WINE: Best buy bottles for autumn

My wines today have been chosen for fall, as we slide toward falling leaves and family gatherings around Thanksgiving. But the end of 2015 (shudder) has me also searching madly for best buys of the year.

The great news is I discovered two contenders for amazing value in the under $8 sweepstakes. These two Italian reds taste way outside the box. In fact, if you pour some in a glass and have a friend sip and guess the price, expect a very surprised expression.

Both reds are more than burger wines. Think hearty beef stews, or veal shank, or roast lamb. Or pepperoni pizza! They are sturdy and versatile.

For whites we have shifted up, to $8.75. I know that is painful, and you no doubt will stick with your favourite $16 pinot grigio. Seriously, that is the price of the most popular Vintages grigio at the LCBO.

I submit the Citra Pinot Grigio is every bit as delicious, and perfect for a huge range of cuisine, from shellfish, to fish, to chicken or turkey. It certainly will make my top ten values of 2015 list.

Our luxury white is Faustino VII, a delicious white from Rioja, Spain. I picked this because it is made from viura grapes, a wonderful taste shift away from ubiquitous chardonnay. Try adventurous cuisine with it, Chinese lemon chicken, pad Thai, even crab cakes with spicy aioli dip.

And finally, brand new to shelves is The Wanted Zin from (where else) Italy. But it sure looks like a sinful California red zinfandel. Nope not Lotusland. It's made using sun-stroked primitivo grapes in Puglia. And aged in American oak! It is flying off the shelves, because it's very tasty, and a talking point.

Happy autumn!

Faustino VII
2013 Blanco Rioja
$12.65 (Spain)
LCBO #399568 
Rating: 90

Long lemon meringue, yellow apple and Anjou pear aromas with full spicy floral edged orchard fruit pear and peach
flavours. Made with 100 per cent viura grapes.
Food suggestion: Shrimp or chicken kebabs.

2014 Pinot Grigio
$8.75 (Italy)
LCBO #17483 
Rating 89+

Aromas of yellow apple, melon and key lime pie herald flavours of fresh pear, jasmine and apple. Crisp and lively.
Food suggestion: Turkey or roast chicken. 

2013 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
$7.70 (Italy)
LCBO #454629 
Rating: 89+

Pleasant cherry, leather and
blueberry aromas, with ripe
plum, black cherry, cedar,
violets and vanilla flavours.
Food suggestion: Clove studded baked ham. 

Casal Thaulero
2013 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon
$7.75 (Italy)
Rating: 89+

Nice blackberry, violets, cedar and black olives aroma with sturdy spicy black cherry, plum and blueberry nuanced flavours.
Food suggestion: Roast beef or stews.

The Wanted Zin
2013 Zinfandel
$13.95 (Italy)
LCBO #416487 
Rating: 90

Potent aromas of coconut, blackberry, black cherry and violets with rich, wide palate vanilla, cedar and black cherry layers. Very smooth and mellow.
Food suggestion: Slow baked back ribs.