20 under $20 for August 2017

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

It’s already back to school for many of you, so here’s our “shop smart” list of affordable and good tasting wines. Once again we prove, as we do every month-end, that the smart choice isn’t always the most expensive. Happy tasting!

Chacun son Vin Critic Team : Bill, Marc, Nadia & Remy

Bill’s selections

Nothing beats a good chuggable rosé. As summer winds down, and choice at the SAQ follows suit, it’s even more important to grab the good ones now. A late-summer arrival at the SAQ, the 7e Ciel, Côtes d’Auvergne 2015 shows that gamay not only makes highly quaffable red wines, but can do the same with a pink wine.

For your whites, September is the beginning of oyster season. Why not bubbles? I’ve been drinking the Parés Balta Cava by the bucket this summer and its crisp and mineral finish is a perfect accompaniment to some raw, salty oysters. However, if you would prefer a still wine, the 2015 Bichot Bourgogne Aligoté will do the trick with its lemony fruit and mineral finish.

Saint Verny 7e Ciel Côtes D'auvergne 2015Parés Baltà Cava BrutAlbert Bichot Bourgogne Aligoté 2015Hacienda Araucano Carmenere Reserva 2015Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2015

For your red wine needs, I’ll go to Chile for both of my wines this month, and the same grape: carmenère. While this grape used to be over-ripened to the point that it became yet another over-ripe, big red wine, winemakers are now taking care to bring it to optimal ripeness. If you want a lighter version, try the 2015 Araucano Reserva. Less oak and more fruit awaits and it drinks very merlot-ish. If you want a more classic, oakier version, try the 2015 Reserva from Casa Silva. While a touch chunkier, if you are grilling meat on the barbecue, it will do the trick. Both wines are around $15 as well.

Marc’s choices

Domaine Domaine La Madura Classic 2014 – This is an excellent Languedoc red that is both focused and tasty. Remarkably fresh with a certain elegance. There is surely some old vine carignan in this. Excellent price quality ratio.

Scia Puglia 2015 – For just over $12, this Italian red that is more than simply honest for the price, it’s downright good. Inky notes suggest syrah as you first swirl your wine even though this is 100% sangiovese. Very fruit-driven, moderately powerful, just enough acidity to keep it fresh and without any discernible oak. Finish is peppery.

Hermanos Lurton Verdejo 2016 – The subtle sparkle of carbon dioxide adds extra freshness to this fruity and refreshing white. With only 3.3 grams of residual sugar, this is very dry. Subtle notion of tropical fruit on the finish with a hint of smoke. More than just “ok” for the price.

Domaine La Madura Classic 2014Podere Castorani Scià 2015Hermanos Lurton Verdejo 2016Domaine Du Tariquet Côté Chardonnay & Sauvignon 2016S. De La Sablette Rosé 2016

Domaine Du Tariquet Côté Chardonnay & Sauvignon 2016 – A very good wine from France’s southwest, Gascogne to be precise. Very nervy and with a ton of fruit, especially grapefruit. Despite the 7 grams of residual sugar, there is enough acidity to give the wine a dry finish. A touch of CO2 adds extra depth to this light, under 12% alcohol, white.

S de Sablette Côtes-de-Provence Rosé 2016 – A very good rosé made by the Grands Chais de France. Streamlined, very dry, yet with enough complexity to give some power. Nicely balanced with notes of tobacco on the finish.

Nadia’s selections

For the last eight years, Lou Maset, the “petit vin” from Sylvain Fadat of Domaine d’Aupilhac continues to amaze me. The 2015 is a little timid upon opening, but after a few minutes in the glass, we find the same boisterous and jolly character which gives this wine its charm. This so good enough for me to tell you all to buy it by the case.

Made a little further south in the Roussillon, the Marie-Gabrielle 2016 from Domaine Cazes is a touch fuller bodied and generous, without being “big.” On the contrary, this wine made with biodynamically grown grapes shows remarkable freshness in 2016.

Domaine d'Aupilhac Lou Maset 2015Domaine Cazes Marie Gabrielle 2016Domaine St Jacques Sélection Rouge 2016Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel Lo 2016

Speaking of freshness, the Sélection rouge 2016 from Quebec winery Domaine St-Jacques never lacks this quality. Once again it is recommendable as it has been since it has been on the market for the past five years. The 2016 shows focused notes of dark fruits, cooking spice and dried flowers, alongside soft  and layered tannins. If you doubt that Quebec can make good red wines, then try this.  

In white, the Ken Forrester 2016 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc offers excellence with an almost tannic structure. The vine age of 37 years no doubt has something to do with this. Very dry, full of youthful vigour and built to last, this will get even better to at least 2021.    

Finally, to serve as an aperitif this coming long weekend, get your hands on a bottle of the 2016 Calcari from the Catalan winery Parés Baltà. Made with organically grown grapes, this 100%  xarel-lo, a variety normally used for cava is difficult to resist as a table wine with its scintillating mineral finish. For under $20, a bargain.

Rémy’s selections

Over the last month, I felt like having bubbly. I don’t know if it was my happy mood, a desire to feel like I was on vacation, or simply a desire to have something fresh in the glass. But in any case, I pulled out my fair share of sparkling wine. The Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blanc by Vitteaut-Alberti was certainly a favourite (although it’s out of the purview of this under-20$ feature), and so was the Villa Conchi Cava Brut Seleccion, an energetic and delicious bottle at under 15$.

Villa Conchi Brut Selección CavaGeorges Duboeuf Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc 2013Pfaffenheim Black Tie Pinot Gris Riesling 2016Dominio de Eguren Romanico 2014Juan Gil Pasico Monastrell Shiraz 2015

On the white side of things, I really liked the 2013 Coteaux Bourguignons from Georges Duboeuf. A chardonnay that a bit of aging seems to have turned into a bit of a mini Chablis, but for a few dollars less. And the 2016 Black Tie from Alsacian producer Pfaffenheim shows great balance between the refreshing acidity of riesling and the fruity roundness of pinot gris: perfect for a pork roast or a roast chicken.

On top of the great Cava, Spain got my attention as well for two fun reds. The 2014 Romanico from Dominio de Eguren, a tempranillo from the Toro appellation, showed a lot of energy, and some complexity – which is always nice when you’re also looking for a reasonably-priced bottle. And while we are talking reasonable prices, the 2015 Pasico monastrell-shiraz (or mourvèdre-syrah) blend from Juan Gil was pretty stellar. Simple, fruity, generous: you’d have to be the Christmas Grinch to complain about that one.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 2014