20 Under $20 in BC : September 2016

Favourites to Kick off Fall

Fall is here, and in with the early evening chill in the west we were welcoming warming reds. We were all blown away by the quality of the new release Castaño wines we’ve tried over the past few weeks; Anthony and I would have both included them in our selections, just as Rhys and DJ have done, until I capped them. No worries – our notes for their wines will be posted shortly and we will certainly mention again in future. It just proves that no matter personal palates, great wines always shine through.

~ TR 

BC Critic Team

You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below

Anthony Gismondi

It doesn’t take much for summer to disappear in British Columbia. The shorter days and cooler nights quickly bring us back to richer wines that can take the chill off an evening. I’m remaining concerned about the under $20 category in BC, where many of the red labels dominating retail shelves are blends with no pedigree and many come with too much residual sugar. From a dwindling list here are some ‘honest’ favourites to kick off fall from Spain, Argentina and the south of France.

Lujuria 2015 from Yecla, Spain is an amazing buy at $9 because it is simple, authentic and honest, no easy claim in today’s modern wine business.

For those who prefer their grapes certified organic the Jean Bousquet 2013 Malbec is a typical representation of the Mendoza style, with its cherry jam, poultry spice, licorice flavours. A perfect fall barbecue red.

Lujuria 2015 Jean Bousquet 2013 Malbec Chateau de Caraguilhes 2013 Tinhorn Creek 2014 Merlot Feudo Maccari 2013 Nero d'Avola

Another amazingly consistent red that is certified organically grown is the Chateau de Caraguilhes 2013, from Corbières, France. Grilled chicken or beef are the match, or a simple piece of farmhouse cheese.

You can feel the vintage and Southern Okanagan heat in the Tinhorn Creek 2014 Merlot from the start to the finish. Coffee and smoky toasted oak mark the nose, with plenty of ripe black cherry fruit. Ready to drink, especially with barbecued ribs or burgers.

From 12 to 34-year-old bush vines growing a little more than a kilometre from the sea, Feudo Maccari 2013 Nero d’Avola speaks to the savoury, meaty cherry-flavoured reds of southern Italy. (The 2014 is also on some shelves)

Rhys Pender MW 

It is not often I select two wines from the same producer but the Castaño family is really all about great value and that is what this wine guide is all about too. Castaño is based in the underrated Yecla region of eastern Spain where there are old Monastrell vines that produce serious, generous and intense wines. Few regions produce such good value and no producer does it as well as Castaño. These wines are a great bridge from the richness of the new world to the savoury notes of the old. Try both the Old Vines Monastrell 2015 and the slightly more expensive but still great value Hécula Monastrell 2014. Both are perfect with some meat charred over charcoal.

Another superb value European red is the Pedra Cancela 2014 Seleção do Enólogo. From Portugal’s Dão, this is a great savoury and meaty top value red.

Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2015 Castano Hécula Monastrell 2014 Pedra Cancela 2014 Seleção do Enólogo Domaine de la Pépiére 2014 Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie CedarCreek Riesling

I can never get enough of crisp, mineral and juicy driven whites: so refreshing, such good value, so good with food. One of the best is the Domaine de la Pépiére 2014 Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie. Ok, it may be 50 cents over the budget of $20 but we definitely saved that on the Castaño wines!

Another great value white, this time from BC, is the CedarCreek Riesling. The 2014 vintage is done in the off-dry style but has plenty of intensity and racy acid to balance. Great with pork sausages.

DJ Kearney

Labour Day is well named, especially when you are buying wine in British Columbia where we have the highest liquor prices pretty much anywhere on the planet. You cannot help thinking of your hard work, laboring away to earn a buck. It makes us very price conscious shoppers in B.C., and here are some of my stalwart best buy wines.

Try the Corazon de Leon 2015 from Rueda with some young goat’s cheese – its tangy green sauvignon-blanc-like flavours will pair nicely.

Off-the-radar regions like Cotes de Gascogne are prime for bargain-hunting, and if you have not fallen for Vignobles Fontan 2014 Domaine de Grachies Blanc, you have a treat in store.

Corazon de Leon 2015Vignobles Fontan 2014 Domaine de Grachies BlancWente 2015 Morning Fog Castaño 2014 Hecula Monastrell Kaiken 2014 Malbec

The Wente family is deeply embedded in the history of California, and the 2015 Morning Fog is a perennial solid gold best buy. Have with simple baked chicken and garlic mashies for weekday dinner.

Finally, two reds will also suit up nicely for weekday meals: full-flavoured Bodegas Castaño 2014 Hecula Monastrell for pot roast, and the smart new label-clad Kaiken 2014 Malbec with a spicy quesadilla. Your labours will be richly and smartly rewarded.

Treve Ring 

From Spain’s DO La Mancha, Lacruz 2012 Vega Terroir’s tempranillo, syrah and cabernet sauvignon is a full-bodied red, redolent with sunbaked black fruits, liquorice, pipe tobacco and sweet spice, and built on six months in American and French oak. Some interesting detailing here, and worth adding into your mid-week rotation, especially with grilled sausages.

Famille Perrin is a consistent name on our market, and the charmingly rustic 2013 Rasteau L’Andéol is an autumnal (and bistro) classic. Meaty and flirting with wildness, garrigue and white pepper filters through the fleshy palate, with dark cocoa dusted tannins welcoming steak frites.

Another killer value red, and familiar name, is Fontanafredda 2014 Briccotondo Barbera, from Piemonte. This barbera, from the hillsides of Langhe and Monferrato, brings black cherry, anise, worked leather and black raspberry across a fleshy, cured meats and oak framed medium body. An approachable and interesting red for drinking now, especially with wild mushroom risotto or boar pappardelle.

Lacruz 2012 Vega Terroir 2013 Rasteau L'Andéol Fontanafredda 2014 Briccotondo Barbera Terravista Vineyards 2015 Viognier Quevedo Tawny Port

Of course, you can continue to do white far past Labour Day, and Terravista Vineyards 2015 Viognier is one I’ll happily drink year-round, and the best viognier I’ve tasted from Canada. Naramata meets Condrieu, with rich, confident form throughout its expansive, creamy palate. A swell of juicy acidity aptly handles the weight, while a riff of bitter pit counters the sun-ripe sweetness. Amazing value.

A suberb way to warm in autumn evenings is with a glass of tawny. Quevedo Tawny Port, a single quinta port, carries roasted almonds, nougat, figs, orange peel and light fruitcake through a soft mouthfeel. Pour with crème caramel.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign 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