Anthony Gismondi: It pays to be a smart wine shopper

Anthony Gismondi offers up his top 10 workhorse reds in honour of Labour Day

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With so many complaints about the high price of wine in B.C., it’s time to have another look at how you can become a smarter buyer and get more for your money as we ride out the last few days of the unofficial end of summer marked by the upcoming Labour Day weekend.


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The simple price explanation is the game is stacked against consumers and has been for decades. It is a punitive ad valorem tax system that allows the government to charge whatever they want, and they want a lot. Moreover, the recently enacted ‘wholesale’ system has further increased their take allowing the monopoly to influence the price of all wines — including all private sectors wines, the vast majority of which B.C. Liquor Stores don’t even sell but against which they compete. It’s good to be king.

So what can you do? Where are the bargains? How can you get more bang for your buck? Ask around where you live and zero in on the best private wine shop. Start a relationship with a local wine shop employee, and you will get better service. Customer recognition goes a long way to better service, and when a retailer gets to know what you like, you will get a better selection and better service.


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If you shop in B.C. Liquor Stores, best to stick to the wines on sale where the sale price is closer to what it should sell for, but even then, after all the taxes and markup, you are asked to pay another 10 per cent GST and five per cent PST at the till. The latter two taxes used to be in the shelf price but removed under the guise the displayed price was more in line with other retail pricing.

Over time the 15 per cent margin has more or less gobbled up everyone but the consumer, leaving the wine back at the old shelf price before the 15 per cent sales taxes get added at the cashier. So the bottom line is you are paying more for less, and that’s why you need a buying strategy. So here’s what I recommend: to save the most money and, more importantly, get your money’s worth.


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Use the website, open the “Wine” tab on the top menu, and check the “Sale” filter. As I write this, there are 665 wines on sale throughout the current monthly financial period that impractically doesn’t line up with a regular monthly calendar, leaving you to guess when the sale starts or ends.

Scroll to your desired price range and choose a wine reduced in price. The sales price could be as high as $5 to $10 off, but most are more likely to be marked down two or three dollars, plus you will save on the sales taxes added to the lower price. Unfortunately, it is only a start in a market with little hope for prices we see across the border.

In the meantime, we leave you with a shortlist we traditionally release over the Labour Day Weekend of “workhorse” red wines that over-deliver for the price. They will smooth the move from summer weather and barbecues to cooler fall days and richer menus. Since the pandemic began, consumers have returned to tried and trusted brands from across the wine world. I would add many of you are returning to some old favourites with more knowledge and are rediscovering the value some of the big brands can deliver. Oh, and they are all on sale until Sept. 4.


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Here are our 2021 top 10 workhorse reds in honour of Labour Day, and they are all on sale until Sept. 4:

• Carmen Premier Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile $9.99

• Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Region del Valle Central, Chile $10.99

• Perrin La Vielle Ferme Ventoux Rouge, Rhone Valley, France $11.99

• Trivento Malbec Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina $12.99

• Laya Garnacha Monastrell Vieilles Vignes 2016, Almansa, Spain $14.99

• Santa Julia Reserva Malbec, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina $14.99

• M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rouge, Côtes du Rhone, France $15.99

• Masroig Sola Fred Montsant 2018, Catalunya, Spain $15.99

• Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley, South Australia $17.99


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• Gérard Bertrand Terroir Corbières 2014, Languedoc, France $17.99

• Quinta do Crasto Tinto, Douro Valley, Portugal $18.97

• Cune Rioja Crianza, Rioja Spain $19.99

Weekend wine picks

Nautilus Estate Chardonnay 2018, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand

$29.99 I 91/100

UPC: 9416827006018

Winemaker Clive Jones nailed 2018, checking in at 13 per cent alcohol with an intense nutty hazelnut nose and rich, creamy textures. A touch of yellow colour reflects its 100 per cent barrel fermentation in 20 per cent new French oak. The palate is equally fresh and lively with nectarine, citrus, almonds that beckon you toward a mineral, stony finish. Despite one of the warmest seasons ever, this wine delivers all you want in a cool-climate Next World Chardonnay. Whole roasted chicken stuffed with lemons is a great match — super value for high-quality Chardonnay.


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La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux Rosé 2019, Rhone Valley, France 

$11.99 I 88/100

UPC: 00631470000124

One of the best value import pinks in the market, and it is marked down another dollar. Look for a dry, medium-pale pink rosé with vibrant, floral, jammy strawberry flecked with tangerine and licorice — a food-friendly, fresh, patio pink.

