20 under $20 – March 2018

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Spring is on the way and while March can still bring some winter bite, the last of the evil season comes in April with tax season. Eeek! So best save up some cash now, and what better way to start than finding some excellent under $20 wines. Here’s your March version of the 20 under $20.

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

Bill Zacharkiw’s selections

Every day is a bubble day so when I find a good inexpensive bottle, I’m a happy man. If you are looking for a good aperitif, perhaps a great afternoon “in the sun” bubbly, then try the Cava from Paco and Lola. If Prosecco and Cava had a child, it would be this.

Sauvignon blanc fans will love the “wild” and delicious 2015 Saint-Bris from the caves de Bailly-Lapierre. Powerful white that made me feel like a I was drinking lime-ade in a grassy field. How good is that image?

Cava Lola De Paco & LolaBailly Lapierre Saint Bris 2015Santa Lucia Ansonica Maremma Toscana 2016Altesino Rosso Toscana 2015Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

If you are looking for a more “off-beat” white, then try the 2016 Ansonica from Santa Lucia. This Tuscan white has a chardonnay-esque mouthfeel though a touch more edgy.

Inexpensive reds that impress? The 2015 Toscana Rosso from Altesino lives up to its reputation as a well-made, easy drinking and versatile blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

And finally, if you want a touch more “torque” in your glass, maybe for a sunny day BBQ this weekend, try the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Aconcagua Alto, from Errazuriz. While it’s $20.65, it is one of the better inexpensive cabs I have tasted recently. Try it with lamb chops!

Rémy Charest’s Recommendations

Can I tell you something, before going on to the monthly selections? I got a little bored, tasting white wines, this past month. The overwhelming majority of commercial wines are made in the same way – vinified in stainless steel tank with heavy temperature control, somewhere around 14 to 16 degrees – and they all wind up tasting and feeling the same. The goal is to enhance fruit, but something sure gets lost along the way if viogniers and chardonnays and all sorts of blends start to resemble each other. Maybe a little less control and a little more personality, guys?

Still, even in that context, two white wines stood out for me, this month. First, The Pavilion, a chenin blanc from Boeschendal, in South Africa. The grape variety seems to be suited to this vinification approach, and its aromas are a good expression of chenin – especially when you consider that it’s only 10$ and change. A newcomer on SAQ shelves (at least, for me) also fared well: a Chardonnay-Macabeo blend from Spanish producer Castaño, which has decent presence and freshness.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2017Castano Chardonnay Maccabeo 2016Vega Montàn Adria Bierzo 2010Bodegas Marta Maté Pixide 2013Les Jardins De Meyrac 2016

On the red side, I was very impressed by two Spanish reds that both had a few years’ aging on them – a relatively rare pleasure, at under 20$ a bottle. The 2010 Adria from Vega Montàn, in Bierzo, is generous yet structured, and has evolved slowly and evenly. Delicious stuff. From the 2013 vintage, Bodegas Marta Maté’s Pixide is a full-bodied tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero appellation, with structure and lovely spicy notes.

Finally, a pretty decent deal can be found in the 2016 Jardins de Meyrac red, from Languedoc, a cabernet-merlot blend from Languedoc that delivers simple, straightforward and pleasant fruit. Exactly what you’d want and expect from an under 10$ red. Not bad.

Marc Chapleau’s Mix

Don Pascual Reserve Tannat 2016 – Excellent value for money from the Uruguayan red. Full-bodied and dry, with the solid tannic structure one expects from a tannat-based wine.

Château Rouquette sur Mer La Clape Cuvée Arpège 2016 – Very well made white from the Languedoc. Richly textured, floral, yet with enough refreshing acidity to keep the ensemble from getting heavy. A white for the dining table, perfect for mussels or a cod brandade.

Hugel et Fils Gewurztraminer 2014 – At first, shows notes of  “wet wool” which one can find in gewurztraminer, then immediately turns towards more floral notes such as roses, also very typical of the grape variety. Loads of fruits and freshness despite the 8 grams of residual sugar. Balance is impeccable.

Don Pascual Reserve Tannat 2016Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Arpège 2016Hugel Gewurztraminer 2014Louis Roche Saumur 2016Aliança Foral Reserva 2014

Louis Roche Saumur 2016 – Following Louis Roche’s excellent 2016 white Saumur, here’s the red which is equally as satisfying, showing typicity and not falling into the trap of over-extraction. A lighter-styled red that is made for lighter meals up to grilled chicken and pork.

Aliança Foral Reserva 2014 – A tasty Portuguese red, concentrated and tightly wound due to its solid tannic structure. The wine remains, however, very accessible. Very good value for under $15 if you want a little more torque.

Nadia Fournier’s Selections

Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel-Lo 2016 – Well named due to the aromatics which denote mostly the mineral quality of the wine, calcaire, or limestone in English. This organic white made by the Cusiné family is composed of 100% xarel-lo, a Catalan grape variety used in the production of cava. Great value!

Disznókő Furmint 2016, Tokaji – The furmint grape variety accounts for around 2/3 of Hungary’s vineyards. It’s behind the famous Azsú wine style, the country’s reknowned sweet wines. But it also can produce some excellent dry table wines like this bottle. Unique and tasty, with notes of fresh pear and beeswax. 

Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel Lo 2016Disznókó Tokaji Dry Furmint 2016Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2016Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes 2015Mas Collet Montsant 2015

Château de Nages, Costières de Nîmes blanc 2016 et Costières de Nîmes rouge 2015 – During his last visit to Montréal a few weeks ago, vigneron Michel Gassier presented a line-up of impeccable wines, including these two « old vine »  cuvées from Château de Nages. The white is salty, rich with just enough aromatic perfume. The red is equally interesting, showing fruit and violets, full bodied, balanced and is absolutely delicious. As a bonus, both wines are organically grown.

Mas Collet Montsant 2015 – This red, made by a Catalan co-operative, offers up a wine very reminiscent of the Languedoc with its aromas of cherry confit and dried herbs. A wine with character, so juicy, and begs to be drunk.

The complete list: 20 under $20

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Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2015