoother, spicier and more appealing wine. This modern example is a surprisingly complex red wine with a beautiful, polished character. It's an interesting and enjoyable wine that is bound to make even the most jaded wine lovers see Australia in a different light if they were to allow themselves a taste.  (CW)

Yabby Lake Vineyard 2010 Cooralook Pinot Gris

Australia, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria   $14.90 (212712)
Yabby Lake Vineyard 2010 Cooralook Pinot Gris Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria $14.90 (212712) About a two-and-a- half hours' drive from Melbourne, the Strathbogie Ranges is a relatively young wine region that gained official GI status in 2001. This Pinot Gris is an unexpected treat with apricot, pear and tropical fruit highlighted with zesty citrus notes. On the palate, it's dry and rounded with fresh acidity and 12 percent alcohol. Well-balanced and ripe, a well-made wine that would nicely accompany a dish such as grilled mahi mahi with mango and avocado salsa.  (LG)

Hardy's 2011 Chronicle No. 3 Butcher's Gold Shiraz Sangiovese

Australia, South Australia   $15  (219139)
Hardy's 2011 Chronicle No. 3 Butcher's Gold Shiraz Sangiovese South Australia $15 (219139) Australia's signature red variety gets dressed up with the addition of Tuscany's leading grape, Sangiovese. The resulting red wine has the ripe fruit flavours associated with Shiraz with unexpected brightness and savoury aromas from the supporting cast. The Butcher's name is apt as this ripe, spicy and food-friendly red would pair nicely with beef or lamb entrees.  (CW)

Penfolds 2011 Koonunga Hill Chardonnay

Australia, South Australia   $15  (321943)
Penfolds 2011 Koonunga Hill Chardonnay South Australia $15 (321943) The aromas lead with spiced vanilla, a burst of lemon and white fruits, which fold into toasted nuts and pineapple. It tastes just like it smells: toasted nuts, fine spice and bright lemon flavours roll around on a creamy palate. Nice elegance for the price. Good persistence and liveliness. Pair with chicken salad, a smoked gouda and pear grilled cheese or nut-encrusted halibut.  (DVM)

Jacob's Creek 2011 Cool Harvest Pinot Grigio

Australia, Barossa Valley   $12  (436584)
This new range of wines from Jacob's Creek refers to its nighttime harvest. Nighttime harvesting assists in maintaining freshness in the wine from cooler temperatures when the acidity in the grapes is at its peak but the sun isn't. All three wines in the lineup (a Sauvignon Blanc, a rosé and this Pinot Grigio) are straightforward, but they are decidedly fresh and light. Here, you can expect lively citrus, white fruit, delicate floral and mineral notes. It has a mouthwatering palate with plenty of tangy citrus, not to mention a very appealing price.  (DVM)


Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $25  (510933)
Spiced brown butter, pear, tangerine, lemon balm and candied nuts on the nose translate to a fresh, citrusy palate. Expect similar flavours of spiced nuts, white fruit, citrus and toasted oak with a seam of minerality. It's a wine best described as chic and balanced. It is also nicely weighted with great finesse. bovwine.ca  (DVM)

Fielding Estate Winery 2010 Cabernet-Syrah

Canada, Niagara Peninsula   $24.95  (258657)
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65 percent), Syrah (29 percent) and Cabernet Franc (six percent), this demonstrates the red-friendly conditions of the 2010 vintage in Niagara. There's plenty of complexity and concentration in the ripe flavours, some sweet fruit at the core, and a spine of refreshing acidity. It's medium in weight, easygoing in tannins and well-structured and makes a versatile red for the table. fieldingwines.com  (RP)

Gray Monk 2011 Odyssey White Meritage

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $27  (765941)
A perfect option for when you're serving seared scallops, fried chicken or fettuccini alfredo. Made from the traditional white Bordeaux varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, under a mix of barrel and tank fermentation, this complex white is undoubtedly an attention-grabber. The aromas are a mélange of guava, grapefruit and beeswax with caramel, oak spice, grass clippings and mixed dried and fresh herbs. It has a seductive weight and a slick, oily texture. It is a wine with finesse, mouthwatering acidity and a tangy, citrusy finish. graymonk.com  (DVM)