Arrogant Frog Ribet Red 2019, Languedoc, France 

$31.99 3L I 87/100

UPC: 03760040435244

The not-so-Arrogant Frog is a fun mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, awash in savoury soft Languedoc fruit and represents terrific value in this three-litre bag-in-the-box on sale. It’s grown between the Mediterranean Sea and the Hérault Valley, from 20 to 40 years old vines. The palate is packed with black jammy fruit, chocolate, blackberries, and glossy vanilla via 25 per cent new French oak aging. A modern red from the south of France made for daily sipping.


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M. Chapoutier Belleruche Grenache /Syrah Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2019, Rhone Valley, France

$15.99 I 89/100

UPC: 03391181110136

Year in and year out, Bellruche is one of the best value red blends in the market and 2019 is no exception. Round, medium-bodied, and packed full of red and black fruits, this is flecked with fresh pepper, garrigue, and a touch of youthful tannins. Chapoutier aims to make high-quality large production wines with the same care and quality as his treasured parcel wines. So stock up the price is reduced to $15.99 until Sept. 4.

Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2016, Barossa Valley, Australia

$22.99 I 89/100

UPC: 9311789006369

The classic GSM opens with aromatic notes of fresh boysenberry and rhubarb, mixed with spice and floral undertones. The attack is medium-full with soft, round textures that push across and deep into the palate with plummy dark fruits, cedar, and cinnamon. Fresh and friendly, this would be well served with pork dishes or Kung Pao chicken, a winery favourite. Drink or hold for three to five years. The Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro are picked separately for this wine and wild fermented in small batches from an excellent year.


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Roasted local corn and white bean salad with charred tomato and jalapeño dressing created by Regional Chef Stewart Boyles of Field & Social.
Roasted local corn and white bean salad with charred tomato and jalapeño dressing created by Regional Chef Stewart Boyles of Field & Social. Field & Social

Recipe match: Roasted local corn and white bean salad

Local corn, a summertime staple for many, gets a kick of spice thanks to a touch of jalapeño pepper. Created by Regional Chef Stewart Boyles of Field & Social, the vegan-friendly dish is perfect for pairing with a lunch or dinner entrée — or, enjoy it on its own for a light summertime bite.

Roasted local corn and white bean salad with charred tomato and jalapeño dressing

1 large head romaine lettuce

1/2 cup (125 mL) dried white beans

2 heads corn

1/4 head cauliflower

1 tsp (5 mL) smoked chili powder

2 x avocado

Handful tortilla chips

10-15 cherry tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight in a generous amount of cold water, at least two times the volume of the beans. If you don’t have time, you can just cook the beans longer. Drain the beans, add to a pot and cover with fresh water. Add 1 tsp of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 1-1.5 hours. You may need to top up the water occasionally.


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Remove the stem and cut the cauliflower into bite size fleurettes toss, with a splash of oil, chili powder and a pinch of salt. Peel the corn and toss with desired amount of oil and salt.

Roast the corn and cauliflower together in the oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Remove from oven but leave the corn in another 3 — 5 minutes if needs more colour. Let cool.

When the corn has cooled use a knife to cut the corn off the cob. Chop romaine lettuce into bite size pieces, wash then dry. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Charred tomato and jalapeño dressing

3 Roma tomatoes

1 medium-sized green jalapeño

1 tsp (5 mL) tomato past

1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil

1/4 cup (60 mL) veg oil

1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) salt


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Cut tomato in half and toss with jalapenos and tomato paste with a tsp of the olive oil and salt at 550F for 12 minutes in a blender combine with all the other ingredients except olive oil. Blend until smooth and slowly add olive oil on low while blending.


In a large bowl, mix the lettuce, beans, corn, tomato, and cauliflower, dress with desired amount of dressing and garnish with avocado and hand fried or store-bought tortilla chips.

Serves two-four.

Recipe match

Roasted local corn and white bean salad with charred tomato and jalapeño dressing is a green light for any local fresh white wine, and the younger, the better. 

Blue Grouse Estate Ortega 2020, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia $23.99 

Crisp lemon pith, mandarin, white peach, light licorice and yellow fruits bring all the elements to be a perfect match to this delicious and healthy salad.

Hillside Un-oaked Pinot Gris 2020, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia $23 

Mostly dry with pink grapefruit, apples and peach aromas and flavours and the perfect amount of freshness to take on this inviting summer salad



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