20 under $20 for October 2016
Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team
Ah yes, the end of the month is upon us. The first snowfall and cooler temps. It’s all part of our wonderful four season climate. Embrace it! So in honour of the slow change to winter, our four critics have chosen their favourite five wines under $20 that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here’s the October version of the 20 under $20.
Up here in the Laurentians, it has been snowing off and on for the last three days. But despite this harbinger of winter, I still have more whites than reds, albeit whites that have some extra torque and which can handle some richer recipes.
Starting with a wine that can double as an aperitif and as an accompaniment to finger foods like cheese and spiced shrimp, is the Argentinian pinot gris Piedra Negra from Francois Lurton. It splits the balance nicely between grigio freshness and gris power and aromatics. On a similar theme, the 2015 Roditis from Domain Tetramythos is an excellent and unique white that hails from Greece. It shows good fruit and a welcomed bitterness on the finish that drives you back to the glass immediately after every sip.
If you are cooking up a seafood pasta with a cream sauce, that’s the recipe that popped into my brain as I took my first sip of Arboleda’s 2015 chardonnay. Grown in Chile’s cooler Aconcagua region it has great minerality and texture. It can also work as an aperitif but try the pasta idea.
For your red wine needs, I have two that really impressed me. From the Cote du Bourg in Bordeaux, the Clos des Moiselles is a merlot and cab blend that also has a bit of malbec, adding another dimension of earthy complexity. I love reds with a savoury twist, and my second suggestion also shows a certain meatiness. The 2014 Côtes du Roussillon, cuvée tradition from Ferrer-Ribiere is exactly what I expect from this southern French region, with its ripe fruit, earthy complexity and easy to handle tannin.
To start with, I’m taking you to Spain with three wines made by ex-pat Quebecois Nathalie Bonhomme who has, for a long time now, called Spain her home. I particularly liked her El Petit Bonhomme Rueda 2015, made with the local grape, verdejo. It shows both herbal and floral notes with a refreshing and biting acidity. I had the same reaction to her El Bonhomme Valencia Blanco 2015 which is made with malvasia. It’s a white with some good power that reminded me of some white Bordeaux. Finally, her El Bonhomme Valencia rouge 2015 is a blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon with monastrell. No vegetal (green pepper) note in this concentrated red that shows grippy tannin, yet doesn’t go overboard and remains fresh.
Another good value purchase is the Languedoc red Jean-Claude Mas Les Faïsses 2015 that combines the joyful enthusiasm of 60% grenache with the balance going to syrah. Again, great fruit and freshness.
And not to forget you white wine folks, the Carmen Premier Chardonnay 2015 is a good New World chardonnay that shows a generous texture without any residual sugar. At under $13, it’s a great value.
Let us begin with a seasonal selection. October marks the beginning of oyster season, even if you can find them year-round. Muscadet is a great, affordable pairing for your bivalves. There are many available for under $20, and most deliver what is needed for the price. Case in point, the 2014 Chéreau-Carré, is tasty and simple, and from a solid vintage.
If you need to save on wine to buy more oysters, then here are two satisfying reds under $15. One is very classic and easy-drinking: the 2014 Passeport Côtes-du-Rhône from négociant Barton & Guestier really does the trick for me. More distinctive and original is the Pathos Agiorgitiko from Tstantali. At just over $11, you’re getting a wine that has a certain amount of complexity. Difficult to beat!
The turn of November is also high season for producer visits in our neck of the woods, as there will be a whole bunch congregating in Montreal for La Grande Dégustation November 3-5. I really liked tasting with Rodolfo (Opi) Sadler from the Argentinian estate Mascota. He’s a guy who doesn’t like over-oaking (he ages the majority of the wine in big foudres instead of small barriques) and keeps his wines reasonably fresh. Both the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2014 Malbec are aligned with a welcome trend in Argentina, freshness rather than over-oaked and jammy wines. I’ll raise a glass to that.
Freshly arrived on the shelves at your local SAQ, the Altos las Hormigas, Bonarda 2014, Colonia Las Liebres offers up an original interpretation of the bonarda grape. It’s a true thirst-quenching wine, Argentine-styled. Serve this fresh, around 15C, with a pasta and tomato sauce with fresh basil.
In a similar vein, the cuvée Casamatta 2014 from Bibi Graetz relies on the fruit and refreshing components of sangiovese, merlot and syrah. Vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks and light in alcohol at 12.5%, this is wonderfully supple and easy drinking.
Another Autumn jewel is the Saint-Chinian 2013, La Granges des Combes from the Languedoc co-op Cave de Roquebrun. It’s a solid red, loaded with sunshine. No perceptible oak, but with aromas of sun-dried tomatoes, black olive and a rich and compact texture, leaving little doubt to its origins.
La cave de Roquebrun also makes the excellent La Grange des Combes blanc, a blend of grenache blanc and roussanne, grown on schist-laden hillsides, and aged in stainless steel to preserve its freshness. Lots of character for the price. Serve it cool but not cold, between 10-12°C.
Finally, for those of you with a taste for oysters, after all it is the season, is the cuvée Atlantis 2015 from the Santorini winery, Argyros. It is now available year round in most SAQ outlets. This blend of 88% assyrtiko with athiri and aidani is very dry, refreshing, and year in year out, consistently a great value.
The complete list: 20 under $20
Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!