$15 or less
WHAT: Osborne Ducal Merlot/Tempranillo 2004 (red) Rating: NNN
WHERE: Malpica, Spain
WHY: Since the LCBO seems determined to foist these booze cubes upon the wine drinkers of Ontario - and because they are so backpack-compatible - let's unscrew this Spanish red. Those looking for an overstuffed Merlot are in for a shock. Maybe its the 35 per cent Tempranillo that gives this blend its spice and backbone. Serious stuff in a juice box.
PRICE: 1,000 ml/$12.95
AVAILABILITY: At most liquor stores (product #11767)
WHAT: Escudo Rojo 2003 (red) Rating: NNNN
WHERE: Maipo Valley, Chile
WHY: Speaking of Spain, how about that Spanish Empire? Man, did that ever backfire, except in disseminating wine culture to places like Chile, where they now make tasty stuff like this. This Cabernet/Carmenère blend should please just about any big red drinker with its deep but approachable flavours.
PRICE: 750 ml/$16.95
AVAILABILITY: At selected liquor stores (product #613224)
Sips and nips
WHAT: Havana Club 7 Year Old Rating: NNNN
WHERE: Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba
WHY: Speaking of the Spanish Empire... well, the rum is great. At this time of year rum can go two ways: all wintery-like into the eggnog or all Caribbean-like into pinas and mojitos. This is too good for the former. Delicate and clean, it should be treated with restrained applications of ice and tropical fruits. Or sip it straight up.
PRICE: 750 ml/$30.25
AVAILABILITY: At most liquor stores (product #53140)