20 under $20 for April

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 April version of the 20 under $20… plus one for good luck.

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Chacun son Vin Critic Team

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

As we collectively head into springtime, I feel as a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Sunshine, warm temperatures. Time to drink wines that show lots of fruit and revel in their simplicity. For my white, and it’s my turn to highlight this great little Greek wine from the island of Santorini, try the 2014 Atlantis. With assysrtiko as its primary grape, few wines offer the quality and uniqueness of a wine at this price.

Argyros Atlantis White 2014Domaine St Jean De La Gineste Corbières Carte Blanche 2012Gérard Bertrand Coteaux Du Languedoc Grand Terroir La Clape 2011Bodegas Guelbenzu Azul 2009Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010

The rest of my wines are all red, but are all southern wines which show great fruit and are able to handle a wide range of foods. Especially whatever you want to grill up on the barbecue. From the Languedoc I have two selections. The 2012 Corbieres from  Domaine St-Jean de la Gineste and the 2011 La Clape from Gérard Bertrand  are classic southern French wines. Teeming with fruit, dry and with ripe tannins.

From Spain’s Navarra, the 2009 Azul Guelbenzu is a ripe and smoky wine that while simple, is begging for smoked ribs. And finally, if you want a wine with a touch more complexity, and especially if mushrooms are on the menu, try the 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna from Sella and Mosca. It’s a touch funky, but a lot of fun to drink if you appreciate earthier notes in your wine.

Remy Charest’s selections

I took my very first trip through the vineyards of Chile at the beginning of April. I was impressed by the diversity of  the wines from the various valleys, which provide so many variations in climate and thus, many suitable locations for a number of different grapes varieties – from crisp sauvignon blanc on the seaside to generous and structured Rhône-styled reds grown on sun-soaked hillsides. I also found a number of excellent under-20$ wines, so much so that I had trouble narrowing down the possibilities for this month’s buying guide.

I was surprised how much Chilean cabs and carmenères have a vast range of expression. Take the ripe, generous and structured Antu cabernet-carmenère blend from Montgras, for instance, and contrast it with this one from Coño Sur, an estate that specializes in (always good, sometimes truly excellent) pinot noirs. The latter is quite remarkable for its freshness and drinkability.

Antu Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2013Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2013Arboleda Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Castillo De Molina Reserva Shiraz 2012Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Roussanne 2012

In a previous “20 under $20” column, I mentioned the cabernet sauvignon from Arboleda, which was one of my favourite stops in Chile, with a clear, simple and well-thought out approach. This time, I’ll add a very well-established brand, Casillero del Diablo, the most widely-sold brand from giant Concha y Toro, which is truly honest and satisfying, and for less than $15.

One of the most promising avenues for Chili, however, is Rhône varieties, particularly syrah. I tasted many solid examples at Montes, Montgras, Errazuriz and more. The Castilla de Molina Reserva, produced by San Pedro, is a great, under-$20 introduction to Chilean syrah, with a nice aromatic balance between red fruit and smoked meat. White Rhône varieties can also show very nicely, like the Gran Reserva Roussanne from Luis Felipe Edwards, a very satisfying wine, delicious and generous, but with just enough freshness.

I’ll try and say more in a blog post on Chacun son vin, but clearly, today’s Chile isn’t content with the wines that made it successful  over the past thirty years ago.

Marc Chapleau’s picks

A little more white than red this month to reflect the change in season, and temperature !

Staring with Sicily, a wine region which one normally doesn’t associate with white wines, I really liked the  2013 La Segreta from Planeta , a wine which covers all the bases, at once rich and refreshing. Another white which shows some stuffing is, this time from the Rhone, the  Château Pégau Cuvée Lône 2014, with its rich texture and just a point of acidity. A touch lighter, the Alsatian  Riesling Réserve Fernand Engel 2013 is for all intents and purposes completely dry and shows the nervosity one associates with riesling. Ideal for crab, lobster and shrimp.

Planeta La Segreta 2013 Château Pégau Cuvée Lône 2014 Domaine Fernand Engel Réserve Riesling 2013 Podere Castorani Scià 2013 Quinta Dos Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red 2012

For the reds, at a very hard to beat price, the  Scia Sangiovese 2013 from Podere Castorani  is a dashing  lil wine which shows just enough fruit to charm from the region of Puglia, which is the heel of the Italian boot. Another red that shows just enough power, this time from Portugal, is the  Quinta Dos Carvalhais Duque De Viseu.  Always good, the 2012 is better than ever with its floral quality and charming fruit.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

I am in full agreement with Remy with respect to the rebirth of the Chilean wine industry and the great diversity of terroirs in this mountainous country. More and more, vignerons are taking advantage of the cold Humboldt current which originates in the Antarctic and hugs the Chilean coastline. White grapes, led by sauvignon blanc, produce eminently fresh wines of ten marked by a slight salty note.

Generally, the term « fumé blanc » signifies a sauvignon blanc which has been aged, in whole or partially, in oak barrels. However, this is not the case with the Fumé blanc 2014 from Errazuriz, which was fermented and aged 100 % in stainless steel to preserve the aromatic expression of the sauvignon blanc. Crunchy fruit and filled with energy, this is a classic aperitif wine.

Errazuriz Fumé Blanc 2014Château La Lieue Coteaux Varois En Provence 2014Les Deux Clochers 2012Pont Neuf Vin De Pays Du Gard 2013E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2013

Another wine which benefits from a marine influence, this time méditerranéenne in origin the Château La Lieue rosé 2014 is once again, irreproachable. Organic, light as a feather, but far from being light in terms of flavour. Springtime in a bottle for under $20… I’m buying! 

With just a hint of tannins. The 2012 Deux Clochers Saint-Pourçain  is a great example of a thirst quenching red. From a small appellation of 650 hectares in l’Allier between Moulins et Clermont-Ferrand, made with gamay blended with 25% pinot noir, it’s an match deal with charcuterie.

Coming from a region a few hundred kilometers further south, at the entry to Provence, the  Pont Neuf vin de pays du Gard 2013 seduces with its aromatics of dried herbs, a classic expression of the “garrigue” which so often permeates wines from the south. Organic and affordable. 

Finally, last week I rediscovered the  Côtes du Rhône blanc 2013 from Guigal. Nothing very complex, but avery good southern white, richly textured,  as is the style, but wonderfully drinkable with its generous fruit and floral notes. A classic, and for good reason.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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