Saturday, November 01, 2008

'The 500 Best Value Wines, 2009': Part 1

The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009 by Rod Phillips

Why would I highlight a publication on wines? I’ve already said of those I’ve reviewed the majority of wines they include either aren’t available, priced out of my budget or don’t match my taste buds.

But these conclusions are more of ‘Why I wouldn’t highlight a wine book?‘. So let me focus on why this book is different.

I’m of the opinion that some journalists use their profession as a tax haven to do the things they want as part of their lifestyle. Skiing at St. Moritz, lunching in Monte Carlo or barging on the Rhine. Live it up, write articles complete with photos and quotes from the locals for a few Travel or Food & Wine magazines. I don't have a problem with this - they serve a need. But then some go too far! They dare to write critiques on wine as if drinking wine makes them authorities. ‘Wine snobs’ is more likely!

Rod Phillips is not of that ilk. For some years now I have read columns and newsletters containing his wine reviews. He’s a genuine journalist cum teacher cum author cum wine historian and critic. Part of his monthly regimen is tasting Vintages and LCBO releases, often over a hundred wines. Another part is judging wines from distributors and at wineries. And his focus is our market, Ontario. So I’ve bought into his credentials as a wine authority. Now I’m curious if his recent book The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009 - one based on ’bang for my buck’ - is an exception to my dismal history with wine publications.

For this blog I’ve followed two methods to select wines. First, I’ve thumbed my way letting my pencil fall randomly on labels limiting selection to a nice round number, 80. I searched the LCBO website for the availability of each of these in Ontario and answered the two questions: How many are available? All but one… and How many were within my budget (under $30)? All but two. Conclusions: Availability based on a random sampling is pretty good and Prices weren't extreme. Second, I select wines for tasting. There were 17 at his highest rating level of 5 stars (this doesn‘t mean the rest are plonk). As you’d expect the 5’s are at a higher price point so just eleven were within my budget. Now if only they will satisfy my buds! Part 2 of this blog lists the wines and my tasting notes.

My intention is not to validate the ratings in the book. My palate is by no means a standard - but it‘s mine and I‘m stuck with it. The intention is to find a source for recommendations that put more value in my wine choices.

My suggestion to anyone reading this blog is to purchase the book and see if it will help you find wines matching your tastes. It’s just the price of a bottle of wine.

Cheers, Ww

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