20 under $20 for January

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here is the January version of the 20 under 20.



Bill Zacharkiw’s suggestions

I have to admit it’s hard to motivate oneself to head outside when the temperature is below -20C. So I’ve been doing a lot of entertaining at home these days. That means trying out different recipes, so I need a wide variety of wine styles, and bottles that don’t cost too much – that December credit card was ugly.

I have been on a seafood kick these days. Depending on what I’m eating, that requires different textures and aromatics in my wines. For example, for shrimp and mussels, I like something fresh and lively. From Bordeuax, the 2013 Vieilles Vignes from Château Sainte-Marie shows great texture, lively aromatics and most importantly, freshness.

With scallops and richer fish, you need a wine that has texture, and an interesting aromatic palate. Few whites under $20 can beat the 2013 Galettes Dorées from Château Mourgues de Grès for both those qualities.

Chateau Sainte Marie Entre Deux Mers Vieilles Vignes 2013 Château Mourgues Du Grès Les Galets Dorés 2013 Albert Bichot Coteaux Bourguignons 2013 Château La Lieue 2013 Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

When I serve a richer white with my meal, I like to start with a refreshing red. Bichot’s 2013 Coteaux Bourguignons satisfies in so many ways. Served at 15C, this pinot noir and gamay blend shows ripe fruit while maintaining a brilliant acidity.

I like to cook with a lot of exotic spices, so when I am serving white meats, whether it be chicken or pork, or vegetarian meals, it’s handy to have a red wine that has flavour but without too much tannin. One of my favourite wines at the SAQ under $15 is from Château La Lieue. From Provence, the 2013 shows great fruit, subtle herbal notes and lots of spice on the finish. As an extra plus, it’s organic.

And finally, there’s lots of meat eating going on these days. I recently drank with lamb the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Luis Felipe Edwards. Ripe, rich, but far from heavy and with enough tannin to handle lamb, or any other meat you want to serve.

Marc Chapleau’s choices

Let’s start with two textured and powerful whites that are perfect to hold down the fort in the middle of winter.

Bubbles are great year round. Spain is the source of many excellent sparkling wines, and the Muga 2010 Conde de Haro from the Rioja region is a great example with its notes of honey and brioche – nicely supported by its balanced acidity.

From France’s southwest, best known for the regions of Cahors and Madiran, comes a tasty blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, the Domaine du Tariquet Côté 2013. There’s a hint of sweetness on the finish, that is rendered almost imperceptible by the wine’s admirable freshness.

Conde De Haro Brut Cava 2010 Domaine Du Tariquet Côté Chardonnay & Sauvignon 2013 Giacondi Nero d'Avola 2013 Quinta Da Falorca Touriga Nacional 2008 Capezzana Barco Reale Di Carmignano 2012

In red, and at less than $10, the Sicilian Giacondi 2013 Nero d’Avola, delivers the merchandise. Nothing complicated, just ripe fruit, slightly candied, nicely balanced and a spicy finish.

More expensive, but still under the bar of $20, the Quinta da Falorca 2008 Touriga Nacional from the Portuguese region of Dao is much richer with solid tannins. It’s ideal to accompany grilled red meats.

And finally, from Tuscany, I suggest you try the Capezzana 2012 Barco Reale Di Carmignano. I have already talked about this wine, but permit me to go back to it as this Tuscan blend of sangiovese with small amounts of cabernet and canaiolo is a joy to drink – wonderfully fresh, textured and focused.

Rémy Charest’s picks

As I’m writing this, the wind is blowing against my windows and the snow is flying off the rooftop. Time to pull out some heartwarming wines.

To line up with the weather – and provide good pairings for stews, roasts and other comforting meals, two big reds : Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon, from Chile, a single-vineyard wine that is full of character and personality, and Tour Bouscassé from the ever popular Alain Brumont, even more commendable because it’s a well-balanced, well-aged 2009. You can’t find too many of those for under $20 these days.

On a fresher, zippier note, but with the stuffing you want in a winter red, Bibi Graetz’ Casamatta is a lovely young sangiovese with tannins that are just rustic enough, and with plenty of red fruit.

Arboleda Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Brumont Tour Bouscassé Madiran 2009 Casamatta Sangiovese 2013 Marquis De Jouennes Bourgogne Aligoté 2013 Val Caudalies Cidre Pétillant

That being said, neither wind, nor snow can stop me on my continuing search for every possible aligoté I can find. The latest I tasted is from Marquis de Jouennes, producer of long-time Burgundy favorite Château de Chamirey. It’s very satisfying, with just enough weight to wrap around the minerality and freshness.

On a completely different note, the rosé sparkling cider from Val Caudalies, an excellent producer in the Townships, made me very happy when I first tasted it in December. The pink color comes from a nice bunch of raspberries, the bubbles are bright and plentiful and the aromas clean and seductive. The best thing ? It sells for just above $13. Quite a deal, from just around the corner, to get your weekends started on a really nice note.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

A new entry at the SAQ will help you bring in the new year nice and easy, and will only set you back $10. Made by the co-operative Vignerons Ardechois, the Orélie 2013 is an excellent example of chuggable wine, loads of fruit, supple and easy drinking.

At a similar price point, Sogrape’s Vila Regia 2013 is faithful to what made it such a success in the past – as much by its style as its use of indigenous Portuguese varieties. Year after year, it remains one of the best value wines at $10.

Orélie Ardèche 2013 Vila Regia 2013 Espelt Empordá Saulo 2013 Artazuri Garnacha 2013 Comenge Verdejo 2013

Very convincing this year is the Espelt Saulo 2013. A delicious blend of grenache and carignan offers up layers of fruit with an irresistible texture.

With its jammy aromatics. The Artazuri 2013 Garnacha might make you fear that the wine will be a touch heavy. But it’s very typical grenache, rich in sweet fruit, but at the same time balanced by a faint touch of carbon dioxide that accentuates the freshness. Very well done wine.

Finally, a white from the Spanish region of Castille et Léon. The Comenge Verdejo 2013 is one of the best wines from Rueda that I have tasted over the past few months. Lots of vitality, with original and interesting aromatics of green tea and apricot. Lots of pleasure here for a small price.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon