Top Values at the LCBO (April 2020)

Buying Wines in the COVID-19 Era

by Steve Thurlow

The world has certainly changed since I last wrote. I hope that you are all well. I am doing fine and have just completed my 14 day quarantine following my return from Australia.

(Note from WineAlign regarding the Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES April 4th release: Due to COVID-19, VINTAGES has suspended media tastings until at least the end of April. We are scrambling for opportunities to taste the April 4th wines, and once they are on shelves today and tomorrow we hope to be able to acquire more samples, taste them Monday and Tuesday, then have a report ready for Thursday of next week. Going forward, until the COVID crisis is over, the VINTAGES Buyers’ Guides will be published the Thursday after the release date.)

Nobody knows yet how long these extraordinary circumstances will persist. However, I do know that today we are one day closer to the day that I will again be able to leave my home safely.

With everyone staying indoors for the next few weeks we should be grateful that the government has decided that wine is an essential commodity! Consequently, wineries and the LCBO’s retail and wholesale operations are open for the present.

There are also several ways that you can get wine delivered to your door. Winery tasting rooms are closed but they are still shipping to their customers and most are shipping for free (here is a list). The wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake are also offering free shipping across Ontario. Restaurants are also now allowed to include wine with their takeout meal service. So, if you are ordering food for takeout, you can now add wine to your order.

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LCBO Shop Online is open and Canada Post is still delivering on their behalf, but you now have to collect from the nearest Post Office, since they will no longer deliver directly to your door, and the number of wines available is much reduced from what you could get a few weeks ago.

WineAlign Exchange members have just received their March cases on their doorsteps. These wines were all tasted and selected by me and the rest of the team at WineAlign. If you are not already a member, go here to sign up for a June delivery. There are many options to choose from.

Get restaurant-only wines without restaurant markups for delivery in mid-April

As you may know, wine importing agencies sell wine to restaurants by the case using the LCBO’s consignment program. Such wines are not in LCBO stores nor can you buy them at LCBO Shop Online.

With dine-in meals at restaurants eliminated for the time being, some of these wines are now available to regular consumers. We at WineAlign are helping out our agency colleagues by offering mixed cases from their consignment portfolios using the technology and logistics developed for the WineAlign Exchange program. Most of these wines were only to be found on restaurant wine lists, though some of you may already buy by the case from agents.

The ‘sampler’ agency cases of 12 different wines are hand-picked by the agencies, not us, and will be delivered in mid-April by courier to your door. And if you love a wine in your sampler case, you can easily order a full case from the agent in a few clicks. Discover great wines, support local businesses, never leave the house!

However if you are still willing to venture out to visit an LCBO store, I have selected twelve wines below that are on my current Top50 Best Value List and most are on offer for the next month.

All are available in LCBO stores but none are currently included in the limited LCBO Shop Online selection.

I have chosen three whites and nine reds, so below there are 12 to read about.

I write about those joining the list and some, that were on last month’s list, but are now discounted this month. So even better value. However, I do encourage you to consult my entire Top50 Best Values List given all the discounts (LTOs) and BAMs for the next 4 weeks.

Among the wines in today’s report:

  • Nine wines that joined the Top 50 this month.
  • Five for less than $12.
  • Some big discounts; one is $2.50 off.
  • Two Vintages Essentials.
  • All wines scored 87 points or more.

The current promotional period runs until April 26th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

To quote Oscar Wilde… “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

Stay safe and healthy….. 

Top Value Reds

Barone Montalto Nero D’avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Sicily, Italy ($9.45) – Top50 April
This is a juicy midweight to full-bodied red blend of cabernet sauvignon with the indigenous Sicilian grape nero d’Avola. Expect aromas of black and red berry fruit with dry herbal and spicy notes. It is fruity and well structured with soft tannins and vibrant acidity. Very good length. Try with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.…


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How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

Today’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1,600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. 

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection. (You can access these lists under the Wine tab on WineAlign.)

• On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

• Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping.

I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!

Steve

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

Editor’s Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!