JoieFarm 2010 PTG

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $24  (823799)
PTG is short for Passe-Tout-Grains, in reference to the classic Burgundian wine, combining the region's two red varieties, Gamay and Pinot Noir. This vintage surpasses the last. It launches with spicy, peppery notes layered with raspberry, cherry and crushed violets atop leather, smoked meat and beet greens. The palate follows the same path of tart red fruit and peppery flavours. It's silky with wonderful complexity and mouth-watering acidity. Fine tannins cling to the finish alongside flavours of cocoa and spice. Perfect for dinners of charcuterie, salmon or creamy mushroom and herb tagliatelle. joiefarm.com (DVM)

Pearl Morissette Estate Winery 2010 Cuvée Madeline Cabernet Franc

Canada, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula   $38  ()
The aromatics of this Cabernet Franc are pretty and perfumed. The fruit is ripe, sweet at the core, layered and effectively structured. The fresh acidity is judiciously proportioned to the fruit, giving a texture just this side of juiciness. With ripe, drying tannins, this is drinking well now and will hold (if you want to enjoy its freshness) through to 2016. pearlmorissette.com  (RP)

Rosewood Estates Winery 2010 Merlot

Canada, Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula   $22  (211896)
I won't go into the way this wine was made, but it was careful and painstaking. It shows in the final product, where the optimal quality of the fruit shines through. The flavours are bold, but well calibrated to show structure and complexity, and they're harnessed to good acidity that reins in the fruit intensity. It speaks balance and consistency right through the palate and is very good value at this price. Rosewood is putting a lot of emphasis on Merlot and it's paying off. rosewoodwine.com  (RP)

Rosewood Estates Winery 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve

Canada, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula   $39.95  (318345)
Naturally fermented and aged in French oak for 12 months, this lovely, nuanced Pinot Noir from a cool Niagara vintage delivers acidity that contributes an attractive, edgy texture verging on juicy. The fruit is solid and focused, with good definition and the tannins are already well-integrated. rosewoodwine.com (RP)

Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellar 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $19  (132571)
Blue Mountain continues to make their Okanagan Falls wines in an Old World style and this Sauvignon Blanc is no exception. It comes from the first high-density vineyard in the Okanagan and 30 percent of this wine is fermented then aged in two-to four-year-old French barrels. Expect restraint in this wine, along with citrus peel, mineral, smoke, snap peas and grass clippings surrounded by tart white fruit. Lovely complexity and weight on a palate dominated by smoky/mineral tones. There's a hint of spice and lemon peel and nectarine flavours trail across the finish. A focused wine with racy acidity. bluemountainwinery.com  (DVM)

Hinterland Wine Co. 2012 Whitecap

Canada, Ontario  $22  ()
This captivating sparkling wine is a creative blend of Vidal, Riesling and Muscat that makes the most of its aromatic charm. It was produced using the Charmat method, in a large reinforced stainless steel tank to capture the fragrance and fruit of the three distinctive grape varieties. Named for the whitecaps in Lake Ontario, its mix of tropical fruit and refreshing acidity make it a seriously delicious bottle that'll make waves at weddings, parties and anything where good wine adds to the enjoyment. hinterlandwine.com  (CW)

Pearl Morissette Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay

Canada, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula   $40  ()
I found this a challenging Chardonnay. It's from the warm 2010 vintage and shows concentrated and layered fruit with a fairly tight structure. Still, the acidity is good and balanced. For me, the oak plays too prominent a role, even though the wine was aged in neutral and new barrels and in stainless steel. Although oakiness is a matter of personal preference, and this wine will certainly find fans, right now the oak obscures the fruit. This is a wine you should cellar to allow the components to integrate. pearlmorissette.com  (RP)

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $18  (530691)
A perfect example of where modern Chardonnay is going. This wine is fresh and clean, not bogged down in toasted oak and confectionery. The aromas here are lemony and lively with plenty of crisp white fruit and minerals. Pear, apple and fine, sweet spice flavours roll across the palate layered with Meyer lemon and underscored with buttery caramel. The finish is long and tangy. Great paired with grilled chicken, smoked fish or rich and creamy soups. tinhorn.com  (DVM)

