20 Under $20 in BC : November 2016
Worthy wines under $20
Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the Christmas promotions launching November 1. Maybe it’s the lull of full on fall before the sparkling lights and festivities of December. Whatever the reason, both Anthony and Rhys had to search hard to find worthy wines under $20 this month. I revisited some tried and true wines, and regions this month, with picks both warming (yes, the rains have come), and budget-friendly (yes, the holidays are coming).
You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below
A month of rain spells cocooning here on the west coast. With fireplaces working overtime and comfort foods on the menu, I looked for some soothing reds under $20. Not to beat a dead horse, but finding under-$20 reds that are mostly sugar-free and drinkable is one tough job.
I kick off with three malbecs from Argentina, and one from France. The Cuma Organic Biologique Malbec 2015 provides a window into the red fruit and minerals that dominate Cafayate malbec, and with zero disease pressure in the region, it’s organic too. A super value.
Similarly, the TintoNegro Malbec 2014 fruit comes off sites in Mendoza’s Primera Zona of Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo, at some 3,000 feet elevation. A great example of less-is-more, and good value.
The Kaiken Reserva Especial Malbec 2014 from the Agrelo District in Luján de Cuyo is suede smooth, and as it lies just north of the Uco Valley, it is a touch fatter yet with spicy, floral aromas. Very tasty. All three malbec work well with fall mushroom dishes.
Over in France, Paul Mas Estate Single Vineyard Collection Malbec Gardemiel Vineyard 2015 reminds me a little bit of the best new style malbec coming out of Argentina, with its savoury, licorice undercurrents and softly textured finish.
Further north, travel to the Loire Valley where the Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Rouge 2015 gives us all a reason to cheer. If you like Loire cabernet franc with a touch of California, back up the truck.
Like cabernet franc, carmenère can be a bit leafy and herbaceous. That’s certainly not the case when Marcelo Papa is making it. Papa has a special touch with Carmenère, as seen in the Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2014. The savoury dried herb notes and the dense fruit comes off younger vines of the famed Peumo Vineyard; quality by association.
Rhys Pender MW
Some months it is really tough to come up with new wines that I want to recommend under the $20 mark. This was one of those months where I struggled to get excited. I did, however, find some pretty well priced wines that because of their bargain price we can forgive them a few small deficiencies.
The first value wine is the Lindeman’s 2015 Bin 95 Sauvignon Blanc, South Eastern Australia. This is under $10 before taxes and will give many wines twice its price a run for their money. A good one for big crowds and holiday entertaining.
Chardonnay, we know, can range from the acceptable to the sublime and everything in between. Sometimes though you just crave that extra bit of weight, fruit and a hit of oak that an old school Chardonnay can deliver. Especially with a bag of popcorn on the couch in your track pants. Both the See Ya Later Ranch 2015 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada and the Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva 2015 do the job nicely for under $15.
To find decent BC red wines under $20 is always a challenge but they do exist. Two wines that offer very decent value for money and that will not disappoint are the Scorched Earth Winery 2013 PASK the Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, BC and the Wild Goose 2013 Merlot. Both are true to varietal, well made and totally drinkable.
I’m starting off with a couple of local and familiar go-to’s this month. Gray Monk 2015 Gewurztraminer is ripe and round, with a generous squeeze of grapefruit acidity to keep this off-dry gew quite fresh. A cool ferment in stainless steel and attention to picking has held gew’s exuberant alcohol to a very pleasant 13.5 percent. A charmer this vintage.
Quails’ Gate is one of the few BC wineries to make Chenin Blanc, a grape I’d love to see more of here. Their 2015 vintage is crisp, tight and bright, a lean and narrow white reflecting more than the 10 percent of sauvignon blanc that is tilted into the blend. Whole bunch press before heading to 85/15 stainless and a mix of French oak barrel and larger puncheons, this is bright lemon, grass, greengage, tangerine, melon and a very fine layer of creamy lees along the bottom.
You can feel the heat of the Southern Okanagan in Tinhorn Creek 2014 Cabernet Franc. Dark chocolate cocoa, mocha and menthol colour this potent, lush red, based on kirsch and sourced from 18 year old vines in Diamondback Vineyard on Black Sage Bench. Well suited to your rib dinner.
Fringe winemaking is a risk, but the benefits are worth it, especially with a wine like Cowichan Valley’s Averill Creek 2014 Pinot Gris. Singing of cool climate, this carries a zing of bright citrus interwoven with savoury and salty notes of white pepper, meadow flower honey, apricot kernel and Asian pear on a bed of creamy lees.
Another impressive coastal influenced white comes from another ocean and another continent. Quinta da Murta 2013 Bucelas is suited to the region’s limestone and marl soils, conveying arinto’s citrus and herbal driven nature clearly. Quinta da Murta’s biodynamic vineyards are located around 250m in the chalky hills. After a spell of skin contact and gentle pressing, this light bodied white was tank fermented on full lees for up to six months, resulting in crisp, saline-brisk lemon, pine nuts and hay woven amidst finely creamy lees.
Remaining in Portugal, Oscar’s Douro Red 2014 highlights the terrific value of Douro table wines. Here touriga nacional and tinta roriz, show soft, thorny black fruit, finely savoury, and hued with anise. Tannins are chocolaty and fine, and a light medicinal black cherry lingers on the finish. Impressive red – authentic, dry and true to place – for this price.
Popping across to Italy, and another local charmer in the Masi 2014 Frescaripa Bardolino Classico. From hillside vineyards surrounding Veneto’s Bardolino Classico zone, corvina, rondinella and molinara lead this lighter bodied red with brisk cherry and leather, and back it up with blackcurrant, thorny roses and firm, but fine tannins. Easy, bright, charming red, ideal for spaghetti with fresh tomatoes.
Also from the hills of Veneto, in this case, Soave’s Classico zone, Montresor 2015 Soave Classico Castel di Soave is a lean and streamline garganega, with herbal pear, crab apple and a light lick of almond. This dry, medium bodied white will suit your citrus-grilled prawns or langoustines.
Start off or cap off your Italian feasting with Ca’ Montebello Sangue Di Giuda, a dolce frizzante, gently sweet bonarda, with a splash of ‘rare grapes’ and even gentler spritz. With dark raspberry and plum gummies, this juicy wine finishes quick and snappy, suitable for high tea (crumpets and jam) or strawberry tarts.
WineAlign in BC
In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.
Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!