WINE: Five dependable and delicious wines

We are entering the true heart of spring, sidewalk cafes, front porch gatherings and backyard patio parties are blossoming. And what we really need to toast the season are affordable but fabulous wines. So my mission was to discover exciting wines that are widely available in all stores. After tasting through about 250, about 80 per cent were rather mediocre or simply not exciting. Mind you, lots were too sweet, or sour, or bitter or had weird flavours. We wound up with five dependable and delicious wines, two whites and three reds.

The whites are terrific with cheese trays, freshwater fish, poultry, veal, and seafood. The reds bridge into summer, when the barbecue gets really smoking, and cry out for seared meats, from burgers to steaks, kebabs and ribs. All five are from the Southern Hemisphere. South Africa and Argentina are trending countries now, with their wines delivering high quality for low prices.

Chenin Blanc is a white grape well worth exploring as an alternative to chardonnay. Many Chenin vines got ripped out in South Africa two decades ago as the chardonnay craze swept the world. Now the once lowly grape is making a stunning comeback.

Also enjoying a popular surge is Malbec from Argentina. This red variety makes wine chock full of character, with reserve levels going toe-to-toe with Cabernet Sauvignon. All five should inspire your ode to spring and summer weather. Cheers!

Hardys 2013
$9.90 (Australia) LCBO #448548 
Rating: 89+

A lively bouquet of jasmine, lime drop and clover blossoms sets up sweet edged jasmine, lime lollipop and citrus flavours. Delicious!
Food suggestion: Pad Thai.

The Pavillion 2014 Chenin Blanc
$10.90 (South Africa) LCBO #281311
Rating: 89+ 

A yummy bargain priced white! Aromas of apple, fresh pear, melon and cling peach, with flavours of Japanese apple, pear, kiwi fruit and a lemon/lime finish.
Food suggestion: Roast chicken or grilled fish. 

Flagstone Poetry
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
$10.95 (South Africa) LCBO #358754 
Rating: 89+

Big smoky blackberry with a hint of warm asphalt leads into dense flavours of plum, blackberry, black cherry, cedar and vanilla.
Food suggestion: Tomato and sausage penne. 

2012 Malbec Reserva
$12.90 (Argentina) LCBO #363192
Rating: 90 

Fragrant blueberry, vanilla, violets and cherry aromas and super smooth flavours of blackberry, black pepper, cardamom, plum and mocha.
Food suggestion: Banquet burgers. 

La Mascota
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
$13.95 (Argentina) LCBO #292110 
Rating: 91

Rich vanilla-laced black cherry, plum and lilacs aromas with lush deep dark plums, black currants and anise accented flavours. Fab value!
Food suggestion: Thick juicy steaks or ribs.