20 under $20 for March 2017

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Saturday is April 1st, but we’ll pass on making any jokes. At Chacun son Vin we take our wine pretty seriously, especially when it comes to recommending good inexpensive finds for this monthly column. Everything we suggest here is, once again, worthy of your attention. No kidding! Here’s our 20 under $20 to say goodbye to March.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team : Bill, Marc, Nadia & Remy

Bill’s selections

Let’s start with a light and fresh red from Croatia. Never heard of the teran or borgona grapes? Neither had I. But you can find them together, along with some merlot, in the Vina Laguna Terra Rossa. The result is a fresh and fruity wine that will pair with a wide range of meals.

There are still some cold evenings that lie ahead, so if you want a more powerful red to warm your insides, then look no further than the fabulous Le Combal Cahors, from Cosse-Maissoneuve. Rich fruit, rich tannin yet far from heavy. The 2013 is spectacular.

Vina Laguna Terra Rossa 2015Le Combal 2013Domaine d'Aupilhac Lou Maset 2015E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2015Château Cluzeau 2014

Because it is always sold out, it’s rare that I get to recommend this wine. But a new load of the Coteaux du Languedoc Lou Maset 2015 Domaine d’Aupilhac has just arrived. Versatile, tasty and organic. Just buy it.

With all the new wines coming out, it’s easy to overlook an SAQ classic. One of those is the white Cote-du-Rhone from E. Guigal. So rich and buttery. Great depth. A white to serve at 10-12C with a carbonara, or fish in sauce.

And another really interesting white wine is the Château Cluzeau 2014 Bergerac. Semillon-led with sauvignon blanc and muscadelle, this brings lots of fruit and spice to the table. Try it with a richer seafood dish, or even a curry.

Marc’s mix

Maybe because the days are getting longer and a gentle warmth has begun to slowly make its way back to us, I found myself only thinking about white wines this month.

Château Cazal Viel Viognier 2015 — A touch of volatile acidity jazzes up the aromatics, with apricot and other delicate florals. This is a wine of freshness, tension and a precision of flavours. At under $20, a very good value.

Vina Caliterra Tributo Sauvignon Blanc 2015 — For a touch more than $15, a well-priced Chilean sauvignon blanc of the boxwood variety has a certain elegance. While the ripe fruit might give the impression of sweetness, this is nicely dry. There is nothing wrong with fresh and easy.

Château Cazal Viel Viognier 2015Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015Man Vintners Chenin Blanc Free Run Steen 2016Arboleda Chardonnay 2016Chéreau Carré Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie 2015

Man Vintners Chenin Blanc Free-run Steen 2016 — Not particularly aromatic, but with delicate honeyed notes and a hint of tobacco. Blind I might have called this a chardonnay. The chenin character really picks up in the mouth, however, with a driving freshness that is very characteristic of chenin. 

Arboleda Chardonnay 2016 — Surprising chardonnay from Chile. Comforting and inviting smokey, oak-driven notes, with a buttery palate, a hint of tobacco, that all seem to invite comparisons to Burgundy, though it’s a touch richer and less focused. Quite dry and while 95 cents over our $20 limit, it’s well worth the investment.

Chéreau Carré Réserve Numérotée Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2015 — Very good Muscadet and at under $15, an exceptional value. Exactly what you want and expect from the region – fresh, precise, dry… bring on the seafood.

Rémy’s choices

While in New York, I found myself at a tasting of Australian grenache and smoked meat at a Deli called Mile End. It’s an event, whose owner is from Montreal, that brings a little hometown taste to the Big Apple. It was a great opportunity to see just how fresh, tasty and chuggable these wines have become. Australia really deserves a second look these days. Yalumba’s 2015 Bush Vine Grenache is a great example of how the style has evolved. Go pick up a bottle and some smoked meat, it’s really a great pairing.

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2015Sebastiani Zinfandel 2013Château De La Ragotière Les Schistes Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie 2015Guerrieri Rizzardi Tacchetto Bardolino 2015Vila Regia 2015

California was also on the agenda this week, thanks to the California Wine Festival which just passed through town. Although I tasted a lot of big, bold and ambitious wines, there were also some more modest, balanced wines to be found. The Sebastiani Sonoma County Zinfandel is generous but dry, with moderate alcohol. A far cry from the syrupy versions favored by some producers.

Otherwise, what else stood out this month? The 2015 Les Schistes Muscadet from Château de la Ragotière is particularly easy to drink. What about the 2015 Tacchetto Bardolino? It offers a nice crunchy example of what Northeastern Italy has to offer. And what about the 2015 Villa Regia? With recent price drops, it is now under $9, so outrageously affordable.


Nadia selections

We have reached the season of indecision. It’s the in-between season: boots or shoes? Jacket or no? You can say that we can be equally indecisive about wine. Too cold for rosé? Too warm for those big warming wines from Châteauneuf, Amarone or Californian cabernet?

Here are a few wines that will keep you just warm enough until the sun takes charge. Starting with the Flor de Crasto 2015; a very good Douro made in a modern style. Juicy, and with just enough tannin, it’s a perfect match for simple mid-week meals. In a similar vein, the Laderas de El Seque 2015 is simply put, delicious. Made with 100% monastrell (mourvèdre), it’s gourmande, satiating and always a touch fresher than the majority of the wines from Alicante. A real value at under $15.

Flor De Crasto 2015Laderas De El Seque Alicante 2015E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2015Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2014Domaine Saint Andéol Prestige Cairanne 2014

Next week, I’m leaving to spend a few days in the Rhône Valley to sample some wines of the 2015 vintage whose release is just around the corner. To prepare my taste buds, I put together a mini tasting for myself this past week. Here are a few of my under-$20 favourites.

As always, the Côtes du Rhône blanc 2015 from Guigal is impeccable. It really is hard to find a wine this good at this price. A blend of viognier, roussanne and marsanne; textures, full of fruit and inviting aromatics.

From further south in the Costières de Nîmes, the Château de Nages 2014 Blanc Vieilles Vignes is a blend of organically-grown roussanne, viognier, grenache blanc and clairette. Aromatic though not perfumed, elegant, full bodied though remains refreshing.

To finish up, as the Rhône produces more red than white, a wine only available at the SAQ Dépôt outlet. This was my first ever taste of the Domaine Saint Andéol and it was a pleasant surprise. Typical Rhône grenache: textured and silky, with delicate tannin and overflowing with cherry confit and cocao.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015