Local wines get bad rap – Metro US

Local wines get bad rap

Chatting at a recent wine-tasting party, someone said she never buys local wine. Others joined in and expressed their disappointment in general with local wine. I was a bit shocked but kept calm. Took the lawyer approach and asked questions. Tried to get to the source of the problem — are local wines all bad, or are people having bad experiences for other reasons?

The group said they never purchased from local wineries and their experiences were based on offerings at the LCBO. On visiting one of the aforementioned establishments the next day, I approached the Ontario section with this question:

What percentage of local wines would I consider worth purchasing? I have to admit it was less than 20 per cent. The folks at the party were right.

The local wine section at the LCBO is a lot like the bread section at an average supermarket. Mass produced stuff gets in because the producer can deliver, and keep the shelf stocked. I drink a lot of local, but I know what to avoid.

If I didn’t, I’d probably have the same disbelief as the party folks.

Looking on the brighter side, most LCBOs carry a dozen or two good local wines that sit shoulder to shoulder with the bad stuff. So how is one to spot them? You can’t. You have to take an interest, read reviews (or my annual book!), ask about — do as you would with other products.

One of the most consistently good local wineries of the past two decades has been Cave Spring Cellars in Beamsville. Their ’05 Chardonnay is a great example of what Niagara can produce when someone really tries. It has a solid, confident feeling and great flavour — it’s just a really good wine. Shades of house wine at a fancy restaurant. I wish I’d had a bottle of Cave Spring Chardonnay to pour for the folks at that party.

Here’s a yummy bargain white to pick up for holiday parties: Mission Hill “Five Vineyards” ’06 Pinot Grigio (614289, $14.15) is delisted and selling off at $11.25. My pick for last Saturday’s Vintages release is the mature, mellow, night-by-the-fireside-feeling Cathedral Cellars ’03 Shiraz from South Africa (561142 $16.95). Other recommendations are posted on www.billysbestbottles.com.

• Billy’s Best Bottles Wines For 2008 is now in stores.

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Billy Munnelly has been writing about wine for 25 years and is the author of Canada’s largest selling wine book, Billy’s Best Bottles. Sign up for his free monthly e-letter at



Cave Spring Cellars

’05 Chardonnay,

Niagara, 228551

Price: $12.95