20 under $20 for February
Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team
Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here is the February version of the 20 under $20.
Bill Zacharkiw’s picks
February is a short month, thankfully. So let’s bring out some interesting and aromatic whites as well as richer reds to battle against this nasty winter we’re having.
I recently tasted two whites with exuberant aromatics – floral and fruity – that made me think of Spring. From Australia, Hardy’s 2013 “The Gamble” is a unique blend of chardonnay and pinot gris, dry on the palate, beautifully aromatic, and is anything but a gamble at $17.
If you are like me, and a fan of German riesling’s blend of exuberant fruit and hyper minerality, the Monchhof’s 2013 Riesling is a superb entry-level wine from one of the Mosel’s top wineries.
But many of you are hunkering down and looking to warm the soul with some big reds. The wines of the Côtes du Rhône are known for their versatility, and the 2013 Grande Reserve des Challieres from Bonpas is just that. Bright fruit, good acidity and some decent tannin on the finish.
If you want a wine for some red meats, then look to South America for that mix of torque and value. Norton’s 2012 Malbec offers up great depth with loads of flavour. In a similar vein, but with even more complexity, the 2013 Don Pascual Reserve Tannat is an excellent option at a very easy to swallow price.
Remy Charest’s selections
White wine sales have been going up steadily at the SAQ these last few years, and I seem to be contributing personally to that trend. This month three of my five monthly picks are whites, even in this persistently cold weather.
It might be in part because of the heartwarming, sunny wines I’ve been stumbling onto, like the Domaine de Fenouillet 2013 Hautes Combes Faugères, round and flavourful, as you’d expect from a Languedoc white. It’ll make anyone happy in any season, whether with a wintery veal stew or a summery grilled fish. Same thing with the succulent and energetic Gaba do Xil 2013 Godello from Telmo Rodriguez. If you think Spain only delivers big reds, time for a refresher – literally and figuratively.
Meanwhile, my ongoing quest for the best that aligoté can deliver has led me to the newly arrived 2013 vintage of the Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand Bourgoge Aligoté, which is quickly becoming my favourite. With such a great balance of freshness, minerality and weight on the palate, it has me smiling with every sip.
On the redder side of things, your mid-week bowl of pasta will be made all the more bright and enjoyable by a glass of fresh and lively sangiovese like the Fontalpino 2013 Chianti Colli Senesi by Fattoria Carpineta. And if you want to step away from the beaten path, try the Teliani Valley 2011 Saperavi, with its lovely red fruit and herbs. It’s a pleasant, modern version of a really ancient native grape from Georgia, one of the birthplaces of winemaking, thousands of years ago.
Marc Chapleau’s picks
Let’s start with a duo of Languedoc wines, and a little taste of heat that we all need right now.
The white covers the spectrum, showing a certain power, interesting aromatics and a solid acidity. The red is all fruit, without being at all candied. While not particularly powerful, it shows admirable freshness and has a touch more complexity with a delicate peppery finish. All for under $13.
Right next door in the Roussillon, the Mas las Cabes 2012 from Domaine Jean Gardiès. Shows the generosity of the south. Purple, with aromatics boosted by a touch of volatile acidity and finely honed tannins. At just over $18, an excellent purchase.
Let’s take a giant’s leap towards the southern hemisphere and Argentina and the Colonia Las Liebres 2013 Bonarda from Altos las Hormigas. A delicious red made with the relatively rare grape, bonarda, which has its origins in Italy’s Piedmont region. The wine is reminiscent of a quality Loire cabernet franc, just a little richer. And the price? Under $15.
For my final recommendation, back to Europe and to a wine that always shows great value, the Christian Moueix Merlot. An entry level red Bordeaux that always delivers, and the 2010 is as good as ever. Power and depth. Love it!
Nadia Fournier’s selections
Typical of the 2011 vintage, the Domaine Cazes Marie-Gabrielle is a very good red Roussillon where a touch of carbon dioxide left in the wine brings extra freshness as well as boosting the aromas of raspberry and dried herbs. The wine is quite open and ready to drink.
An excellent red from one of the Languedoc’s less known appellations, Faugères, is the Domaine de Fenouillet 2012 Combe Rouge with its notes of raspberry confit and garrigue. It is very clean and fresh, and so highly drinkable. Hard to find a more satisfying wine under $20.
Also at a very attractive price, the Bodegas Moraza 2013 Tinto Joven is a certified organic Rioja which is very seductive with its youthful fruit, as its name indicates (Joven means young is Spanish).
The Pala I Fiori 2013 Nuragus di Cagliari is a very good white wine made with nuragus, a white grape from Sardinia whose origins date back to the time when the Phoenicians highly reputed for the quality of their white wines. Very satisfying for the price.
And finally, a classic amongst classics, to discover or rediscover for apero hour. The Pieropan 2013 Soave is fully in the spirit of the family style that they have had since establishing themselves in this classic region during the 19th Century.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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