20 under $20 for November 2016
Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team
Just another list? While there is no lack of lists out there, few are welcomed with such brio as this one. It is our most sought after list of suggestions, where the four Chacun Son Vin critics each offer up our 5 favourite under $20 wines for you to try. So it’s the end of the month once again, and if you are lacking a little cash and still thirsty, no problem! Here’s the November version of the 20 under $20.
As I’m writing this there is over 20 cm of white stuff on the ground. I’m a fan. Makes me want to spend a little more time inside, mind you, so I end up quite often in the kitchen cooking up some fun. I love cooking, and quite often sip on a wine for extra inspiration. If I’m drinking white with dinner, I’ll often open a red while cooking. And no, for all of you thinking that you can’t drink a white after a red, that is just false. What you need is a fresh and fruity wine that can be served cool, and preferably with no oak. That just screams Beaujolais, so try one of the better ones on the market, the 2015 Domaine de Vissoux. Works great with charcuterie and paté as a bonus.
A good aperitif white has acidity, clean flavours and this is where I don’t mind a touch of sweetness. Few grape varieties play the acid/sugar balance with such dexterity as riesling. From Washington State’s Charles Smith, his King Fu Girl is a wonderful example. As a bonus, it’s on sale for $17.95 instead of its normal $19.65.
For dinner time, here are a few suggestions. I’ve been on a mussels kick these days and while the Douro region might be best known for their red wines, Cabral’s 2015 White Douro is the perfect pairing for a classic Moules Meunieres. Want a red? Here are two that will serve you well with some red meat. If you value acidity along with power then try the 2013 Moro from Fattoria Montellori. With its blend of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot, it straddles the new and old divide very well. Want pure torque? Then Yalumba’s 2015 Organic Shiraz is good for both the pairing and your pocketbook.
To begin, a white, the Bourgogne Chardonnay Louis Latour 2014, that is not far removed from an entry-level Chablis due to its fidgety balance between refreshing acids and generous texture.
For the reds, the Castano Monastrell Yecla 2014 is a true bargain! Sold exclusively through SAQ Dépôt, full of fruit, and with surprising depth and thankfully a nominal amount of residual sugar (3,9 g). Another excellent purchase is the Château Pesquié Terrasses 2014, a Côtes-du-Rhône made with a blend of 60% grenache and syrah. Classically styled with freshness, body and fine tannin.
Onwards to Italy for the worthy Burchino Chianti Superiore 2014. It shows a wonderful lightness at 12.5% alcohol. Fruit, spice and exceptional drinkability. There is a delicate oak note that adds to the ensemble rather than dominate.
Finally, the Quinta do Covento Douro 2013 is a very good red wine from Portugal’s Douro which walks that line nicely between sheer power and drinkability. The oak driven notes are there, but it is nicely integrated, and the wine is fresh enough to be drunk on its own.
The historic Port house, Dow, founded in 1798, has been run for over a century by the Symington family. While their Port wines are sublime, their red Douro table wine Quinta do Bomfim is equal to their reputation. Full bodied with lots of stuffing, this has a lot of character for the price.
As usual from vintage to vintage, the relatively small scaled co-op Vignerons d’Estézargues made an expressive red wine in 2015 that shows exactly how good the 2015 vintage was in the Rhône valley. The cuvée La Montagnette shows ripe tannins, a generous texture without sacrificing the necessary freshness that is their trademark.
Over the past decade, the Languedoc-Roussillon has been putting the accent on quality over quantity. The proof can be tasted in Domaine d’Aupilhac 2014 Lou Maset, an organically grown wine made by Sylvain Fadat in the appellation Montpeyroux. The 2014 is the definition of a ‘thirst-quenching’.
Finally, to put you all in the holiday spirit, two sparkling wines. One, a classic Cava Brut from Parés Baltà. Organic and made with a classic blend of parellada, maccabeu and xarel-lo, one sip and you will be looking for an oyster. If you want a great suggestion for brunch, the Cranberry Sparkling Cider from Pierre & Terre is quite dry and light in alcohol. Just watch how fast this bottle will disappear once it is opened.
Need to find a silver lining in this rather dreary month of November? The nouveau wines that hit the stores last week included some really good bottles. These wines are good in their own right, not just as a seasonal curiosity. My two favorites were the fresh and beautifully sunny 2016 Vin de France from Laurent et Rémi Dufaître as well as the slightly more peppery Beaujolais Terres Dorées 2016 from Jean-Paul Brun. There are still bottles in SAQ stores, so pick a few up. You’ll get great, easy-drinking, versatile wines that are perfect for the holiday season. And there is no need to drink them right away as they’ll bring some extra sunshine to those short days of December as well!
Would you care for a couple of under-15$ wines with that? At a recent tasting, I was pleasantly surprised by the La Chevalière 2014 Pinot Noir from Laroche, a pinot from the Languedoc that shows good varietal character and good balance. Same goes for the Petit Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot from Ken Forrester, an easy and charming Bordeaux-style blend. It is yet another example of good, well-priced wines from South Africa.
On the white wine side of things, the colder season makes me appreciate the character of wines from southern regions like the Languedoc. Case in point, the Fiefs d’Aupenac 2015 from the Cave de Roquebrun, in Saint-Chinian, with pear notes and good body. Nothing heavy, just comfort.
The complete list: 20 under $20
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