20 under $20 for September 2016
Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team
Ah yes, the end of the month is upon us. It’s a beautiful season as the leaves turn and the markets are full of fresh seasonal vegetables, albeit it is getting cooler. 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 September version of the 20 under $20.
Up here in the Laurentians, Autumn is one of my favourite seasons as my vegetable garden starts to slow down, and hunting season begins. So while my food choices move towards squashes and a little more red meat, it’s also the beginning of oyster season. So for my wine choices, I need to run the gamut from mineral and light whites and sparklings, to rich and powerful reds.
Let’s start with the oyster. One region that has been capturing my attention recently is Rueda. Here in Northern Spain, the verdejo grape produces light, mineral wines that offer great value. Try the slightly salty and finessed 2015 Rueda from Bodegas Val de Vid for a great example.
Might as well stay in Spain for this month’s sparkling. While Seguria Vuidas’ basic cava is consistently one of the best value bubbles on the market, their Gran Cuvee Reserva is perhaps an even better value. A touch of chardonnay and pinot noir add a touch more heft but this remains fresh and driving. Bring on the oysters!
For the reds, whether you are eating beef or wild game, there is no lack of choice. Sticking with Spain, try the tobacco and cigar leaf infused Espelt from the appellation of Emporda. Grapes are grenache and carignan. For under $16 it’s great complexity for a small price. If you want classic, then think Bordeaux and the 2012 from Chateau Belle-Garde. It’s 100% merlot and is one of the better under $20 Bordeaux at the SAQ.
Finally, if you are a fan of southern Rhone, then Châteauneuf star Jean Paul Daumen’s 2015 Vin de Pays Principaute d’Orange is a unique blend of cabernet, syrah, grenache and merlot that works wonderfully. Power without excess!
Let’s give some props where they are due and start with one of the least expensive wines of my selections – the Luis Felipe Edwards Shiraz Reserva 2015. A Chilean wine that is bursting with fruit and a subtle herbaceous note on the nose. The flavours follow nicely. Rich and powerful but without sacrificing freshness. Nothing complicated but at this price, you can’t go wrong. A hair more expensive but another great value is the surprising Tunisian red Domaine Phénicia 2012. A blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with aromatics that are starting to show some evolution.
At just over $16, the Cono Sur Pinot Noir Reserva Especial 2015 is a solid varietal pinot from the New World with rhubarb notes, brimming with fruit and nicely dry. If you are looking for more power, the Bordeaux Château Mayne-Guyon 2014 shows the expected rich oak and is well balanced with a subtle mineral finish.
Finally for you white wine lovers, the Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2015 is a rich textured Chilean take on this Rhone grape that shows excellent presence with good depth. There are many pairing options, from a swordfish or tuna steak, to chicken with mango or a shrimp curry.
This year September was a month where we jumped abruptly from summer to fall. So rather than wanting a wine to refresh, now we need a wine to warm you up. My favorite under-20$ wine of the month certainly works in both circumstances, with great freshness, but also a comforting bit of roundness. It’s the Lois Grüner Veltliner from Weingut Loimer, an organic Austrian white that is staring to disappear from the shelves. It’s worth your while running around a bit to get a bottle or two and get ready for Indian summer.
At first sight the Calcari white from Parès Balta has a summery vibrancy and energy. However – as leaving the bottle open for a couple of days proved – it has a lot more substance and roundness that you’d think at first sip. Very nicely done.
On the red side, let’s go big: I picked two wines aligned with cooler temperatures. First, Porcupine Ridge Syrah, from the impressive terroir of Swartland, in South Africa. It’s pretty fresh, but with enough stuffing to go with a fall braised meat. Speaking of stuffing, there is a ton of it in the 2015 Monastrell from Juan Gil, a wine that manages to be fruity, big and oaky while retaining a great level of drinkability. Clearly, mourvèdre (monastrell, in Spanish) finds a very peculiar balance on the sunny slopes of southern Spain.
To finish, how about a little sherry, as we curl up under blankets and start the fireplace? The Fino Papirusa Manzanilla from Lustau will actually remind you of summer with its freshness, but is perfect for autumn meditations, with its saline and hazelnut notes and that unique style. The best of both seasons, in a single glass.
Clos la Coutale, Cahors 2014: This domain, situated in the western part of the appellation, like the Château du Cèdre, produces a Cahors of quality year after year. Both aromatically and on the palate, the 2014 seduces with notes of violets and blueberries. Like always, an excellent purchase at its price point.
Brumont, Alain, Pacherenc Vic-Bilh sec 2011, Jardins de Bouscassé: While most producers in the region count on the gros manseng grape to give their wines that “southwestern feel” in their dry whites, Alain Brumont chooses to show off his petit corbu. Vinous, with superb acidity and great aromatics, at five years of age, this wine offers an exceptional value.
Ormarine, Picpoul De Pinet 2015, Les Pins de Camille: Vintage after vintage, this Picpoul is always a wonderfully cheerful, slightly edgy white with nuanced aromatic notes of tropical fruits. No pretension here, just a great light white which makes a great aperitif.
Dupéré-Barrera, Terres de Méditerranée 2015, Vin de Pays d’Oc: Always near the top of the Vin de pays category at the SAQ, the 2015 vintage from Emmanuelle Dupéré and Laurent Barrera is textured and full of fruit. Hard to beat at this price.
L.A. Cetto, Petite Sirah 2014, Valle de Guadalupe: This domain founded in 1926 by an Italian immigrant is the most important wine producer in Mexico. Always good, their Petite Sirah harkens images of the Languedoc with its slightly jammy fruit and tannic vigour. Great midweek wine that will pair with most meals.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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