20 under $20 for July 2016
Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team
Ah yes, the end of the month is upon us. 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 “dog days of summer” version of the 20 under $20.
It’s hot, it’s beautiful outside, it’s time to bask in the sun. To add to the joy factor this month, I have found five wines that offer great value.
For a white, the L’Arpent des Vaudons 2014 Touraine is very “delicately sauvignon,” with its characteristic aroma of boxwood. But mostly, it shows a wonderful texture ( 3.6 g of residual sugar) riding on top of a refreshing acidity and mineral note. Buy this one quickly as there aren’t too many left.
Like lighter reds? The Louis Latour 2013 Bourgogne Gamay, which contains 15% pinot noir, is bright, fruity and ultimately refreshing. A touch more powerful in both fruit and tannin, the Monasterio de las Vinas 2010 is yet another great Spanish value. Moving to the Languedoc, and under $14, the Minervois Château de Gourgazaud 2014 is both concentrated and spicy. Nothing complicated here, but very “homey” and easy to drink.
Finally, one of the better buys I have found recently is the Côtes-du-Rhône Parallèle 45 Jaboulet 2014. At under $17 regularly, and currently on promotion for $2 less, it will easily seduce red wine fans who like their wines supple but still well structured. No oak and with lots of fruits, for those of you looking to quaff back a bottle of great red, this is it. Congrats to the Frey family for making this.
For this month I am going all white. Whether you need a cooling aperitif on a hot afternoon, eating a fresh salad for lunch, a ceviche for an entree, or have some seafood on the grill, I have chosen a white for every occasion.
So let’s start with that aperitif. I look for fresh, easy, simple, but that doesn’t equate to boring. The Chateau Ksara 2014 Blanc de Blancs is a unique blend from Lebanon that combines the richness of chardonnay, the aromatics of semillon with the crispy freshness of sauvignon blanc.
Garden fresh salad or ceviche for lunch? How about a white Bordeaux? The region may be best known for their reds but white Bordeaux is one of the world’s great bargains where sauvignon blanc and semillon blend in perfect harmony. The Jacques Perromat 2014 Chevalier D’Armajan hits all the right notes.
How about avocado and shrimp, or a richer white fish? The Domaine de la Charmoise 2015 Sauvignon Blanc will do the trick. A pure fruit driven sauvignon blanc that shows a richer texture than you might expect. Squeeze a little lemon on your meal to draw the same out of your wine.
If you need an even richer white, I have you covered. These two wines will do well with white meats, or even better, lobster or scallops. From Hungary, Chateau Pajzos 2015 Furmint is a true bargain and one that reminds me of a viognier in many respects. In a similar vein, an SAQ classic is the La Vieille Ferme White, which is a blend of southern Rhone grapes grenache blanc, roussane and ugni blanc. Serve it cooler for an aperitif, or let it warm up to 10C to bring out the richness and texture.
While my friend and colleague Bill is doing an all-white set of recommendations, I’m going all red with a focus on freshness. And yes, freshness is not only the domaine of white wines.
Can you find it in cabernet sauvignon, for instance? It sure seems so when you taste the Bonny Doon 2013 A Proper Claret. It’s light years away from so many cloying, sweet reds. Same with Chateau Saint-Jean-de-la-Gineste 2013 Carte Blanche, an easy-drinking and expressive wine from the Languedoc.
It might feel less surprising to find freshness in Piemonte, where grapes like barbera and nebbiolo show natural acidities that bring brightness and vivacity to the wines. The Beni di Batasiol0 2014 Langhe Rosso – which includes a good dose of dolcetto – shows those qualities well.
Many winemakers in Chile are also exploring fresher styles, with varieties like país – a traditional grape that shows bright and friendly fruit. Try Clos des Fous 2014 Pour Ma Gueule and you’ll see how delicious that is.
Final stop on this tour of freshness in red wine : Austria. My last pick is so good that I cheated on the price limit to include it in this month’s offerings. Pittnauer 2014 Zweigelt Heideboden shows such lovely peppery notes, with crunchy fruit and great energy. It will make any summer evening enjoyable, whatever the weather.
Summer is the time to play, except when you are working as I am these days. But when your work consists of tasting a bunch of wines with the goal of finding good value bottles from all over the world, one can approach it with a certain brio. So here are the fruits of my recent labour, all from the southern hemisphere.
I’m not a fanatic for sauvignon blanc. While I appreciate a good Sancerre, when the wine gets “overly sauvignon,” I tend to like it a lot less. When I find a good one, I do love it. And once again, I cannot come up with enough superlatives for Caliterra Tributo, from Chile’s Leyda Valley. Dry, and with a character that belies its under $17 price tag.
A touch richer than the majority of Australian rieslings, the d’Arenberg The Dry Dam is made with grapes sourced from McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills. Light in alcohol and off-dry with 19 g/l of residual sugar, the wine shows great balance, fruit and length. A great value at under $19.
I’ll finish with a trio of wines from South Africa.
De Morgenzon 2015 DMZ Chenin Blanc is marked by a saline note that one rarely finds in a wine at this price. While it is not quite as exuberant as many wines from the New World, it will please any fan of white wines which show purity and minerality. An excellent buy.
Made in a riper style, with a joyful fruitiness that makes you feel like you are biting into a ripe pear, the Secateurs 2015 Chenin Blanc still drinks with great finesse. It shows two admirable summer qualities – freshness and deliciousness – just try to stop re-filling your glass.
My most recent memories of the Wolftrap White (a blend of viognier, chenin blanc and grenache blanc) were of it being quite perfumed. The 2014, however, is juicy, richly textured with delicious notes of peaches and flowers. Dry, and not overly done in the least, with a touch of carbon dioxide left in the wine to add extra freshness. At its price, you can buy this with your eyes closed.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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