“How to pick a good wine? We all have our ways.”

Issue #12     March, 2020

Since we get together each month down here in the cellar to seek out wines that are both enjoyable and affordable, I thought it might be interesting to explore just how we go about making our choices to buy the wines we do. For many of us this is a process that is certainly personal and sometimes a little unexplainable.

Of course, there’s the old stand-by method; word of mouth. A friend or someone like me, mentions a great wine so as any self-respecting wine lover would, you give it a try. A close cousin of this approach is the ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ method. Basically this means you surreptitiously watch what wine the person next to you takes off the shelf at the LCBO and when he or she leaves the area, you grab yourself a bottle too.

Some wine shoppers employ purely visual techniques. They use the shape of the bottle or look of the label, or the name of the wine to make their decision. Personally, if I see any bad puns in the name of a wine, I smell vinegar.

A friend of mine chooses her wine by feel, using the uncommon method of inspecting the bottom of the bottle in question with her fingertips.

If that bottle has a deep indent, (actually it’s called the ‘Punt’) she deems it worthy of a purchase. If it’s mostly flat with no punt or a very minor one, her quest continues. Hey, it sounds nutty, but it works for her.

I’m sure there are other methods too but when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t really matter how we find our favourites, as long as we find them. So let’s.

Welcome back to Jim’s Affordable Cellar.


Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz/Cabernet 2017
South Australia
750 mL  bottle  VINTAGES#:  186114

Our red this month isn’t new to the shelves. It periodically shows up and is most always worthy of consideration. And you can’t miss the curious name on the label. I have no idea what it means but Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz/Cabernet is a very pleasing blend of two very pleasing grapes.

It has a deep plum colour in the glass with aromas of black raspberries, blueberries and basil. But when you tilt it mouth-bound you discover a silky, smooth flavour-burst thanks to the bold richness of Shiraz and the elegance of Cab Sauvignon.

This bottle has an impressive ‘Punt-factor’ of an inch and one eighth.

My translation,  Jip Jip Rocks, rocks!


Ribotta Pinot Grigio 2018
DOC delle Venezie, Italy
750 mL bottle  |   VINTAGES#:  12725

Now to the Venezie region of Italy for our white this month. Since March brings us the first day of Spring and reason to think of warm afternoons to come, a bright, light and crisp Pinot Grigio is in order. You’ll notice Ribotta Pinot Grigio 2018 on the shelves by it’s refreshing Sea Green floral patterned label.

In the glass you can’t help but behold its crystal clear, pear colour with scents of melon, lemon and peach.

Have a taste and you’re treating yourself to a perfect balance of acidity and smoothness. That’s wine talk for ‘this is really good.’ Of course it is, Ribotta Pinot

has a ‘Punt-Factor’ of over an inch!


Julia Florista Red Blend
750 mL bottle  LCBO#:  532358

Our under to radar wine this month is a bottle you’ll find hiding on the regular listing shelves of Portugal. I was drawn to it by the quirky, storybook label and the charming history behind it. That of Julia Florista, the infamous flower girl and spontaneous Fado singer of Lisbon. No matter how well she sang, for under ten dollars this wine named in her honour, hits all the right notes.

It’s deep garnet in colour with bright, fruity aromas and hints of leather.  It doesn’t scream at your taste buds, but softly sings to them in a smooth and tasty voice.

And as for the bottom of this bottle, it has a ‘Punt’ factor of just under an inch. Not bad at all.

This brings us to the close of our March visit together down here in the cellar at the old oak tasting table. In a month when we meet again, I’m planning to use yet another criterion for my selections. Perhaps a healthier one. Not the depth of the bottom of the bottle or the look of the label, but wine designated as ‘Organic’. So hold on to your Birkenstocks because we may have to break the $20 barrier. But it’s worth a try.

See you in April. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and you’re friends even closer.


“Two important colours of Autumn; Red and white.”

Issue #7   October, 2019

Lucky for us, in this neck of the woods October is synonymous with colour. This is show time for our numerous deciduous trees as they display their many shades of yellow, crimson, orange and magenta. These are the colours that arrest us every fall. The same colours that captivated our wonderful Group of Seven and inspired their vivid interpretations using colours known by slightly different names; yellow ochre, cadmium red, chrome orange and burnt sienna.

So, for this October issue of Jim’s Affordable Cellar, it is only right that we pay special attention to colour. But as is our way each month, we’ll focus on the two colours that matter most. Red and white.

Welcome back to the cellar.

Pull up a chair to the old oak tasting table and together let’s add a little colour to our cheeks.

The red I’m going to talk about (I’d sing about this wine if I could) comes to us from the land of Port and those amazing custard tarts. Portugal. But it’s also the land of great wine. As evidenced by this Bergamota Private Selection from 2015.

