20 under $20 – October 2017

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Halloween is just around the corner, but take off the masks! Our four distinguished critics have nothing to hide, and they gladly list for you their favourite wines from recent tastings – looking for tasty treats at $20 or less. That’s better than candy!

Our Quebec Critic Team: Bill, Marc, Nadia et Rémy

Bill Zacharkiw’s selections

As I will be hosting a tasting on November 9 of Francois Chartier’s new wine portfolio, let’s start with one of his wines. If you are eating fleshier oysters or mussels with a richer sauce, then open a bottle of Chartier’s 2016 Rueda. Delicate fruit and mineral notes, a perfect match.

I can eat dozen of oysters at a time, and my preferred beverage for them is Champagne. It’s an expensive proposition, so having a solid bargain sparkling wine option is a good idea. For under $15, the Villa Conchi Cava is not only a great deal, but full of lemony notes and minerality, two things I look for any oyster pairing.

For your “lighter” red wine needs, try the 2015 Crios red Blend. This wine represents the new Argentina, full of fruit but light on make-up. Delicious. If you want a touch more torque, the 2016 Saint-Chinian from Canet-Valette is a unique blend of cinsault and mourvedre where each grape does its job formidably. Super fresh yet with a great mass of fruit and tannin.

Chartier Créateur D'harmonies Rueda 2016Villa Conchi Brut Selección CavaSusana Balbo Crios Syrah / Bonarda 2015Canet Valette Antonyme 2016Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013

Finally, for all of you cabernet sauvignon fans, the 2013 Torres Gran Coronas might be the best deal for this often butchered grape variety at the SAQ under $20. It walks the line between new and old world styles with agility, finesse and power.

Rémy Charest’s Recommendations

My monthly selection has turned out to be all red as despite being  served cold, the whites I sampled this month left me lukewarm at best. Oh well…

I attended  a really fun tasting of Languedoc wines at a recent pot-luck meal. It was a good demonstration of the versatility of the region’s wines when it comes to pairing with a diverse array of dishes. These red blends matched well with everything from a meatball stew and braised root vegetables, to a mac and cheese – especially with my secret ingredient: smoked cheese. My two favorite wines were the Domaine La Madura Classic 2014 (especially with the smoked cheese) and the 2015 Impatience from Château du Grand Caumont, an SAQ classic and a wine whose character seems to fly right over fashions and fads.

In September, I travelled to Spain to visit Campo Viejo, a large Rioja producer (9 million bottles a year!). For such a large winery, there’s a lot of attention to detail, and the company has made great strides towards sustainability, notably by eliminating herbicides completely from its 230 hectares of vines, and restoring the local flora and biodiversity. Their 2015 Tempranillo, substantial and fruity, is a good and inexpensive example of the solid work they do at every level.

Domaine La Madura Classic 2014Château Du Grand Caumont Impatience 2015Clos La Coutale Cahors 2014Arboleda Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015L'impromptu De Saint Verny 2015

As Autumn is slowly starting to set in, two bigger reds caught my fancy. The 2014 Clos de la Coutale is a  solid Cahors, terrific for the price, and devoid of the woody excesses that plagued the appellation when it fell under the spell of Robert Parker. Lots of fun for the money. Classic in terms of style, grape and country, the 2015 Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon, from Chile, is a great purchase, flavourful, dry and quite drinkable.

I must confess, however,  my heart and taste buds were betaken by a beautiful light red, the Impromptu de Saint Verny. This is beautiful gamay from Auvergne, a region where the volcanic soils infuse the bright red fruit with a lovely dose of white pepper. While it  costs a touch more than 20$, it’s both delicious and seductive.

Marc Chapleau’s Mix

Paul Mas Origines Grenache de Grenache 2016 – A white Vin de Pays D’oc that’s nervous and fruity, with a touch of pastry in the mid-palate that reminds me of pinot gris. Full of freshness, and a nicely dry. At just over $11, an exceptional  value.

Barton & Guestier M De Magnol 2015 – A Côtes-de-Bordeaux that shows good concentration, understandable considering the heat of 2015. But the acidity is good as is the tannic structure. Notes of pepper and liquorice on the finish add depth. Very good.

Paul Mas Réserve Origines Grenache De Grenache 2016M De Magnol 2015Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreNino Franco Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreFreixenet Legero

Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – Shows good florals on the nose as well as dried straw. Surprising elegance in the mouth with a pronounced acidity and not overly sweet. Fresh, balanced with just enough restraint.  

Nino Franco Brut Prosecco di Valdobbiadene – A hint of volatile acidity at first swirl, then cut hay. In the mouth, a refreshing acidity which is heightened by the volatile acidity. Quite dry for a Prosecco due to its light 9 grams of dosage. One of the more reliable Proseccos on the market year in, year out.

Freixenet Legero Muscat – Remarkably good. I had little hope for this de-alcoholized sparkling, a style that usually makes me wonder why I am not just drinking water instead. But I love being surprised. This sweet sparkling with its 61 grams of residual sugar is worth a taste due to its great fruit and delicate brioche note.

Nadia Fournier’s Selections

The Chacun Son Vin team will once again be present at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal (LGDM), which will take place from November 2-4 at Place Bonaventure. Here are two white that will no doubt be at the show.

Let’s start with a wine from Washington State, which is the wine producing region in this year’s spotlight. Of all the wines produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle available at the SAQ, the rieslings are my favourites. Nicely modest, the entry level Riesling 2015 shows excellent tension with notes of green apple.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2015Les Vins Bonhomme El Petit Bonhomme Blanco 2016Domaine Fenouillet Hautes Combes Faugères 2014Clos Bagatelle 2016Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2015

Nathalie Bonhomme, a Quebec-born winemaker who has spent over a decade in Spain will be  attending this year’s LGDM. Over and above her red wines which are nicely textured and full of sun-gorged fruit, she also produces an excellent Rueda, El petit bonhomme blanco 2016. Dry, straightforward and with a certain originality, it’s a great purchase for just over $15.

Equally original and made for Autumn, the Hautes Combes 2014 from Domaine de Fenouillet is a rarity as white grapes account for a mere 2%  of all the vineyards in  Faugères. Flavourful and textured, it has the body to pair with a richer meal.  

Finally, two reds from the Languedoc-Roussillon to keep you warm as the temperatures start to fall. The Saint-Chinian 2016 from Clos Bagatelle (12,55 $)  is both supple and fruity and offers up more nuance and length than most wines at this price level. The same can be said for the Mas Las Cabes 2015; wonderfully rich that doesn’t shy away from its Roussillon heritage with its 14.5% alcohol level.  At just over $18, it’s yet another example of why this region of France is known for offering wines that are both quality and a relative bargain.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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Salon des vins Chartier