Local oenophile Billy Munnelly has just issued his 16th annual self-published guide to the best wines available in Ontario liquor stores. Billy's Best Bottles ($21.95) not only rates over 200 wines, more than half of them under $13, but does so with refreshingly straightforward language that steers well clear of the genre's usual impenetrable blather. There's no "redolent of caraway with a deep creosote finish" blurbage here.
What's more, he categorizes each bottle by its mood instead of by regional variety, allowing handbook users to choose wine for the drink's purpose, be it as a mulled kick-start to nude tobogganing or the perfect plonk to go with a wintry backyard barbecue. LCBO catalogue numbers and photos of each recommended label help make the guide virtually foolproof.
"It's a bit of an insurance policy," says the affable Munnelly, who, prior to griping over grapes for a living, co-launched Rundles in Stratford in the 70s and Toronto's Rosedale Diner in the 80s. "If you give it to your friends, you'll be guaranteed they have something decent to drink the next time you visit."
Don't get him started on the price of wine in restaurants.
"Ontario is the only place in the world where restaurants have to pay retail for booze," Munnelly says. "A lot of people don't know this, but the situation is starting to get people really pissed off."
For more information: www.billysbestbottles.com.