20 under $20 for May
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 May version of the 20 under $20.
Bill Zacharkiw’s picks
May for me is a very busy time of the year. As I have close to an acre of vegetable garden, it’s a month where I get my hands dirty, preparing my soil, seeding and planting this summer’s crop. My garden has never seen a pesticide, herbicide or synthetic fertilizer. For 15 years, I have been organic, and while it presents its challenges, I would never even consider not growing things in the most natural way possible.
So I know what organic growing is all about. So for this months’ 20 under $20, my 5 wines are not only fantastic wines, but also are made with organically grown grapes.
What’s gardening without drinking rosé? I have two fantastic options for you. From the Languedoc, Le Pive Gris has become one of my “go to” pinks. I love its delicate fruit and spicy finish. Equally finessed, but more floral and juicy, is the Coteaux Varois en Provence from Château La Lieue. For the price, it’s unbeatable.
If you would prefer a white, then look no further than the 2014 Touraine Mesland from Clos de la Briderie. While it’s an unorthodox blend of chenin blanc and chardonnay, it’s a remarkably versatile white that works as an aperitif and with pretty well any seafood you can cook up.
For the reds, especially if you are having salmon, try the Cono Sur 2014 Organic Pinot Noir. Juicy red fruit with a vibrant acidity. Keep it around 16C and pack it back. And finally, one of the more surprising wines I have tasted recently, the Château L’Escart 2012 Bordeaux Supérieur surprised, no, shocked me with its ripeness, while at the same time maintaining the finesse that one expects from Bordeaux.
Marc Chapleau’s picks
Considering the price of manual labour, making wine in Chile is less expensive than producing it in Europe. And it’s nice that this reality is reflected in the bottle price, and doubly interesting when the quality is there as well. No better example than the Trio Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Concha y Toro, which is an excellent sauvignon blanc, refreshing, dry (2,8 g) and varietally correct.
Now onto Sicily and turning to a producer of excellent wines that manages, in a warm climate, to produce a white wine which is at once refreshing and generous in texture. Full marks for the Donnafugata Anthilia Bianco 2014.
Greece is in many ways the new kid on the block. But in reality, it really isn’t as the country has been producing wine for centuries. But qualitatively, over the last years, there has been a marked increase. One sip of the Argyros Atlantis 2014, with its florals and fruits, should be enough to convince you of what the “New Greece” has to offer.
Also from Greece, the Thymiopoulos Naoussa Jeunes Vignes 2013, is made with the local red grape, xynomavro. A subtle touch of carbon dioxide gives it extra freshness and harkens notions of drinking certain Beaujolais.
Finally, from Portugal, the Coroa d’Ouro Red 2009, which is made with a blend of local indigenous grapes, is exceptionally floral with candied fruit notes. Like its twin white wine, this is a very honest wine that comes in at a great price and is a perfect match for a summery mixed grill.
Nadia Fournier’s selections
In case you missed my article last week, here are five good reasons to drink Greek wine: 1- Assyrtiko, 2- Malagoousia, 3- Savatiano, 4- Agiorgitiko, and 5- Xinomavro!
The indigenous grape of the island of Santorini is characterized by its cutting acidity and mineral structure. Blended with a small proportion of athiri, which is also an indigenous grape of the island, the Sigalas 2013 Assyrtiko Athiri is a great example of the quality of the wines made with assyrtiko and will work wonders with crab meat due to its delicate salinity.
Assyrtiko is being used more and more with other grapes, like malagousia. This historic Greek variety is being brought back to life by many winemakers, including Evangelos Gerovassiliou, who each year produces Domaine Gerovassiliou Epanomi, a white blend which is wonderfully aromatic with just enough structure to be able to age gracefully.
Papagiannakos is an important producer from the region of Attica that always produces an excellent wine from the savatiano grape, a variety which is most often associated with banal and thin whites which are used to produce retsina. The Papagiannakos 2014 Savatiano is distinguished by its citrus fruit alongside subtle notes of celery and fennel.
In the northeastern part of the Péloponnèse, agiorgitiko – also known as St. George – produces red wines that are supple, fruity and easy drinking. The 2013 Agiorgitiko Achaia from Domaine Tetramythos reminds me of certain Beaujolais.
Known for being the main grape of Macedonia in the north of Greece, the xinomavro grape can sometimes produce wines which are quite austere in their youth, but age with beauty and grace. The Boutari Naoussa 2012 is a great example of this in its relative youth with discreet fruit and aged character. At this price, it’s hard to say no.
Remy Charest’s selections
This month’s selection of easy-drinking wine has your cash flow at heart as four of the five wines are not only under 20$, but actually under 15$, with the other sitting nicely at 16$. All very drinkable stuff.
For instance, the 2013 Vila Regia, from the Douro, the least expensive of the bunch at $10.55, is something I’d pour a second glass of without hesitation. Not that it’s complex or deep, but it has a fairly clear expression of what Portugal is about, without all the heavy make-up you’ll find on so many SAQ (or dépanneur) wines at that price.
Another pleasant surprise for me, this month, was the Grande Réserve des Challières 2013 Ventoux, a nice Rhône red whose name pointed to a much higher price than the actual $12.95. It’s definitely worth the money.
A touch higher up, price-wise, is the Chatons du Cèdre, a supple, pleasant – and unoaked! – wine from Cahors. The malbec is blended with a splash of merlot, and shows how the wines from that region in Southern France can have finesse, not just brawn.
On the white side, viura is responsible for some of my very favorite wines in the world – the white Riojas from Lopez de Heredia. In the hands of Ijalba, another solid Rioja producer, it produces an elegant and well-defined wine that you should try with some gently-grilled skewered shrimp. Hard to beat, under 15$.
Finally, I had a chance to taste a whole range of wines from storied Sicilian producer Tasca d’Almerita the other day, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I liked the whole range, starting with the Regaleali Bianco, an expressive blend of local grape varieties that shows elegance and freshness. At $16.10, it’s still a great deal.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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