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $25  (352955)
One of British Columbia's newest wineries (opening day was May 4, 2012), Upper Bench, located on seven acres of vineyard on the Naramata Bench, is also a creamery. That's a winning combination. The wine is golden in colour with aromas of crème brûlée, pineapple and pear slices layered with vanilla, coconut, clove and lemon. The palate leads with vanilla and coffee liqueur and rolls into burnt caramel and baking spice. It's not overly creamy and the fresh citrus notes on the finish give the wine a lift. Smoked cheeses will love this wine, as will pan corn bread or chicken in a creamy garlic sauce. upperbench.ca (DVM)

Lake Breeze Vineyards 2010 Seven Poplars Pinot Noir

Canada, Okanagan Valley   $25  (353805)
The Seven Poplars Pinot Noir presents aromas of fresh berry and red cherry, vanilla, crushed purple flowers and faint earthy/forest floor undertones. The palate is smooth with sweet spice and juicy fruit, cocoa and cedar flavours. Nice acidity here. It's a delicate style suitable for fish or a classic BLT. lakebreeze.ca  (DVM)

Rocky Creek Winery 2012 Jubilee Sparkling

Canada, Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island   $24  (384750)
Mark and Linda Holford produce wines from their three Vancouver Island estate vineyards. This ruby-hued rosé blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris offers wild berry and blood orange aromas with undertones of toasted biscuits and lees. The palate leans toward tart cranberry and rhubarb flavours. It has a creamy mousse and a spiced oak finish with mouthwatering acidity. rockycreekwinery.ca  (DVM)


Viña Cono Sur 2011 Bicicleta Pinot Noir

Chile, Central Valley   $11.49  (341602)
The Cono Sur wines continue to impress wine drinkers, not only with their sustainable practices, but also their price point and varietal typicity. This Pinot Noir is no exception with its classic red fruit — raspberry and sour cherry aromas wrapped around leather, forest floor, carrot tops, cedar box and spiced cocoa. The palate is juicy with liberal bright red fruit. It's a wine for roasted beets, pumpkin soup, mushroom ravioli or grilled salmon. (DVM)


Champagne Le Mesnil 2005 Sublime Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Bru

France, Champagne  $65  (501445)
This is an attractive price for a 2005 vintage Grand Cru Champagne. It offers citron, ginger, acacia blossoms and yellow apples wrapped in a toasted pear and hazelnut brioche. The palate is creamy and toasty with fine, exotic spice layered with potent apple and pear compote. Despite the delicate aromas, it's chic and powerful with wonderful persistence. (DVM)

Château Puisseguin Curat 2010 Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion

France, Bordeaux  $19.95  (307140)
The story goes that the village of Puisseguin owes its name to Seguin, a lieutenant of Charlemagne, who established a camp on the plateau (a.k.a. puy) of Saint-Émilion. Approximately 60 percent of this wine was aged in second- and third-use oak barrels, imparting attractive and well-integrated exotic spice and toast nuances. Approachable tannins counter bright acidity and 14.5 percent alcohol. Ripe red cherry, raspberry and brambly red fruit flavours flesh out the palate. A great example of an accessible right-bank wine.  (LG)

La Vieille Ferme 2011 Cotes du Luberon Blanc

France, Rhône Valley   $14  (298505)
Made from Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino, this everyday white offers excellent value. Expect a sweet nose — it's a fruit-cup of guava, pineapple and orange segments with honey, wild blossoms, mineral oil, sweet spices and fennel. The palate is fresh and has an attractive weight and nice complexity for the price. Flavours of citrus peel, almond and fine spice rolls across the mid-palate and finish. Pair with roasted chicken, grilled fish or mildly spicy vegetarian dishes.  (DVM)

M. Chapoutier 2011 Belleruche Blanc Côtes-du-Rhône

France, Rhône Valley   $14.95  (245340)
Chapoutier's Belleruche Blanc is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc. Perfumed aromatics of peach stone, beeswax, honeysuckle, blanched almond and clementine peel on the nose with a generous, oily texture on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with moderating acidity and 13.5 percent alcohol. An intriguing white that offers super value for its price.  (LG)

