20 under $20 – September 2018

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Even if we are technically on vacation, wine writers never really take any time off. After all, one probably drinks even more wine when one is on a break. Our note pads are never far from our glass, even when the temperature turns tropical. So which wines stoked us this summer? Read our 20 under $20 for the month of September to discover a few. Let’s hope Mother Nature keeps up her good work for a while longer.

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

Bill’s selections

August was hot, so I went through nearly all my white wine samples, and there was plenty to love starting with the Tselepos 2017 Moschofilero. This Greek grape variety, whose aromatic profile harkens images of pinot gris and muscat has been mastered by Mr. Tselepos. Works great as an aperitif, and is absolutely killer with fried calamari.

On a more nuanced note, Banfi’s 2017 La Pettegola Vermentino, is a wonderfully pure and delicious expression of the grape. Notes of citrus and stone fruits, its mineral finish, its balance, make it a refreshing and fun wine to drink. Goes great with mussels.

Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2017Banfi La Pettegola Vermentino 2017Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2017Poderi Colla Pian Balbo Dolcetto D'alba 2016Altesino Rosso Toscana 2016

For you pink wine fans, the 2017 Buti Nages from Michel Gassier is an excellent value at under $15. Good fresh fruit, floral and just enough body. Good complexity as well on the finish.

There were a few reds that did get drunk. One was the Poderi Colla 2016 Dolcetto d’Alba. A fantastic wine that shows both the exuberance and delicate fruit that this grape variety can attain. Poderi Colla has always been one of my favourite Barolo producers, I guess I’ll add the Dolcetto to the list as well.

Finally, and remaining in Italy, Altesino’s 2016 Toscana Rosso is a superb wine. So classically Italian with its bright acidity, leathery notes and cherry fruit. The hint of cab and merlot add some refinement to the tannins. Got anything with a tomato sauce on your plate? This is your wine.

Marc suggests…

Beni di Batasiolo Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 – Very good value here. With notes of Morello cherry and a slight astringency, this is classic Piedmont. Moderate power where the flavour and aromatics have depth and are very well-defined. Fresh from start to finish. And with a certain finesse. And all for just a little more than $18.

Borsao Rosado Seleccion 2017 – At under $12, this is an excellent value from this well-known Spanish producer. Body, fruit, freshness and next to no residual sugar makes the finish nicely defined and leaves room for some interesting spice.

La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2017 – Another good value for a relative pittance, around $13, like all the wines from La Vieille Ferme. Body, a certain twitchiness, nuanced fruit and most importantly, perfectly balanced.

Beni Di Batasiolo Langhe Nebbiolo 2016Borsao Rosado Seleccion 2017La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2017Elian Da Ros Le Vin Est Une Fête 2016Borsao Berola 2015

Elian da Ros 2016 “Le Vin Est Une Fête” – Ok, so I am cheating here a bit as this will cost you $22.30. Please don’t bill me for the difference! The wine is, as advertised, a party in a glass. Light, reticent even, but an aromatic burst and flavour that is just so fun to swirl and sip. A blend of merlot, cabernet franc and abouriou, if you have lost interest in merlot then this wine will restore your faith. It’s finesse will make you think Bordeaux feel but this is a Côtes-du-marmandais. Such purity. Delicious wine.

Borsao Berola 2015 – Good red from the Ebre Valley, not far from Rioja in Spains’s Northwest. Powerful with its 15% alcohol, but still balanced. Those of you who know this wine might find this vintage a touch heavier, with a hair less freshness. At under $20, lots of bang for your buck, but I would wait for that first cool Autumn evening to open it up.

Rémy’s Recommendations

Could it be that I just can’t wait for the cooler days of autumn to finally set in? Whatever the case may be, I’m craving red wine, these days, even though the sun and temperature remain firmly on the summery side of things. The key to enjoying reds on warm days, as we periodically remind you on this site, is to cool them (say, 30 minutes in the fridge) to get them more towards a 16- to 18-degree serving temperature – much cooler than your average apartment on a hot and sunny day.

Three reds with different characters, but sharing a common trait of roundness and generous flavors, caught my attention recently. The 2014 Tenuta Novare Valpolicella Ripasso, by solid producer Bertani, is an excellent Ripasso that is at once velvety and energetic. The 2015 Cabriz Colheita Selectionada, from Dão, is a tasty blend of Portuguese grapes with grippy tannins and ripe fruit. And if you’re ready to add an extra quarter to go over the usual limit of this column, you’ll be amply rewarded by the delicious, complex and broad-shouldered grenache of the 2015 Castell D’Agly Maury Sec.

Bertani Tenuta Novare Valpolicella Ripasso 2014Quinta De Cabriz Colheita Selecionada 2015Castell d'Agly Maury Sec 2015Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016Malivoire Wine Ladybug Rosé 2017

As for whites, I was pleasantly surprised by the 2016 Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Mission Hill. Balanced, fresh, with good presence on the palate and none of the screaming aromas the variety can sometimes show. A really lovely pick from British Columbia.

Another solid Canadian pick – on the Ontario side, this time – is the 2017 Ladybug Rosé from Malivoire, a truly tasty rosé with pretty crunchy fruit and a pleasantly mouth-filling character. I particularly enjoyed it as a refreshing and versatile pizza wine.

Nadia’s selections

Every year as I taste through Italy for my annual Guide du Vin, I seemingly arrive at the same conclusion: the incredible diversity and the number of excellent wines. Between the northern mountainous regions and the more arid and hot southern regions, passing through the Apennins in the centre of the country, there are so many different micro-climates and grape varieties that one shouldn’t be surprised by the diversity. Here are a few of my recent favourites under $20.

In the mountains that border Austria, the Lageder family has been practicing organic and bio-dynamic agriculture and excel at producing white wines of focus and precision. Their Pinot bianco 2017 is a great example of this purity of expression with its aromas of apple and white pepper, finishing a subtle bitterness.

The Soave Classico 2017, Otto from the Prà family is a great example of a wine that places fruit behind the terroir with its texture and mineral expression. If I had tasted this blind, I would have placed it in Chablis, despite what struck me as a relatively weak acidity. Excellent for the price.

Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2017Prà Otto Soave Classico 2017Poderi Colla Pian Balbo Dolcetto d'Alba 2016San Valentino Scabi Sangiovese Superiore 2016Berretta Maremma Toscana 2016

At $18, the Dolcetto d’Alba 2016, Pian Balbo from Poderi Colla offers up guaranteed pleasure for any fan of Italian wine. Quite light on first regards with its aromas of field fruit and juicy attack. But on the finish, the tannins firm up and tighten up the wine nicely. To get the most out of this wine, serve slightly chilled with charcuteriue or a pasta with confit tomatoes.

Every year, I am taken aback by the intensity and tannic quality of the Scabi Sangiovese Superiore from San Valentino, which beautifully frame the juicy fruit. At under $20, it is as good as many wines of the same ilk sold twice as expensive.

Produced in the village of Cinigiano, halfway between Grosseto et Montalcino, the Maremma Toscana 2016 from Berretta offers up an interpretation of sangiovese and cabernet that is fresh and almost nervous due to its freshness.  A touch reticent on opening, the wine as it opens offers up a palate of complexity and exceptional length that is surprising for the price.


The complete list: 20 under $20

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Stags' Leap Winery Chardonnay 2016