20 under $20 for March 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 “It’s almost Spring” version of the 20 under $20.
Bill Zacharkiw’s picks
What do I look for in an inexpensive wine? Humility. I am not one for make-up and with all the tricks and additives that winemakers have at their disposal, I often find this category is where one finds the most “tricked up” wines: whether it be wood chips, sugar or even worse.
So here are five wines that despite their inexpensive price tag, show honesty, humility and of course, deliciousness. For white wines, few places match Greece with respect to value and uniqueness. One of my favourites year in/year out is the Savatiano from Papagiannakos. The 2015 is up to its normal high standards offering nuanced fruit and a gorgeous mouthfeel.
On a slightly more powerful note, the 2014 Roditis from Tertramythos offers up a decidedly mineral wine that shows both freshness and enough texture to handle richer foods.
For you lovers of red, start with the delicious 2014 Cetamura Chianti from Coltibuono. Made with the entire spectrum of indigenous Tuscan grapes, the result is a fruity, dry wine with great acidity to pair perfectly with any tomato sauce.
A touch more powerful and coming in just under the $20 bar is the 2014 Benuara from Cusumano. A blend of nero d’avola and syrah works very well, highlighting the tannin and black pepper notes of the nero with the florals and fruit of the syrah.
And finally, for those of you looking for something different, the Moscato d’Asti from Castello del Poggio offers up a slightly sweet and deliciously aromatic sparkler that will work well as an aperitif in the sunshine, with spicy canapes, or to accompany a fruit-based dessert like sorbet.
Marc Chapleau’s picks
Once may not make it a habit, but I do have a Quebec-made wine as part of my best buys under $20. The Coteau Rougemont 2013 Versant Blanc is both aromatic and twitchy, with a solid acidic backbone. Dry, and not at all rustic, for the just over $15 price tag, it’s well worth trying.
Another aromatic white, this time from southern France, the Canon du Maréchal 2015 Blanc, shows more power than the Coteau Rougemont. But the two share a similar affinity at the dinner table, for sweet and sour, Asian inspired dishes.
On the red wine side of the spectrum, the Chilean Cono Sur 2015 Organico Pinot Noir has a striking amount of body without losing freshness or varietal typicity. Another great buy is the Morgon 2011 Côte du Py Duboeuf, both powerful and mouthfilling. Finally, even more generous but with surprisingly less structure than the Morgon, the Paul Jaboulet 2014 Les Traverses Ventoux is a delicious blend of 80% grenache with syrah.
Rémy Charest says “keep your eyes peeled”
Usually this column is more about wines that are available in the stores rather than wines about to hit the stores. However, when I tasted Nicolas Gros Bois’ Chinon, La Cuisine de ma Mère (delicious and fresh, with 11.5% alc.) at a wine event in mid-March, I told myself I absolutely needed to give everyone a heads up about its upcoming release on April 7. So there you go. Go get’em.
Meanwhile, freshness is also the theme of the Prince Philippe Bourgogne Aligoté, a pleasant surprise for me with its ripe, round presence, but still the zippiness you expect from that grape variety. For an even richer white, but just enough crispness and lots of aromatics, try the Malvasia Bianco from cool California producers Birichino. It hits the 20$ limit but with the current exchange rate woes, many wines that were just under will climb just above – especially American wines.
My two reds are more full-bodied. First, the Chianti Classico from San Felice. While it shows a fair bit of ripeness the structure is classic while having enough stuffing for a piece of grilled lamb, but still nimble enough for dry sausage and some olives. From Spain, Parès Balta’s Mas Elena is a Bordeaux blend with broad shoulders and as much big tannin as big fruit. Ideal for the first BBQ on the terrace – which hopefully isn’t too far away.
Nadia Fournier’s selections
A taste of the exotic to celebrate the return of warmer weather.
While it may be known as a vacation spot for retirees, Madeira island, situated around 600km off the African coast at a latitude similar to Casablanca, has become a paradise for kite surfing. I would think that these new vacationers might also have adopted a taste for the local fortified wine, unique in its production as it is heated to 50C for 3 months before being fortified which gives it its distinctive notes of caramel and dried fruits.
The Boal from Barbeito is rich, textured and with great length. Taste for yourself the notes of dried fruits and roasted nuts. While not overly complex, the long airy finish with its smokey notes has a definite charm.
A touch more versatile, the Chardonnay 2015 from Campagnola is an ideal accompaniment for snow crab season which is right around the corner. Once again, it’s hard to find a better value white wine at the SAQ. With a similar richness but a touch more aromatics, the Pino & Toi 2014 from Maculan is a another good value wine made with friulano, pinot blanc and pinot gris.
Further to the south in Tuscany, on the hillsides bordering Sienna, winemaking consultant Gioia Cresti and his son Filippo are responsible for the excellent Carpineta Fontalpino. Their Chianti 2014 is impeccable as always.
Finally, to inaugurate the barbecue season, an excellent red wine from Philippe Teulier, a major player in the appellation of Marcillac who owns almost 200 hecatares in the mountains of Aveyron. With its aromas of pepper and its angular tannins, his cuvee Lo Sang del Païs 2014 is reminiscent of a Chinon and a real bargain for those of you who love red wines with character.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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