Bang for your buck: value wines under $20 ©Tim Pawsey photo
Wringing more wine from your buck: good value drops under $20 ©Tim Pawsey photo

Aside from expanding my horizons, one of the reasons I enjoy traveling is the chance to exchange ideas with people from elsewhere.

During last week’s swing through Galicia we got chatting about the retail price ‘sweet spot’ that everyone covets. Interestingly, my friend Marie-Helene Boisvert from Quebec says, there, it’s still $15. We should be so lucky. In BC it’s more towards $20, which means it can be challenging to find good wines for $15 or less. And rewarding when you do!

Here’s a quick haul of ‘value wines’ sold in BC from across the globe that make for budget friendly drinking; and which are also pretty food friendly.

Kono SB sm

Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Kono is the ‘second label’ of well known Mãori owned winery Tohu. There’s no shortage of inexpensive Kiwi Sauv Blanc on the market these days but this drop is just a cut above most: up front gooseberry and tropical notes, very clean on the palate with bright, juicy acidity and a crisp clean finish. Sourced from various Marlborough valleys, including Awatere, which often delivers a more ‘stony’ element. Think oysters on the half shell, or salad with goat cheese. BCLS Specialty $15.99, 89 pts, but nudging 90 on this one.



Cristalino brut reservaCristalino Reserva Cava. These guys have a reliable rep for making decent, inexpensive bubble but it’s worth spending the extra dollar or two for the ‘reserva’, which delivers some toasty, earthy notes with apple tones and solid mouthfeel. A good value, festive reception wine. Private stores, BC, $15-$18. 90 pts.



Gamza PhilLovico Gamza 2011. It’s been a while since I tasted Gamza—at least a couple of decades—so when this bottle showed up at HiredBelly headquarters I was keen to try it. Gamza comes from the Suhindol Region in central  Bulgaria. Nothing fancy, but this is a well made dry red, with bright red berry fruits prominent, a definite edge and a core of keen acidity that’s a shoo-in for pizza, pasta and tomato based sauces. BCLS $12.96 89 pts. Then again, for the real low-down on Gamza, you obviously need to talk to this guy!



Monte da Baia smCasa Ermelinda 2012 Monte da Baia Tinto. Portugal is hot right now and well made, affordable wines like this are part of the reason—aside from the fact that the Portuguese have been making wine almost as long as the Greeks. But their grape names are (marginally) easier to pronounce… This ‘modern blend’ of Castelão (50%), Touriga (20%), Syrah (20%) and Cabernet (10%) yields a fruit driven style with good structure and length, especially for BCLS $12.99. 90 pts. Live dangerously: buy two!



Grilos wine labelGrilos 2011. Another truly good value Portuguese, from Dao in the north central part of the country, this time with only indigenous varieties Touriga Naçional, Tinta Roriz and Jaen. Medium bodied red, appealing dark plum and cherry notes, approachable tannins and a touch of oak. A sentimental favourite for the name, which means “crickets”, along with the appropriate stylised label. Probably OK with sautéed crickets—though not recommended if you suffer from Orthopterophobia. BCLS $14.99, 90 pts.


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Vina Falernia Syrah 2010. Here’s a perfect drop for hearty winter fare like hearty stews or braised cuts. Falernia is Chile’s most northerly winery, located in the spectacular Elqui Valley, far away from the country’s other regions. Hand-picked, fermentted on skins and partly barrel aged, this Syrah sports plush up-front classic varietal, meaty and black peppery notes with a plush, black fruited palate underpinned by savoury streaks with approachable tannins. Yet one more example of the tremendous value that Chile can deliver.  $17.99. 91 pts.



zaco smViña Zaco Rioja 2011. Modern styled Rioja at a wallet-friendly price, thanks to large scale production. Not complex but well made Tempranillo, with forward toasty notes plus bright plum, anise and cherry flavours that persist through an easy drinking mid palate, with a persistent end.  Everything Wine $19.99 and other stores. Tough to find DO Rioja at this kind of price. 89 pts.