20 under $20 for September
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’s September’s version of the 20 under 20.
Bill Zacharkiw’s Picks
Autumn for me is all about returning. Back to school for the kids, and back to work for us. So for my choices this month, I am returning to classic wine regions and classic wine styles.
I’ll start with a white. Even though there is a deep chill settling in, that doesn’t mean that we have to only drink red wine. I was very impressed with Baron de Leys’ 2013 Rioja Blanco. Under $15, it makes for a fresh aperitif, and will nicely accompany some raw oysters or basic seafood if you are looking to snack on something before dinner.
Spaghetti is the classic Fall family dinner, and one of my favourite spaghetti wines is Bersano’s Costalunga Barbera d’Asti. This is a classic Barbera expression, built along acidity and fruit, which makes it an ideal match for tomato sauce.
If you are eating something Italian, but more substantial where meat is involved, I found a wonderfully classic Chianti from Azienda Uggiano. The 2010 Colli Fiorentini shows all the acidity, tannin and leathery goodness of the sangiovese grape. No make-up here, just an honest and traditional Chianti.
No talk of classic wine regions is complete without a trip to Bordeaux. From the powerful and at times overly ripe 2009 vintage, try the Côtes de Francs from Château Godard Bellevue. It shows the power of the vintage while keeping the finesse that makes Bordeaux so unique.
And finally, if you are looking for a cabernet sauvignon, look to Chile. While many consider Chile as part of the “new world,” Santa Rita has been making wine since 1880. Their 2010 Medalla Real, Gran Reserva for me defines the classic Chilean expression of cabernet sauvignon – dark fruited, a hint of eucalyptus, and a capacity to age that is remarkable considering the price. Got lamb? Then this is your wine.
Marc Chapleau’s Selections
Wine lover’s rarely look to France’s southwest for their white wines as it is mostly known for their reds, most notably Cahors and Madiran. So for a change, wet your whistle with an excellent Jurançon, the Domaine Cauhapé Chant des Vignes 2013. The aromas are exotic and the wine manages to be both refreshing and richly powerful all at the same.
For my first red, my compass needle is pointing south to Chile and the Carmenère Reserva 2013 from Carmen. It is very representative of the grape, with solid but not excessive notes of oak.
Looking towards the Languedoc, the 2010 Minervois Château Maris might show a touch of that “sweaty” quality but that is no reason not to try it as the fruit is there, as well as a tight and finessed structure.
From Tuscany, the 2013 IGT Casamatta from Bibi Graetz is very generous with its fruit while at the same time showing the characteristic astringency that we so love much in Italian reds.
Finally, the Catalan-made Montsant Mas Collet 2012 will easily please those aficionados who love rich and tannic red wines, and who believe that, despite the inexpensive price tag, that wines at this price have the potential to age a few more years. This one will.
Nadia Fournier Choices
Looking for a change and don’t necessarily want a new haircut or have the time to take a trip? Then why not explore the exotic world of lesser known grape varieties?
So let’s start with negrette, an ancient variety in France’s southwest and the grape that makes the wines of Fronton so unique and original. The Classic 2010 by Pierre Selle at Château Bouissel is an excellent example.
Staying in the region of the Southwest, but slightly to the east in the département de l’Aveyron, is the tiny appellation of Marcillac which barely covers 200 hectares. Philippe Teulier from Domaine du Cros makes a very good red from the mansois grape, the local name for fer servadou.
Continuing eastward, all the way to the mountains of Trentin, is the birthplace of teroldego, one of Northern Italy’s oldest grapes. Its merits for making great wine can be traced back to publications written as early as 1480 ! For under $20, the 2010 Teroldego Rotaliano from the co-op Mezzacorona is a very good example.
Want a taste from eastern Europe? The grape variety furmint accounts for almost two-thirds of the entire Hungarian vineyard. And as it is every year, the grapes which are not suited to make Azsu – the country’s’ renowned sweet wine – the producers of Tokay use it to make a dry white. One of those wines which is consistently near the top of my personal list of best wines under $15 is the Château Pajzos 2013.
And finally, for the ultimate in exotic adventurism, take a serious detour to the volcanic region of Cappadoce in Eastern Turkey where the family run winery Kocabag produces a wine, while a touch modern, avoids banality by being made with Turkish varieties öküzgözü et bogazkere . They give this wine a little “je-ne-sais-quoi,” and at $13.50, it’s not a huge risk to take.
Rémy Charest Picks
Fall is here, no doubt about it. But although the leaves might be turning red, I’m still up for a lot of vibrant, fresh whites. Could it be denial? Sure. But they’re also great matches for oysters, whose high season is just starting.
Among this list of fresh wines, the 2013 Basa Blanco from Telmo Rodriguez is absolutely remarkable, with apple and citrus galore, but also a texture that is just round enough to provide balance and dimension. Many of the Chacun son vin/WineAlign crew have sung its praises, and I’m sure you will too.
With a similar balance between crisp and round, Les Vignes Retrouvées this white from the Saint-Mont appellation, in Southwest France, will surely please those who know and like Alain Brumont’s popular gros manseng/sauvignon blend. The petit courbu and arrufiac grapes, which complement, add a nice, original touch to the wine, with some unusual white pepper notes.
Leaning a touch more towards roundness, the 2013 Cuvée Clémence by Château Cheval-Quancard is an all-season people pleaser, with remarkable elegance at such a reasonable price. I love Bordeaux whites, and this Entre-Deux-Mers is one more reason to make me keep on preaching its merits.
On the red side of things, I like the simple, drinkable character of Château Cap de Merle – a Lussac-Saint-Émilion that has been on SAQ shelves for years and years. Well-calibrated fruit, no oak, it’s all you need for an easy seasonal dinner, like braised beef with carrots.
However, my best under-20$ find, this month, is the El Castro de Valtuille Mencia Joven produced by Raul Pérez in the Bierzo appellation. The blend of generous, ripe fruit and crisp peppery notes may well remind you of a Saint-Joseph or another syrah from the Northern Rhône. If that’s what the return of colder weather will make us want a drink, I’m all for it.
The complete list: 20 under $20 for August
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