Several years ago, my then-editor at What’s Up Yukon asked me to do a walk-through tour of the Yukon Liquor Corp. (YLC) store in Whitehorse, and write a bit about it.

At first, I thought it was a little obvious, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized many residents who pick up beer at the store have never really paid much attention to the wines that are on offer.

So this article is intended to be the first of a couple exploring the wines store. It is dedicated to those folks who might traditionally be beer drinkers, or have just begun to think about buying a bottle of wine to try out.

Don’t worry, there’s a first time for everything, and as the Aussie’s say, “Good on ya” for trying something different.

When I enter the YLC store, the first thing I do is check out the several display racks in front of me. There is always something there that piques my interest.

There are de-listed products, which are wines that the YLC has decided to stop carrying. Usually they are reduced in price, and can be good deals to consider.

There’s nothing wrong with the wines, they might just have been slow sellers, or perhaps are no longer available for the YLC to buy. Exploring them might yield some good buys and tasty treats, even if you won’t be able to get them in the future.

There is also a small rack of employee favourites – also a good place to check out, although the rack often has a mix of wines and spirits, even beers. In any case, the YLC employees are sharing their current favourites or recent finds.

Given that many of them are wine enthusiasts, or read about new wines, or just compare notes with co-workers or customers, their recommendations are valuable to consider.

Behind these are two of my favourite sections: the sparking wines (champagne and the like) and along the wall behind them, the Canadian wines.

The sparkling wines, mostly from European countries and Australia, run a range of prices and address a number of different tastes.

You can find the French classics, such as Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut ($64.85), or Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial (either for $64.85), or even go over the top with Dom Perignon at $196.30.

My personal favourite, if money were no object, would be the bright orange-labelled bottle of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut at $68.40.

However, you can have a champagne-like experience by choosing sparkling wines from outside the Champagne region, or even France, by choosing the French Chamdeville Blanc de Blanc Brut ($16.35), or any of several terrific Spanish sparkling wines offered by Cordornui or Freixnet.

They range in price from $15.90 to $20.70. In my estimation, they give me 75-85 percent of the pleasure of one of the classic Champagnes, but at a quarter to a twelfth of the price.

On the Canadian wall, look for the labels that have “VQA” on them. They are a little more expensive (about $15 to $25), but ensure that all the grapes in the wine come from regional vineyards in Canada. This will allow you to come away with a clearer impression of the quality that Canada is producing these days.

I’ve been happy with Hester Creek, some of the Gray Monk offerings, and the Ganton & Larson’s wines. The Pinot Gris (a dry white wine) from these vineyards is very tasty.

As you move further into the store, the rest of the wines are also organized by county. A particular favourite destination of mine is the right-hand end of the first row, closest to the cash registers.

There, they have a growing selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines. The reds from both countries are really tasty and a great buy.

From Spain, the Osborne Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon blend ($14.25) is a very reliable choice, but the YLC has been adding more Spanish temptations to its shelves over the last several months. I would encourage you to try any of them; I have yet to find a bad one.

Particularly good (in my opinion) are the Spanish wines where they take traditional Spanish grapes like Tempranillo or Garnacha (what the Spanish call Grenache) and blend them with traditionally French grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or even Shiraz. All of them are worth a try.

Until recently, the Portuguese offerings were limited to a relatively short list, with several refreshing, lower alcohol, dry white wines. These included Vinho Verdes (very refreshing and well priced) and Mateus. A certain generation of us remembers these slightly sweet rose wines, which, upon revisiting, are a pretty decent summer picnic wine if sufficiently chilled.

As well, there is a short list of Portuguese red wines, priced from $13 to just under $20, and worth a try.

In my experience, the Portuguese wines are slightly softer (less tannic) than their Spanish brethren, and made with obscure Portuguese grapes that aren’t familiar to most of us. But they have consistently been pleasant to taste, good food wines, and a great value.

And now it seems the YLC is expanding the list a little. As you read the labels, if you see anything from the Douro Valley area, and/or made with Touriga National grapes, grab a bottle and give it a try.

Exploring the selection of both Spanish and Portuguese wines, especially the reds, is a worthwhile adventure, and an inexpensive one to boot, with a good selection priced under $20 a bottle!

I’ll continue my YLC walk-through in a follow up article, but I hope this gives you some territory to explore or a partial orientation if you’re a neophyte wine store visitor.

Cheers!