Wine column: Seek expert advice rather than subjective wine scores

A selection of wine recommendations from Edmonton-based experts. Shaughn Butts / Postmedia

One of my pet peeves is wine scores, those shiny stickers boasting points and medals prominently placed on the front of the bottle. Why not ignore those diluted scores and develop a relationship with your local wine merchant, sommelier, or any one person to help you find the right bottle? Follow the individual, not the application, magazine, or a panel’s collaborative score.

Most common is the 100-point scale — but have you ever seen a wine with a 40-point score? These are averages, combined scores from multiple people with individual tastes and preferences, a system that works well only to judge regional wines with very similar specifications of place and grape.

But for wine-drinkers looking for try something new and interesting, I say look for accredited and/or experienced wine experts, the difference being that a professional wine palate recognizes what a grape/wine of a specific region/area can produce.

Scoring wines is subjective — if you love a wine, give it a happy face and just do you, then take it a step further and seek out more from the same producer.

Here are a few wine recommendations and scores from some of Edmonton’s top experts.


“The grafting of old ‘mother plants’ results in grapes that are unique — not with strength, but with elegance,” says Daniel Costa, the executive chef, co-owner and face of Edmonton’s top Italian restaurants; Corso32, Uccellino and Bar Bricco. “Complex and perfumed with notes of fruit and spice, that are in harmony with one another. The boldest aroma is of cinnamon. It is soft, velvety, and is laced with the right amount of tannin on the palate.”

Score: 4.5/5


“I’m in love with Lucien Lardy’s wines,” says Mike Angus, general manager of one of Whyte Ave’s fantastic gems, Pip (restaurant/wine and cocktail bar with a summer patio). “The Beaujolais Villages currently on Pip’s wine list is such a darling with great value. It’s a solid introduction for our guests to an approachable, low-intervention/’natural’ style, with textbook characteristics of the region. Its relative lightness, mellow strawberry and minerality is just so much fun to drink, not only in summer, but I can’t stop drinking it through the colder months as well. After work (if we can call our line of employment ‘work’) it’s the perfect refresher.”

Score: Obsessed with it



“Last month I drank two outstanding wines — Fox Trot’s Pinot Noir from Naramata, B.C. and Pearl Morissette’s Métis Blanc a Chardonnay from Niagara,” says Mary Bailey, sommelier, and editor of The Tomato food and drink magazine. “Both wines were exceptional. Both told a story — a three-act play with an exciting beginning, complex mid-palate and a lingering finish. Stunning in their purity, directness, balance, layers of flavours and their sense of place. I did not want the sip to end. I am still thinking about them.”

Scores: Outstanding


“I’m a big fan of floral whites, and I just thought this was such great value (and in a one-litre bottle!)” says Christine Sanford, executive chef at Biera, the Ritchie neighbourhood hot spot with a patio. “It has had some skin contact but is not as funky as some ‘orange wines,’ and it certainly makes me curious what else is happening with wine in Chile! I found it to be easy drinking, but able to stand up to some food as well.”

Score: 4/5


“My favorite pick for value is Domaine de la Tourmaline, Muscadet Sevre Maine sur lie,” says Patricio Saurette, owner and wine director of one of Edmonton’s top stops, The Marc. “This is not your granddad’s Melon de Bourgogne. This could be consumed simply by itself while sitting in your pajamas eating stale Triscuits, and you would still be transported to the Loire by this rich aromatic wine that buzzes with minerality and bright acidity. Since it begs for seafood…”

Score: 4/5 oyster shells


“Vercheny, an anagram of its region, Cheverny, is a rule breaker, made from pinot noir in a region that (due to traditional wine laws), does not ‘allow’ pinot noir wines from this area to be labeled as such,” says Evan Watson, CBC Wine Columnist. “The winemaker, Pierre Olivier Bonhomme, opted to make it anyway, throwing a subtle middle finger in the direction of the wine governing body that tried to tell him otherwise. This wine is joyful, buoyant, and full of juicy red fruits and wild herbs. Perhaps the best ‘illegal’ wine you’ll have this year. “

Score: 1 quickly emptied bottle out of 1.


“My favourite wine at the moment would be the Vazisubani Estate Rkatsiteli White Qvevri,” says Shaun Hicks, operations manager/wearer of many hats at Wilfred’s, the awesome new diner situated in the Brewery District with a newly opened patio. “It’s been well received in my house. I would say it’s something between today’s fashionable orange wine and a beautiful, mildly acidic mineral/apple-forward white table wine. I can drink this delicious wine while preparing and eating almost any light meal, while not being overwhelmed by overly assertive flavours.”

Score: 5 out of 4 wine glasses


“If you haven’t yet tried an Argentinian Petit Verdot, you’re in for a real treat,” says Darcy Kuharchuk, from the almost-open Bianco on Rice Howard Way. “It is full of brooding blackberry and blueberry aromas, with a dense, dark, complex structure. It is complemented by hints of black cardamom and violet. Not only is it certified sustainable and vegan, it represents a great opportunity to look beyond Malbec when exploring the diversity of wines from Argentina.”

Wine selections are available at select Alberta shops. Log onto to check availability and give them a call to verify.

Juanita Roos opened Color de Vino, a fine wine and spirits store, with her family in 2014. She has traveled to wine regions around the world and completed the prestigious WSET Diploma from London, England, the prerequisite for the Master of Wine program. Send your questions about wine to