20 under $20 – February 2018

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

February rarely offers much excitement unless you have a plane ticket in your pocket. At least we have the Olympics. So if you are looking to exercise your taste buds, here’s our monthly list of under $20 wines to offer up some inspiration.

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

Bill Zacharkiw’s selections

Looking back on 2017, I spent a lot of time in Italy. From north to south, I am in love with the country, and specifically their approach to food and wine. So while we are in the « dog days » of winter, let’s do a little viticultural travelogue.

Starting in Sicily, and a great wine for an aperitif or spicier entrees, is Planeta’s Segreta. A unique blend of white grenache, chardonnay, fiano and viognier, this refreshing and aromatic white is a gulper.

Planeta La Segreta Bianco 2016Prà Otto Soave Classico 2016Moris Morellino di Scansano 2015Beni Di Batasiolo Langhe Rosso 2015Tommasi Surani Atlas Primitivo 2015

For a more serious white, try the 2016 Soave, Otto, from Pra. Soave is the Italian Chablis and this is a wonderful example. Notes of melon and white stone fruits, a hint of citrus, nicely textured with a mineral finish.

For you red wine lovers, from Tuscany and the lesser-known appellation of Morellino di Scansanso, is the 2015 Morellino from Moris Farms. Sangiovese with a touch of merlot and syrah, it delivers texture, refreshing acids and a ton of flavour.

If you want a touch more tannin and a unique flavour profile, then try the 2015 Langhe from Beni Di Batasiolo. Almost equal parts of dolcetto, barbera and nebbiolo, the wine shows great regional character and will do well with a veal roast with mushrooms.

Finally, if you want some torque in your glass, try the 2015 Primitivo Surano Atlas. Like most primitivos, there’s a touch of residual sugar, but here it serves to up the aromatics and adds extra texture. Organically grown as well. Bring on the baby back ribs!

Rémy Charest’s Recommendations

There’s nothing better  than a pleasant surprise. When I see the words “pinot grigio” on a bottle, I tend to sigh a little: the contents often lack a bit of personality and energy. It never hurts anyone, but it often doesn’t do much good, either. Not so with the Attems Pinot Grigio, made by the Frescobaldi family in Venezia-Giulia. The wine shows good presence and intensity, pleasantly ripe flavors and a fair amount of character.

Portugal’s capacity for producing quality reds in every price range never ceases to impress. Lower-priced wines are especially good, with character that speaks more of place and grape than oenological techniques. At just under $9, the Vila Regia is always a great deal: neat, simple and satisfying. 15,90$ will get you something more, with the organic Quinta dos Roques, a Dão with the typical crunch and tannic structure of the appellation, and lovely fruit to boot.

Attems Pinot Grigio 2016Vila Regia 2016Quinta Dos Roques Vinho Tinto 2015Domaine Laroche De La Chevalière 3 Grappes Blanches 2016Château Camarsac Vieilles Vignes 2014

On the French side, one easy-drinking white that caught my fancy is the 3 Grappes Blanc, from Domaine de la Chevalière, a Languedoc property owned by Chablis’ Domaine Laroche. A sun-filled blend of sauvignon, chardonnay and terret (a local variety) that really does the trick. On a very classic note, the 2014 Château de Camarsac is a great entry-level Bordeaux, which will do wonders with a winter-warming piece of grilled meat.

Marc Chapleau’s Mix

Château St. Jean De La Gineste Corbières 2016 – A Languedoc red that shows great focus and lots of freshness. Hugs that line of power and lightness with dexterity, with admirable length finishing on cherry notes. Great deal.

Le P’tit Spencer Corbières 2016 – Good red that drinks much like a basic   Côtes-du-Rhône. Has that sun-filled feel due to its generosity, showing lots of fruit but without getting heavy. Nothing complicated, but far more than “ok”.

Bonpas Grande Réserve Des Challières Côtes-Du-Ventoux 2015 – For a pittance, a solid red with loads of fruit but well-structured, with solid tannin and a hint fo CO2 for extra freshness. Spicy, peppery finish. Great deal for under $12.

Domaine St Jean De La Gineste Corbières Carte Blanche 2016Le P'tit Spencer Château Spencer La Pujade 2016Bonpas Grande Réserve Des Challières Ventoux 2015Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2012Mateus Sparkling Brut Rosé

Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2012 – Coming in a practical 375ml bottle, an excellent Port with lots of power, typical of the Taylor style. For an LBV, good complexity showing cherry and floral notes.

Mateus Sparkling Brut Rosé – With only 6.1 g of residual sugar, the Portuguese sparkling wine shows strikes me as sweeter though the freshness and fruit are present. A good all-around sparkling rose that pairs really well with a classic shrimp cocktail.

Nadia Fournier’s Selections

Clos de la Briderie, Touraine-Mesland 2016 (18,70 $)

Very good organic white, made with a blend of chenin blanc and 20% chardonnay. Chenin’s natural liveliness and fruit is wrapped in a ripe structure and the wine seduces with its crisp pear and honey flavors.

Domaine Spiropoulos, Mantinia 2016 (17,25 $)
The Spiropoulos family is behind this great example of the  moschofilero grape, grown on a high elevation Mantinia plateau in the Péloponnèse. Organic, balanced and with nuanced aromatics and refreshing due to the altitude.  

St-Martin de la Garrigue, Coteaux du Languedoc 2015, Bronzinelle (17,85 $)

The quality of this cuvee that has been a staple at the SAQ for over a decade but had a slight dip since the domain was purchased by Russian interests, which coincided with the  departure of winemaker  Jean-Claude Zabalia. However, the  2015 marks  return to  the quality that made this wine so good for so many years : solid fruit, soft tannins and notes of garrigue that give this wine its postal code.

Clos De La Briderie 2016Domaine Spiropoulos Mantinia 2016Espelt Saulo 2016Rayos Uva Rioja 2016Bronzinelle Coteaux Du Languedoc 2015

Espelt, Saulo 2016, Empordá (14,65 $)
This Catalan winery has always resisted the temptation of over-oaking the wine for fear of masking the fruit, unlike many inexpensive Spanish wines in the market. The 2016 is a great example, showing the  satin texture of grenache and the vigour of carignan that one often finds on these hillsides f the  Pyrenees. At under $15, it’s an ideal wine for your weekday meals.

Olivier Rivière, Rioja 2016, Rayos Uva (19,80 $)
Establshed in the  Rioja Alta since 2004, Frenchman Olivier Rivière makes some of the most drinkable reds in the  region, without losing any of the class of this fantastic and hostoric terroir. His Rayos Uva 2016m made with old tempranillo vines, graciano and grenache, is the  archetype of the  « vin de soif ». Supple, fresh and while light in appearance, is both rich in texture and flavourful.

The complete list: 20 under $20

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Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2015