Berga-fantastic I’d say.

Bergamota Private Selection 2015
750 mL bottle  VINTAGES#:  646893

It’s dark and dense as a night without a moon. And in the air, there are dark cherries, chocolate and something floral. Roses? Then you taste it and discover it’s smooth and scrumptious. Full bodied and rich. If they hadn’t turned these grapes into this beautiful wine, it would have made a beautiful port for sure.  

This month’s white comes to us from the western edge of France’s Loire valley, not far from the Atlantic. Les Fils des Gras Moutons Muscadet features the grape, Melon de Bourgogne which thrives in the region’s magnesium-rich soil of clay, and produces wine known for its crisp and refreshing personality.


Le Fils des Gras Moutons Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie 2017
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES#:  363150

In your glass, it’s a soft yellow. The kind of yellow that October’s paintbrush applies to a Birch or Poplar. It wafts of earthiness, like the aroma of Autumn itself.

And when you take a drink, it’s mildly effervescent with flavours of crisp green apple. It would be a nice quencher following a long afternoon walk on a leaf-covered forest path. Or more realistically, after you’ve built a major thirst from bagging a billion frickin’ fallen leaves in the yard.

I also like this wine for how its name translates. ‘Son of the fat sheep.’ And now as we do each month let’s go ‘under the radar’ and get to know a wine that may be a bit of a mystery. In this case, not only a wine but a particular process of making wine. Ripasso.

Ripasso is produced in Valipolicella in the province of Verona, Italy using the technique of “re-passing” Valpolicella wine over the dried grape skins of the beautifully full-bodied wine called Amarone. Enough of the tech talk. Let’s make way for Remo Farina Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2017


Remo Farina Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2017
750 ml bottle | VINTAGES#:  999946

Remo Farina is the deep crimson of a shaded red maple. It beckons a sip with aromas of dark ripe fruit, hints of orange and dark chocolate. (They should make a chocolate bar with this wine). And while it’s soft on the tongue, there’s a lively, tasty richness that rewards you for choosing it.  Making Ripasso is an art for sure.

So let’s call this Ripasso, somewhat of a Picasso.   

Sadly, the leaves are off the tree for this issue. But we’ll get together again in a few weeks as we try to make November feel a little less like well, November. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.


“I really like wine. I might as well write about it.”

Issue # 1         April, 2019

My lovely daughter recently made the suggestion that on a regular basis, I put down some tips about really good but NOT PRICEY wines I know of or happen upon. And because the next best thing to drinking a wonderful glass of wine is talking about it, I decided to go with the suggestion.

So, drum roll please. Welcome to Jim’s Affordable Cellar. This will be a once a month bulletin, or maybe more often if something comes along that I just can’t wait to tell you about. Otherwise, every four weeks or so I will highlight one red, one white and an under the radar grape variety or wine from a region or country you may not have ventured to in your wine travels.

Affordable wine of course means very different things to different people. For instance, a silky, $50 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa might be cheap and cheerful to a professional athlete or your friendly neighbourhood real estate agent. But my line in the sand is usually about $20.

I’ll be honest, now and then I jump well over that line but for the most part, a really good to excellent bottle for under $20 or even $15 is very findable and doubly rewarding. You get to enjoy it and you can afford to buy a few of them. 

So let’s get to the wine.

For this inaugural dispatch, I’d like to tell you about a wine I recently discovered from one of my favourite regions; Argentina.  Normally we think of beef-friendly Malbec when we think of wine from Argentina. However, this powerhouse wine-producing country is definitely no one-trick pony. Decero has all the silky, smooth ear-marks of Cabernet Sauvignon with Argentina’s signature splash of richness and intensity.

Mendoza, Argentina
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 195677

Although they may still seem distant, warm summer days are coming. Next to packing away your heavy sweaters, some effective post-winter therapy is stalking up on some crisp, refreshing sauvignon blanc to spend some time with on a warm June evening.

Two Rivers is big but refined. Every sip is like a cool, refreshing citrus shower. It might be worth getting in some practice for June now.


Marlborough, New Zealand 
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 277707

My under the radar wine for this issue comes from one of the world’s great wine producing countries. Portugal. This country is one of the foundations of viniculture and has been at it for centuries. So they know a thing or two. Spain tends to overshadow Portugal in our quality perceptions of wine, however Portugal if given the chance certainly holds its own and will surprise you with what it has to offer.

Calem Curvo Tinto is quite a nice find. It’s rich and loaded with leather and wood smoke on the nose. And it has wonderful flavours of cherries and currants. Great with some cheese before dinner and also perfect with a hearty meal.


Douro, Portugal
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 631499

That’s it for this issue of Jim’s Affordable Cellar. Hope you enjoy my picks.

Until next time, keep your glass of wine close and your friends closer.