20 Under $20 in BC : April 2015
April Fools in BC
If you’re reading this column, you are interested in wine. If you are from BC, you doubtlessly know about the recent changes to our liquor laws (yes, more changes) as of April 1, 2015. As part of the government’s effort to “level the playing field”, all the prices of wine in the BC Liquor Stores is now displayed without taxes, as Anthony notes below. This means that you have to be quick on your feet or have calculator in hand to know the price for your purchases (multiply the shelf price by 1.15). Private wine stores have followed suit, as the optics of having shelf prices 15 percent higher than your major competitor (your elected government) isn’t a positive.
For now, we’ve decided to try to keep our 20 Under $20 wine picks under $20 ALL IN (including the taxes), meaning the shelf prices of the wines below will be approximately $17.40 or less. We’re waiting to see how it all shuffles out over the coming weeks, and while the dust settles, WineAlign West is still hard at work to find you the best wines that you can purchase with a $20 dollar bill.
It’s no secret that it’s getting harder and harder to find wines under $20 a bottle in BC and this month it looks as if government clearly agrees after it removed the PST and GST from its display price, dropping prices, at least for a few feet, by 15 percent. It’s a sleight of hand we could live without but when the taxes are as high as they are in BC what else can they do but try to deceive customers by hiding the ultimate price of its products. This month my picks are truly under $20 taxes all in. But I’m not sure how long that can continue as wine prices and taxes soar in BC.
Pinot noir is never cheap but two bottles worth looking for as mid-week reds are the Sumac Ridge 2013 Pinot Noir Private Reserve and the Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Casablanca Estate 2013. Both offer a modicum of pinot noir flavour and would be perfect with a Margarita style pizza or a salmon salad.
Still with pinot, this time gris or grigio, it looks as if it is the only variety that consistently sells for less than $20. We love the latest Pentâge Winery 2013 Pinot Gris with its mineral salty notes and candied red apple flavours. Speaking of bargains, the Dunavár 2013 Pinot Grigio is as fresh and bright as you could want for $10.
If spicy, Pan-Asian take-out is on your mind you can pair it up with the exotic, generous, spicy/limey litchi fruit flavours of the Torres 2014 Viña Esmeralda or a personal, local favourite, Wild Goose Autumn Gold 2013, the latter a delicious mix of roughly one-third gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot blanc, just sweet enough to tame any spice.
Finally, the lighter dishes of spring will work better with clean, fresh sauvignon blanc such as the crisp, mouth-watering, tropical fruit scented Matua Valley 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Or in a slightly richer category, consider the Chateau St. Jean 2012 Fumé Blanc out of Sonoma County, California. It works well with goat cheese, pasta or shellfish dishes.
Rhys Pender MW
This month’s selections are partially inspired by recent visits to Argentina and Alsace. There are many amazing wines, and while the best can set you back a few dollars, there is also a theme of great value in these areas. The best and most expensive wines are rarely crazy prices and this translates to the value range as well, where you get a lot of quality for the price.
I’m starting off with a pair from Alsace. Domaine Zinck is now run by Philippe and Pascale Zinck after taking over from Philippe’s father, Paul, who started the domain in 1964. They have expanded the estate vineyards and modernized things but kept making serious wines. Available at the BC Liquor Stores is the 2012 Pinot Blanc, a great way to compare an Alsace version with some of the quality BC wines made from the same variety.
Another great variety in Alsace is Gewurztraminer. Not for everyone’s taste because of its lush richness and often with a bit of residual sugar, there is no doubt it is the best wine to pair with richer, spicier foods. Foie gras is also a great match with sweeter versions. Try the 2013 Kuhlmann-Platz for a great priced version.
In Argentina, when the weather warms up you crave juicy, refreshing Torrontés. It is aromatic but not sweet and is a fantastic aperitif wine or one to just sip on its own for refreshment. The Michel Torino Cuma brand is not only great value but also organically grown.
From BC, one of the benchmark wines has always been Tinhorn Creek Merlot. It has always been great value and had a strong following. After a couple of tough vintages on the Bordeaux grape varieties (2010 and 2011 were very cool vintages), 2012 was much better and the Tinhorn Creek Merlot is the best it has been in many years.
Self-imposed frugality will govern my wine spending now as I look towards summer and the holidays I dream of taking. As the weather gets a little brighter, the frisky Fritz 2013 Riesling from Gunderloch buoys my spirits with its cheeky fruit and sheer ease of drinking. No food required, but a fiery black bean and mango salsa and good corn chips would be the ticket.
Two local aromatic whites are also in my fridge: Mission Hill’s 2013 Reserve Pinot Gris for when I need dry, assertive white wine, and the expressive Quails’ Gate 2014 Gewurztraminer which packs a punch of fruit in a confident off-dry style for a simple (and budget) chickpea curry or lettuce wraps.
I’ve also selected a couple of reds that will keep my piggy bank bulging, including Viña Chela’s cheerful Malbec 2013 – smooth, smoky and organic for spicy grilled chorizo-in-a-bun. Also watch for the Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel, holding 4 bottles-worth of good tasting red in a bag-in-box offering that over delivers.
With a jump on this month’s World Malbec Day, stock up on Norton 2010 Malbec Barrel Select and pour its smoky tobacco and cassis with a thick wedge of BBQ beef. For a few bucks more, I recommend grabbing the Trapiche 2012 Pure Malbec – a chance to taste what pure Malbec is like, unharnessed and unsuppressed by oak.
Of course, there are more colours in the rainbow than malbec blue. A quick hop over the Andes lands you in Aconcagua Valley, and as you continue towards the coast you’ll come across this vibrant, spring fresh Errazuriz Don Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, tropical-fruit ready to meet your fruit chutneys or white fish.
WineAlign in BC
In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report and include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.