It's that time of the year again when my friends at Wine Access magazine release their list of the top 25 Killer Wine Values in the country based on a massive tasting of more than 1,100 wines, all priced under $25. We probably shouldn't use the "killer" word when we talk about the absolute best value wines sold in Canada today but the thinking is more along the lines of its slang or street use as in: having impressive or effective power, or impact.
Let's face it. When you put 25 highly opinionated and widely experienced judges in the same room as 1,100 wines selling for $25 or less, you have the potential to come up with one amazing (or killer) wine list that speaks to value. Yes, you could suggest it is arbitrary or subject to individual will or judgment without restriction. It could be contingent solely upon one's discretion — but you know what? It isn't.
The judges have no idea what the price is of any wine. Their job is to simply assess the wine versus its peers and give it a mark based on quality.
Once they are finished I can play with the data and select the highest scoring wines at the lowest selling prices and, voila, you have the "killer values." The even better news is that they come from all around the world.
Here in Canada all but one provincial government operates a liquor monopoly. If they have any redeeming value, and we can't think of many, it is that there has to be an illusion of fairness when it comes to which wines get listed. That means a lot of wines from a lot of countries are on store shelves, especially below $25, and that's where the Wine Access Value Wine Awards come in.
For the purposes of this column I wanted to share 10 of the highest ranked wines with you that you can find in B.C. government stores to kick off the fall sipping season.
No. 10: McWilliam's 2010 JJ McWilliam Cabernet-Merlot, South Eastern, Australia $11. Blends are all the rage in Australia at the moment and this wine is a perfect example of what can be done on the cheap. Look for plenty of cocoa and spice on the nose before a whack of dark red fruit reflecting the 75/25 mix of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. An easy sipping barbecue red that will show best with grilled meats beginning with hamburgers.
No. 9: The Beachhouse 2010 Red, Western Cape, South Africa $12. Another successful blend, this time mixing 65/20/15 shiraz, mourvèdre and viognier. Fruity and spicy, it hits all the right notes on entry with soft succulent fruit with bits of cocoa and dried herbs and an obvious savoury undercurrent. Grilled meats or cheese are all good fits for food. Surprisingly clean and fresh for a cheap South African red. Enjoy.