20 under $20 – October 2018

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

New trade agreement, new provincial government and of course, a new captain for the Habs. Lots of change. How will all this not-fake-news shake out? Take a few moments, make your choice among our suggestions below, go to your nearest SAQ near you and ponder it all … with a good glass of wine.

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

Bill’s selections

I’m celebrating the beginning of both oyster and the hockey season. Well, I look for to any reason to drink bubbles and the Cava, Sumarroca Brut Nature offers everything I could ask for in an under $20 bubbly. Finesse and elegance, with a focused and dry finish. So easy to drink, it’s the consummate aperitif bubbly.

I like pasta. I like seafood. I like mixing them together. As I only use olive oil and garlic as a sauce, I want a white that shows both texture and minerality and the 2017 Vermentino di Sardegna from Argiolas does just that, and exceptionally well. It’s 10 cents over the $20 limit but exceptional quality for the price.

Sumarroca Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava 2013Argiolas Merì Vermentino di Sardegna 2017Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2015Tradition Familiale George Vigouroux Malbec 2016Canet Valette Antonyme 2017

While I am both breaking rules and talking pasta – if you are cooking up any tomato sauce, be it with meat or without, you want a high acid and earthy red to drink. That pretty well defines Italian red, so try the Rosso di Montalcino 2015 from Caparzo. Again, a hair over $20, but the pairing is so good you won’t even remember that extra 55 cents. I’ll finish with two reds that show a little more torque. For under $15, the 2106 Malbec from Georges Vigouroux offers up both the violets and meat one would expect from this superb grape grown in France’s southwest. For you fans of mourvedre, the 2017 Saint-Chinian from Canet Valette will satisfy with its mix of earth and fruit notes. Organic to boot!

Marc suggests…

Domaine Perraud Mâcon-Villages 2016 – Here’s a well-done Mâcon blanc with accents of fruit alongside notes of tobacco and lightly grilled almond. It has acidity, good energy, very little oak influence and with a good persistent finish.

Illuminati Riparosso 2016 – At only $13.50, a red Italian with decent power, full of spice, and with a hint of carbon dioxide that refreshes. Bring on the sausages!

Domaine Perraud Mâcon Villages 2016Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2016The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2017Vinologist Syrah Wine of Swartland 2017Nederburg Heritage Heroes Anchorman Wooded Chenin Blanc 2017

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2017 – Always so reliable despite the it being so inexpensive. A South African blend of syrah, mourvedre and viognier with lots of power, spice and lightly oaked.

Vinologist Syrah Swartland 2017 – Along with the Wolftrap blend, another excellent wine made by South Africa’s Boekenhoutskloof. Very good quality for the price for a richly textured syrah.

Heritage Heroes Anchorman Wooded Chenin Blanc 2017 – An oaked South-African chenin blanc, and better for it as it adds an extra dimension to the wine without pushing it out of balance. Without any real residual sugar, it still manages to be both textured and fresh.

Rémy’s Recommendations

My monthly selection is entirely headed to the southern hemisphere, this month. Maybe it’s because spring is slowly turning into summer, over there? Whatever the case may be, my wine of the month is without a doubt the 2017 Itata from Clos des Fous, a blend of mostly cinsault and païs that is just singing with seductive red fruit and backed by a gently rustic character. On the white side of things, I was happy to get a taste of the new vintage of Arboleda’s Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay. The 2017 is fresh, balanced and generous. Two lovely Chilean bottles that are well worth their price.

Clos Des Fous Itata 2017Arboleda Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2017Plaisir de Merle Petit Plaisir 2017De Wetshof Limestone Hill Unwooded Chardonnay 2017Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

A recent tasting of about three dozen South-African wines also led to some fun discoveries – and showed once again that in this price range, the country offers a wide range of really solid wines. The 2017 Petit Plaisir was a new one for me, and I loved its citrusy and mineral notes and original blend of grapes (there’s even some albariño, in there). I also liked the unoaked De Westhof Limestone Hill chardonnay, with its generous citrusy notes and great amplitude on the palate. And on the red side of things, I keep being impressed by the quality-price ratio of the Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon, a neat and simple expression of this ubiquitous grape variety, for just above 10$.

(By the way, I would have swung by Italy, too, but my friend and colleague Marc “stole” the Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano from me. Good for him – and you.)

Nadia’s selections

As Autumn arrives, I find myself wanting richer foods, like meats braised for hours in the oven. And with that, I need reds that are richly textured. The regions that come to mind when I want wines that show both warmth and power are the south of France, and more specifically, the Rhône valley.

It had been years since I tasted the wines of Jean-Marc Amez-Droz’s Château Signac. His cuvee, Combe D’Enfer, is in top form in 2015. Lots of “oomph” in this wine, with layers of fruit, florals and spice, but without losing freshness. The perfect accompaniment to a lamb and prune tajine.

Château Signac Combe D'enfer Cuvée Côtes Du Rhône Villages Chusclan 2015Château Mourgues du Grès Galets Rouges 2016Château Sainte Eulalie Plaisir d'Eulalie 2016Poderi dal Nespoli Prugneto Sangiovese di Romagna 2016Dogheria Pinot Bianco Rubicone 2017

Equally gourmande, and still young and full of energy, Les Galets Rouges 2016 from Château Mourgues du Grès is a blend with syrah making up 60 %, which is atypical for the Costières de Nîmes. It’s bursting with field fruits and with a solid tannic grain that brings a certain finesse. Organic as well!

Further south in the Minervois, the Plaisir d’Eulalie 2016 from Château Sainte-Eulalie is a model of a French southern red: power, texture, full of dark fruits, with a structure of the carignan grape that makes it the ideal choice for a beef bouili.

Like Bill, I also look to Italy when the aromas of a great tomato sauce fill my house. When it comes to finding a wine that will pair with a classic Bolognaise, Nespoli’s Sangiovese Superiore 2016, Prugneto fits the bill (or the Nadia in this case). A riper expression of sangiovese, typical of wines from Emilia-Romagna, it still maintains that twitchy acidity one associates with the grape. Finally, when the pasta is made with clams, I’ll open a bottle of the Pinot bianco 2017 Dogheria from the same domain. Fleshy and aromatic, the texture is almost tannic. At under $15, you would be hard-pressed to find a better bargain.



The complete list: 20 under $20

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Run Riot Pinot Noir 2015