Perrin & Fils 2010 Côtes-du-Rhône Réserve

France, Rhône Valley   $25.95  (363457)
This rich ruby-coloured wine offers lip-smacking taste with a round, smooth, easy-to-drink mouthfeel. Sweet candied raspberry and plum combine with pepper in this Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah blend to create a savoury warming impression. Its well-balanced and earthy flavours will snuggle up nicely with a bowl of lentil soup.  (AF)


Castello di Bossi 2009 C. Berardenga Racci Chianti Classico

Italy, Tuscany  $22.95  (994608)
Made with 100 percent Sangiovese (rare in Chianti), this has the qualities you look for in the appellation. The fruit is ripe and somewhat understated, with good structure, focus and complexity. The rich acidity raises the fruit tones and contributes juiciness to the texture. The tannins are drying, long and attractive. Everything is well-integrated, making this good for drinking now, although you can easily hold it another five years (RP)

Gabutti di Franco Boasso 2011 Dolcetto D'Alba

Italy, Meriame, Piemonte   $15.95  (303461)
With Nebbiolo conventionally stealing the spotlight in Piemonte, Dolcetto tends to get overlooked. Although it may not be as sophisticated and age-worthy, Dolcetto deserves attention in its own right. The Boasso family sources fruit from their 4.5 hectares situated within the Serralunga district and, in this case, more specifically from the Meriame subzone. With three months of oak aging after eight months in stainless steel, this wine shows minimal oak character, instead emphasizing the plush black fruit character. Plump and juicy with 13.5 percent alcohol, it's deliciously seductive. (LG)

Casali Viticultori 2011 Borgo del Boiardo Reggiano Lambrusco Rosato Secco

Italy, Emilia-Romagna, Italy  $14.95  (314526)
It's been a while since I've tasted Lambrusco, a pink semi-sparkling that used to be very popular, especially in an off-dry or semi-sweet style. This one is dry and delicious. There's plenty of vibrant fruit flavour, just the right degree of fizz and it made an excellent wine to sip with a friend on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But you could easily bring it to the table and pair it with chicken salad and the like. Don't wait for summer to try this.  (RP)

Fattoria di Piazzano 2006 Rio Camerata Chianti Riserva Chianti

Italy, Tuscany  $24.95  (301929)
This has everything you're looking for in traditional Chianti — vibrancy of fruit, moderate structure and just enough dirt to remind you you're in the Old World. Upbeat red berry fruit and licorice is complemented by tempting spice and cedar notes derived from the 12 months spent in French oak barriques. Medium-bodied with juicy acidity, moderate tannins and 13.5 percent alcohol. Definitely a wine built with food in mind.  (LG)

Kris Wine 2011 Pinot Grigio Della Venezie

Italy, Veneto  $20  (151860)
The recognizable, green handprint label was designed by Italian artist Riccardo Schweizer (1925-2004). It's a pristine wine with aromas of yellow pear slices and honey, acacia blossoms and pomelo citrus with mineral notes underscored with marzipan. It has a creamy weight with wonderful concentration, complexity and length. It's a wine best paired with a rustic antipasti platter or with simple aglio e olio pasta, fish or white meats. (DVM)

Bottega NV Vino Dei Poeti Rosé

Italy, Veneto  $25  (223669)
This delicious-looking metallic pink bottle is filled with Sandro Bottega's internationally popular Vino dei Poeti (wine of the poets) pink Prosecco. It's fresh and charming. Aromas of strawberries and blood oranges with acacia blossoms lead to a lively palate of Maraschino cherry, berry and orange peel with a hint of bread dough on the finish. A lively and fun Pinot Noir that's perfect for any celebration including Mother's Day.  (DVM)

Citra 2010 Palio Pecorino

Italy, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzi   $16.50  (914275)
Here is a nice departure from your everyday Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. Pecorino is a wonderfully fragrant variety and it comes through beautifully on the nose by releasing fresh white fruit, perfumed oils, pomelo citrus, honey and sweet herbs. It has soft, rounded acidity with a slick weight and plenty of citrus flavour. The texture is smooth and it has good concentration with hints of oak and spice on the finish.  (DVM)

