20 under $20 for January 2016
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 first version of the 20 under $20 for 2016.
Bill Zacharkiw’s picks
If there ever was a need for some inexpensive wine choices it’s when that December’s credit card statement comes in. For this installment, I’m taking you around the wine world. Starting in France’s Loire Valley, the S de Sablette 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent white wine for under $12. Textbook in terms of varietal correctness and unlike many inexpensive sauvignons, nicely dry.
Another great Loire Valley grape is chenin blanc. Few places in the world outside of the Anjou region do it justice, however, South Africa is arguably its second home. Try Ken Forester’s 2015 Petit Chenin which shows the crispier side of the grape, while still showing a certain aromatic depth and complexity.
Moving to red wine and Chile, I was really impressed with 2014 Antu from Montgras. A blend of cabernet sauvignon and carmenere that shows ripeness, yet great restraint. For those of you who just want to sip a red by the fire, or pair with a piece of salmon, try the Laurent Martray 2014 Vieilles Vignes Brouilloy. Fruit, texture and impeccable drinkability.
My bargain of the month goes to the José Maria da Fonseca JMF. A blend of Castelao and arragonez, for under $10, it delivers great fruit without any pretense.
Marc Chapleau’s picks
Hmm, it was a little more difficult than usual to find new, good under $20 wines to recommend this month. Due to the festive season and holidays, I haven’t had the opportunity to taste many new arrivals. So just to show that I wasn’t limited to drinking only expensive bottles, I did manage to find five wines that are highly recommendable.
Louis Roche 2014 Bourgogne Aligoté : A very good aligoté that shows both that twitchy acidity and good concentration, with a slight smokey note on the finish. Light in alcohol at only 12% and nicely dry with a mere 2 g/l of residual sugar. After the holidays, both of these qualities are welcome.
Newen 2015 Malbec Reservado : An Argentinian red that is rich and mouth coating. The oak notes are there as well, as is a good acidity which helps keep the wine from getting heavy. A wine by Bodegas Del Fin del Mundo which has the celebrated Michel Rolland as its winemaker-consultant.
Castillo de Almansa 2009 : A very good Spanish red wine from the Castilla la Mancha. Powerful and generous, and marked by a solid fruitiness. The wine has spent some time in oak barrels, that’s for certain, but there are no overly obvious vanilla notes or other overly oak induced markings. Just great freshness and a certain elegance.
Blason de Bourgogne 2014 Chardonnay Mâcon-Villages : At under $17, this is a white Burgundy that is highly recommendable. It shows what makes Burgundy so good – the richness of the chardonnay grape while maintaining a balanced acidity.
Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava : One of the better Spanish sparkling wines on the market. Flavourful, and spicy, with a balanced acidity.
Rémy Charest’s Starting the year on the right foot
After the year-end holidays, which are very much the high season for wine sales, our attention to wine tends to slow down. But there are some excellent wines that just hit the shelves, including some interesting under $20 values. Fuenteseca is a great example – a really pretty little blend of macabeo and sauvignon blanc from the lesser-known Spanish region of Utiel-Requena. Fresh, fun, and under 13$. A nice combo.
On the red side of things, the 2012 Quinta das Maias hit the stores just before Christmas. It’s a really good winter red, with the energy and balance that’s so enjoyable from Portuguese wines. Lots of grip and freshness.
Domaine La Montagnette isn’t exactly new but it sells out quickly. The recent release of the 2014 means there is still a fair bit to be found all over Québec. For me, it’s one of the most satisfying under-20$ reds at the SAQ, in any category. I’m get thirsty just thinking about it.
That being said, it can also be worth taking another look at well-established producers. Case in point, the 2014 Ventoux Les Traverses, from veteran Rhône producer Jaboulet. A very nice QPR, just like the Parallèle 45, from the same house, which recently has been stellar in my opinion.
Finally, if you’re looking for a well-made cabernet, ripe but without cartoonish oak flavours or excessive residual sugar, South Africa is a good place to look, as exemplified by the Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon from Nederburg. Cabernet can be fun, too.
Nadia Fournier’s selections
The beginning of the year brings cold weather and a lack of sunshine. To warm up your taste buds at least, choose a wine from the coast of Portugal. Sure, it’s winter there as well, but the Lavradores de Feitoria 2013 Douro will make you forget about it. Under 13% alcohol, but with a lot of volume for a wine under $15.
Québécois André Tremblay is behind another selection from the Douro, Barco Negro 2013. A touch more expensive and dense than the Lavradores, but the 2013 is as satisfying as previous vintages with its intense aromas of dark fruit and spice. It’s a great bottle.
In a similar style of sun-filled and full bodied wine, the Domaine Ferrer Ribière 2012 Tradition well exemplifies what’s great about Roussillon’s wine. It’s difficult to resist the finish that is both vibrant and generous, with notes of dried herbs that permeate the air of the region.
If you love the suppleness of pinot noir from the new world, then you’ll love the Max Reserva 2014 Pinot Noir from Errazuriz. The 2014 is particularly accomplished, possibly because all the grapes now come from new vineyards on the slopes of the Aconcagua Valley.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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