WINE: Chill Busters

We all crave great wines to shepherd us through winter, but prices keep rising and finding a house wine that tastes way beyond its price tag is a growing challenge.

With more than 3,000 wines to choose from, the process, as you know, can be daunting. Facing a wall of unknown bottles and labels in your local store can be bewildering. Making the process worse, most of them are mediocre, or have aspects we do not enjoy, such as sourness, or bitter tannins, or simply do not taste delicious.

Out of the 3,000 wines at the LCBO I have tasted in the past few months, here are some wonderful value winners guaranteed to put a smile on your face and light up your life.

Concilio 2011 Pinot Grigio
Rating: 89+
LCBO #637595, $12.45

Grigios are sprouting out of the woodwork, many of them watery and thin veined. Here's a great one, with a bouquet of lovely lemony pear, and pert flavours of candied pear, apple spice and lime slices. It's clean, brimming with fruitiness, and very satisfying. Food suggestion: Breaded fish or crab cakes.

Cono Sur Bicicleta
2011 Viognier
Rating: 89+
LCBO #64287, $9.95

A very clean and crisp best buy white, with florals, spice and a slightly nutty note in the aromas. The flavours show mellow pineapple, apple and pear, finishing with refreshing lemongrass and lime. (Bicicleta Merlot is also a best buy). Food suggestion: Shrimp and chicken Pad Thai.

Lindeman's 2012 Chardonnay Bin 65
Rating: 89+
LCBO #142117, $10.95

A former fave rave, the aromas hint of cashews, a touch of butter and fresh apples. The flavours dish out golden apple with buttery nuances, as well as clean lime and lemongrass notes that cleanse the palate. Lemondrop notes keep the finish vibrant. Food suggestion: Roast chicken or turkey.

Farnese 2011 Sangiovese
Rating: 90
LCBO #31971, $7.50

Rich aromas of black cherry, Moroccan leather, plum and red pepper lead to mellow flavours of black cherry, rich vanilla extract, black olives and plums. The finish is suffusive, mellow and very plummy with lingering acidity crying out for tomato dishes. Food suggestion: Pasta and spicy sausage in marinara sauce.

Deakin Estate 2012 Shiraz
Rating: 89+
LCBO #560821, $9.95

Easily the best value Aussie shiraz on General List, tasting like $15 or more. Exotic aromas of kirsch, mulberry, sage and red plum. The flavours are lavish vanilla-laced black cherry. A lovely mellow style is friendly and makes this a great house red. Food suggestion: Juicy thick steaks.