20 under $20 for November

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

The holiday season is here! From office parties to family gatherings, parties abound! As this is the time of the year when even the most conservative drinker will fill their glass more than one time, best make sure you have enough wine on hand. So in honour of the festivities, our four critics have looked hard for readily available party wines – ones that drink with ease, and are equally easy on your wallet.


Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

I’m a big fan of wines that show high drinkability, and that’s even more important when it comes to party wines. Will there be food? Maybe, maybe not. So it’s important to choose wines, especially when looking at reds, that will work well with snacks while also drinking well on their own. So my five wines this month all fit into this category.

To start, two whites that offer different things. The 2013 Chardonnay from Campagnola hails from Italy’s Veneto and offers up a ripe palate, is dry, and at $13, you’ll be able to buy those extra few bottles to satiate a thirsty crowd.

On a completely different angle, I like a hint of sweetness in my aperitif wines. The 2012 Black Tie from Pfaffenheim is a riesling and pinot gris blend that is full of tropical fruits, ginger and just a touch of sweetness on the palate. Offering up spicy canapés? This wine will calm the heat as well.

Campagnola Chardonnay 2013 Pfaffenheim Black Tie Pinot Gris Riesling 2012 Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2010 Bolla Verona Rosso Retro 2012 Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

I get many requests for inexpensive reds for an aperitif. For under $13, few wines at the SAQ can match the pure fruitiness of the 2010 Hoya de Cadenas. This drinks like a light pinot noir with its delicate red fruit and refreshing acidity.

If you want a little more structure, or are having a meal, then Bolla’s 2012 Rosso Retro is a nice mix of Italian freshness with a hint of that Bordeaux power. So while there is a touch more tannin, the merlot in the blend offers up nice silkiness on the palate.

And finally, for those of you who want a bigger red, then try the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Luis-Felipe Edwards. The Gran Reserva shows the cassis and blackberry cab lovers will appreciate, but stays dry and very approachable.

Marc Chapleau’s selections

Let’s start with a white, presuming that you will soon be needing a good inexpensive wine to get things going at an office party. How about $16 for an SAQ classic? The 2013 Muscadet La Sablette is light and refreshing, and drinks with ease.

For the reds, let’s start in Italy’s Veneto, then down to the Languedoc, over to Catalonia and then finish in South Africa.

The Valpolicella Allegrini 2013 is reminiscent of Beaujolais Nouveau in many ways, and that is not an insult at all. Light bodied, nothing complicated, simply great fruit and freshness with some spice on the finish.

La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013 Allegrini Valpolicella 2013 Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Amarante 2012 Ètim Negre 2011 Robertson Winery Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2012

From the Languedoc, always a great value year after year is the Château Rouquette sur Mer Cuvée AmaranteThose who know this wine have become accustomed to the wines generous fruit and the 2012 is no different. Easy drinking yet with power, it will work wonders with meats and sandwiches at a buffet.

From Spain’s Priorat, it’s hard to find better than the Montsant Etim Negre 2011. Body, minerality and admirable structure for only $16.

Finally, from South Africa, the Robertson Winery Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier 2012, at $14.95, is well worthy of a recommendation. Easy drinking with the right balance of fruit and oak driven smoke notes and just the right amount of acidity.

Nadia Fournier picks

Already well appreciated by lovers of France’s Midi region, the Terres de Méditerranée 2012, made by Québécoise Emmanuelle Dupéré and her husband Laurent Barrera, is always at the top of my choices of the Languedoc category. At $15.75, it’s difficult to even imagine a better wine to accompany a tourtière.

In the same vein, sun-drenched, but a touch more perky and vigourous is the Quinta du Convento 2009. This wine was one of my pleasant surprises last year from Portugal’s Douro. The winery was owned by Patrick et Ruth Landanger (Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Volnay) and then purchased by Canadian Donald Ziraldo (co-founder of Niagara’s Inniskillin) in 2011. It’s a wine to follow over the next few years.

Dupéré Barrera Terres de Méditerranée 2012 Quinta do Convento Douro 2009 Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Carmen Chardonnay Reserva 2013 José Maria Da Fonseca Moscatel De Setùbal 2008

For an aperitif, or to accompany the iodine notes of raw oysters, you should re-discover Chile via a wine that shows impeccable freshness. Caliterra, Eduardo Chadwick (Errazuriz) produces a very good Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Tributo in the hillsides of the Aconcagua valley. This has little in common with the sweet and candied Sauvignon Blanc’s of the New World. Just a good, dry white wine with the accent on lemony fruit – that is aromatic and thirst quenching.

Staying in central Chile, but a touch further south in the region of Casablanca, the bodega Carmen is a part of the Santa Rita group, but run independently. A regular product listing at the SAQ, and thus available throughout Quebec, the Chardonnay 2013 offers both impeccable value and versatility – just rich enough to pair with recipes that include a creamier sauce, but fresh enough to drink as an aperitif. All that for just over $13.

And finally, those with a sweet tooth should discover (or re-discover) the charm of the irresistible and delicious Moscatel de Setúbal 2008 from Jose Maria da Fonseca. Seductive, original and a bargain.

Remy Charest’s choices

One wine to please them all? 

When holiday party season starts, one of the challenges may be to find wines that can please everyone while navigating a wide array of bites and dishes. In short, you have to find a way to rally those who love Ménage à Trois and those who swear by Savoie’s mondeuse, with wines that aren’t too heavy, but not too racey – without being boring, either.

On the white side of things, Les Galets Dorés, by Château Mourgues du Grès, totally fits the bill, with a unique balance between freshness and intense aromatics. A blend of grenache blanc, roussanne and vermentino, it will do particularly well with cheese, charcuterie and those little oven-baked bites that everybody jumps on when the party gets started. (Mourgues du Grès reds are also delicious, by the way…)

Even the most common grapes can provide wines that will rally everyone with character and personality. Take Klein Constantia’s Sauvignon Blanc, for instance. It’s fresh, balanced, enticing, even for someone who, like me, is not a fan of New World “savvy”.

Château Mourgues Du Grès Les Galets Dorés 2013 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2013Del Fin Del Mundo Malbec Reserva 2012 Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Hardys Stamp Of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013

The same can be said, on the red side, with the Malbec Reserva del Fin del Mundo, which will please those who love the round, supple and generous character of Argentinian wines, but won’t tire those who go for fresher, zippier wines. The fact that the grapes come from Patagonia, a region that is much cooler than Mendoza, certainly helps provide that balance.

You want to generate a similar consensus with French wines? Simple and generous Rhône reds like Ogier Héritages Côtes-du-Rhône, will do the trick. French wine lovers will be pleased, and it should cater well to those who love their New World Reds big, round and (unfortunately) sweet.

To go really, really easy on your budget, it’s hard to go wrong with something like the Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Shiraz-Cabernet, which delivers a lovely dose of pepper and red fruit, for barely $12.95. It would even put a smile on Scrooge’s face.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20 for October

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