New Zealand

Sacred Hill Wines 2011 Pinot Noir

New Zealand, Marlborough  $18.95  (277665)
Here's a lovely New World Pinot with good concentration and finesse. Playful aromas of ripe cherry, plum and dried floral notes complemented by a subtle touch of earth. Medium-bodied with moderating acidity, supple tannins and 13.5 percent alcohol. Try it with seared duck breast with a blackberry reduction for a heavenly pairing.  (LG)

Cupcake Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand, Marlborough  $15  (846766)
Since its inauguration in 2008, Cupcake wines has expanded the brand beyond their Californian roots. In addition to this Kiwi Sauvignon, you'll find their wines from vineyards in Italy, Argentina, Australia and Germany. This Sauvignon offers what you would expect in a wine from Marlborough — nettle and vibrant citrus, guava, capsicum, passion fruit and grass clippings. The palate is tangy with snappy acidity and plenty of citrus and grassy flavours. Pair this fresh, simple white with appetizers, seafood and mildly spicy Asian cuisines. (DVM)


Miguel Torres 2009 Sangre de Toro

Spain, Penedès  $12.25  (OO6585)
This affordable Spanish red is one of the most reliable in the Torres portfolio. A traditional-style Grenache blend, it is a gutsy wine that offers a flavourful and complex blend of bold, jammy fruit and smoky, savoury notes. Decant for best enjoyment and serve with hearty meat dishes or stews. (CW)

South Africa

Boekenhoutskloof 2011 The Wolftrap Viognier/Chenin Blanc/Grenache Blanc

South Africa, Western Cape, South Africa   $14.95  (263608)
The third vintage of The Wolftrap white sees it join the array of Boekenhoutskloof wines that offer real wow factor for their price. The quality of this welcoming white blend makes it stand out from the crowd. It joins the winery's Porcupine Ridge Syrah as one of the most exciting $15 wines available to Canadian consumers. Concrete egg fermenters, which are the new vogue in cellars around the world looking to craft distinctive white wines, are used for the Grenache Blanc to accent its texture and earthy flavours. The blended wine is aged in French oak to harmonize. Rich, floral aromas capture your interest, while bold and balanced flavours tug on your heartstrings. A Best Value winner at last year's InterVin International Wine Awards, this is a delicious, intriguing wine.  (CW)

United States of America

Beringer Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay

United States, Napa Valley, California   $25  (348342)
This historic Napa Valley estate consistently produces outstanding wines. Golden pineapple, yellow apples, honey and sweet spices are wrapped in a buttery package. It is fresh and lively on the palate with zesty fruit highlighted by a slick texture and a creamy weight. It's a Chardonnay with finesse and the finish hangs on with caramel and vanilla flavours.  (DVM)

Robert Mondavi Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

United States, Napa Valley, California   $34.95  (255513)
One of the pioneering properties of the Napa Valley continues to be a mecca for tourists. The Mondavi family is no longer involved in the operation, but veteran staff, such as Director of Winemaking Genevieve Janssens, have maintained the complex, age-worthy house style. This dry, savoury red is worth the splurge. Cellar for two or three years or decant and serve with steak for best enjoyment. (CW) (CW)

Curious Beasts 2010 Blood Red Wine

United States, California  $20  (754865)
Curious Beasts will certainly pique your visual interest. The current vogue of vampire and zombie movies has no doubt inspired its blood-coloured, paper bag-type label (wrapping nearly the entire bottle). This red blend offers black fruits, chocolate and savoury undertones. On the palate, expect cherry and black plum flavours with oodles of chocolate trailing on the finish. It's perfect for a night in watching horror flicks.  (DVM)

Wente Vineyards 2011 Morning Fog Chardonnay

United States, Livermore Valley, San Francisco   $16.95  (175430)
This consistently enjoyable model of California Chardonnay blends together spice, fruit and buttery flavours to great effect. Well-made and nicely balanced, it's an attractive white wine with pleasing flavours, texture and refreshing character.  (CW)