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Nine excellent bargains from the wine world’s most undervalued regions

Nine reasons to skip the champagne and buy Ontario sparkling wine this holiday seasonLike championing an indie band before it goes mainstream, discovering a little-known wine region before the market catches on can earn you instant cred. Anyone can show up at a dinner party with a big bordeaux or supertuscan (the oenophile equivalent of Coldplay and U2), but only an insider can pick out a great Macedonian xinomavro. Increasingly, the LCBO is bringing in bottles from nooks and crannies on the periphery of the wine world: Puglia in Italy, Calatayud in Spain, and Swartland in South Africa. The winemaking practices in some of these emerging regions are every bit as advanced as those of the big guns, so the quality is high. However, the prices remain low because the up-and-comers don’t yet have the clout of, say, Napa or Burgundy. Here, my picks from obscurity.

Farnese 2011 Negroamaro
Farnese 2011 Negroamaro
$8.15 | Puglia | 86 points
Far from the aura of Rome and Florence, regions such as Puglia, Abruzzi, Molise and Marche are produ­cing smoother, more balanced wines than ever before. The plump, fragrant negroamaro grape delivers sour plum and black cherry fruit, along with rose and cocoa aromas in a soft, rich style. A bargain for solo sipping. LCBO 143735
Boutari 2008 Naoussa
great value indicatorBoutari 2008 Naoussa
$13 | Macedonia | 87 points
Greek winemakers are rekindling native grape varieties. This xinomavro tastes like Italian barba­resco with cherry, pomegranate, herbal and anise flavours. It’s earthy and full of tannin. Sip it with souvlaki. Vintages. LCBO 23218
Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha
Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha
$14.60 | Calatayud | 87 points
La Rioja in northern Spain has reached semi-elite status, but old vineyards in rural regions of the arid central plateau, like Calatayud, Cariñena and Toro, are breathing new life. This mid-weight, soft, plummy young grenache has pencil lead and peppery complexity. Good density and length for the money. LCBO 269977
Cusumano 2011 Nero d’Avola
great value indicatorCusumano 2011 Nero d’Avola
$10.50 | Sicily | 88 points
Historically a producer of cheap, soupy wine, Sicily has emerged as the California of Italy. This ripe, vanilla-scented red has a lush texture and a sour-edged finish. Instead of a cork, it comes with a nifty glass stopper that lifts with your thumbs and easily pops back into the bottle. LCBO 143164
Sogrape 2009 Vila Regia Reserva
great value indicatorSogrape 2009 Vila Regia Reserva
$13 | Douro Valley | 88 points
The Douro Valley, known for port, is now breaking out into red blends made with the touriga nacional grape. A bargain for the cellar, this red sports aromas of blackberry, cedar, toast and tobacco. It’s mid-weight and supple yet well structured, with very good fruit depth. Best 2014 to 2017. LCBO 613950
Château de Gourgazaud 2010 Minervois
great value indicatorChâteau de Gourgazaud 2010 Minervois
$13 | Languedoc-Roussillon | 89 points
France’s Mediterranean vineyards, once known for plonk, are produ­cing exciting syrahs, grenaches and mourvèdres. This syrah-based red exudes blackcurrant amid campfire, licorice and nutmeg. It’s medium-full bodied, warm and generous. LCBO 22384
Montgras 2011 Carmenère Reserva
great value indicatorMontgras 2011 Carmenère Reserva
$12 | Colchagua Valley | 89 points
For a generation, Chile’s fruit- drenched Central Valley was the source of cheap, tasty reds, but replanting in the coastal and hillside regions is nudging the area toward elite status. This distinctive carmenère is dense and sleek, with currant-fig flavours. LCBO 178624
Porcupine Ridge 2011 Syrah
Porcupine Ridge 2011 Syrah
$15 | Swartland | 89 points
New World–style, syrah-based reds are reviving South Africa, one of the oldest and most overlooked winemaking countries in the world. This one has a very bright, lifted nose of cherry fruit and pepper baked into smoky, tarry oak, chocolate and licorice notes. It’s dense, yet juicy and lively. Vintages. LCBO 595280
Kaiken 2010 Malbec
Kaiken 2010 Malbec
$15 | Mendoza | 90 points
New World–style, syrah-based reds are reviving South Africa, one of the oldest and most overlooked winemaking countries in the world. This one has a very bright, lifted nose of cherry fruit and pepper baked into smoky, tarry oak, chocolate and licorice notes. It’s dense, yet juicy and lively. Vintages. LCBO 595280

Scores: David Lawrason assigns scores on a 100-point scale. They reflect a wine’s overall quality. A rating of 95 to 100 is outstanding; 90 to 94 excellent; 85 to 89 very good; 80 to 84 good.