British Columbia

What's "character" in a wine, and which wines have them?

Why are some wines quickly forgotten, while others stay with you? Wine Master Barb Philip talks about character in wines and how you can get it at a reasonable price.

Some wines can give you a "sense of place" that transports you to the region

Wine Master Barb Philip says that wines with character can really take you to the region where the wine was produced. (Nathalie MacLean/

Wine Master Barb Philip says a wine with character is a wine you want to get to know. It has layers. You want to  spend time with it. It's the difference between wines you quickly forget and those that stay with you.

And while its character that makes the wine, she says you don't necessarily have to pay a lot to get it.

A sense of place

What Philip says she looks for in a wine is a sense of place, something that reminds the drinker of the region,

"I swear, wines can do that," says Philip.

"They are usually more expensive because of the region-specific nature of the ingredients. However, some regions aren't as expensive. Chile, Spain, South Africa and B.C. have some more affordable offerings.

When looking for a wine with character, Philip says look for a specific place name. She says it yields the most interesting results and gives a better sense of place.

Here are a few of her favourite "character" wines — all under $15.

  • Los Cardos Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. $13.99: "You can tell by looking at it, tasting it, smelling it, that it was grown at very high elevation in the region of Mendoza. You can't make Malbec like this anywhere else."

  • JP Chenet Malbec. Cahors, France. $13.99: "Cahors is the home of Malbec. Why not have [this one and the Los Cardos] back to back to compare the terroir, the sense of place?"

  • Sinfonia Monastrell/Cabernet Sauvignon, Jumilla, Spain. $14.99: "They make very dark, black, fruit scented wine. This is a blend of Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon. Great to check out."

  • Capitao Rayeo. Alentejano, Portugal. $13.99: "This is a blend of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties that really tastes like the sun-drenched southern coast of Portugal."

For more wine picks from Wine Master Barbara Philips, tune into On The Coast every second Tuesday at 5:45.