20 under $20 for February 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’s the Spring break version of the 20 under $20.
Bill Zacharkiw’s picks
Red before white? I know many refuse to drink a red before a white, but let’s throw caution to the wind and start this month’s selections with a few red wines. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter if you drink a red before a white – I do it all the time.
Starting in the Roussillon, the beautifully done Côtes du Roussillon, cuvee Marie-Gabrielle from Domaine Cazes is always good and the 2011 is up to its reputation. Biodynamically grown, this shows both the sun-baked fruit of the south but with bright acids and good tannin. If you want power, then try the Glenelly Glass Collection 2011 Syrah. From South Africa, this brought images of southern Rhone as I packed back the bottle with a steak.
If you want a red the cuts right down the middle between the elegance of the Cazes with the torque of the Glenelly, then try the 2014 Terres de Méditerranée from Dupéré Barrera. It’s a unique blend of grenache, syrah, cabernet and carignan that offers up a whole palate of fruit, olive and meaty notes.
I never forget my white wine lovers and I’ll finish with two options. For you sauvignon blanc fans, try the 2015 from Santa Rita. It’s hard to find a good, varietally correct and dry sauvignon blanc under $20, and this one does the job for under $16.
For something completely different, and I am bending the rules here, but also from Cazes, you can get a half bottle of their Muscat de Rivesaltes for $15. One of my favourite fortified wines, it works well as an aperitif, with stronger cheeses and with dessert. Try it with a baklava. One glass is perfect and it will last for months open in your fridge.
Marc Chapleau’s picks
My first choice surprised even me. I am normally not inclined towards red wines with residual sugar, except the Pasqua Rosso Veneto 2014 is not lacking any freshness. For just over $11, it accompanies to perfection a piece of parmigiano reggiano at the end of a meal.
Onwards to Portugal with the Duque de Viseu Daõ 2013. At under $15, I would give it a value rating of 4 stars. Moving a little north to the Douro, the Van Zellers 2013 is a touch more expensive but the wine shows great elegance for a wine from this renowned region.
From South Africa, the Wolftrap 2014 is a blend of syrah-mourvèdre-viognier and offers great generosity and spice. At under 17 $, it’s an excellent choice for both grilled and braised meats.
And finally, in this all red version of my 20 under $20, from the Côtes-du-Rhône, the Héritage Ogier 2014 does not miss the mark neither in terms of volume or freshness, as well as some delicious fruit.
Rémy Charest’s and his wines for taking a break
Next week is “reading week” in most Québec schools, which means that many parents will be slowing down a bit with the kids. It’s a great time for a few simple, easy-going wines that you’ll be drinking with your feet up – and that works whether it’s spring break for your kids or if you’re just giving yourself a break.
Bubbles, for starters? I’m certainly not the first among CSV’s group of writers to say so, but Antech’s Cuvée Expression is a terrific Crémant de Limoux, whether you care about the 20$ price point or not. It’s fresh, with fine effervescence and great length, and will do great for cocktail hour or with a meal of fish and/or seafood.
Otherwise, February has essentially led me to red wines, in the under-20$ category, starting with the very pleasant Château Eugénie, a highly accessible Cahors, thanks to a dose of merlot that rounds out its angles nicely. Good with a substantial meal, but easy enough to be enjoyed on its own.
Easy-drinking should in no way mean lacking in personality. There’s nothing cookie-cutter, for instance, about the Duque de Viseu, a well-made red from southern Portugal, with lovely notes of tobacco and spice, that you can get for under 15$. Add 5 cents to that 15$ mark, and you’ll get yourself a bottle of Naoussa, from Boutari, a fresh and peppery xinomavro from Northern Greece. And for a couple of dollars more, you’ll get a bottle of Ilico from the Illuminati family, Montepulciano with energetic tannins and a light touch of really pleasant bitterness that is typical of that variety and makes it truly food friendly. With all of these, you can relax AND have fun.
Nadia Fournier’s selections
As a little gift from heaven, at least in terms of putting together this newsletter, the Association Québécoises des Agences en Vins, Bières et Spiritueux organized a tasting with numerous wines under $20. Here are the ones that caught my attention.
Under the name La Vida al Camp the Catalan family Raventos (Raventos i Blanc) commercializes a negociant wine which is organically grown. The Cava Brut is a blend of indigenous grapes macabeo, xarel•lo et parellada, and aged 15 months on their lees. It’s one of the better Cavas available for under $20.
At Clos de la Briderie, organic viticulture is also behind both their very good red and white wines. Primarily made with chenin blanc, the Touraine Mesland 2014 benefits from a small percentage of chardonnay that brings extra texture and richness, acting as a counterpoint to the vivacity of the chenin, making the wine even more accessible.
Once again living up to expectations, La Segreta Blanc 2014 from Planeta is the fruit of a blend of grecanico, chardonnay, viognier and fiano. It’s a winning blend the shows a certain charm, as much for its rich texture as its generosity in terms of flavour.
In the 1980’s, the Château Sainte-Eulalie was one of the first wineries in the Minervois to push quality over quantity. While the domain has changed ownership since, quality is still the focal point as can be seen by the Plaisir d’Eulalie 2014 which as its name suggests, is all about pleasure.
Also with a Mediterranean disposition, the Clos St-Thomas, which is situated in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Les Émirs 2010 is a great example of a good wine at a very fair price, and made with drinking in mind. Already aged and ready to drink, this is a real bargain for $18.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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