20 under $20 – April 2018

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

It’s hard not to talk about the weather when Ma’ nature is playing yo-yo with us. Add to that the Habs not making the playoffs and what do we have to look forward to in the coming month? Well remember that Spring is all about hope, and if that is too much of a stretch, there’s always doing a li’l sofa time with a great bottle of wine. Here are 20 options for you, and your wallet, to relax with in our monthly 20 under $20 newsletter.

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

Bill Zacharkiw’s selections

I just returned from a short stint in Sicily. It’s an exceptional place and I left with not only a list of great wines, but a number of tasty bargain wines as well.

While many associate Sicily with red wine, and specifically the nero d’avola grape, there are more white vines than red. The grapes are hardly household names, but they run the gamut of styles. If you want a wine that shows good minerality and focus, then the Cusumano 2016 Angimbe, a blend of  insolia and chardonnay, will do the job for just over $13. And while this wine is mentioned often in these pages, the latest vintage of Donnafugata’s Anthilia Bianco is a blend of indigenous white grapes that is one of the easiest drinking whites on the market.

Cusumano Angimbé Insolia Chardonnay 2016Donnafugata Anthìlia Bianco 2017Planeta La Segretta Rosso 2015Firriato Nari Nero D'avola Petit Verdot 2016Di Giovanna Vurria Nerello Mascalese 2015

For reds, there is so much choice under $20 that it’s hard to pick just three wines. Let’s start with nero d’avola, and Planeta’s Segreta Rosso. The 2015 shows great complexity, largely due to blending the nero with international grapes merlot and syrah. The result is a juicy, fruit driven wine that for the price, brings a lot to the table. I would be remiss not to mention one of the best bargain wines at the SAQ. Firriato’s Nari, a blend of nero and petit verdot, shows both power and class, and all for under $10. Got steak? This will do the job.

For a touch more refinement, at just under $20, the 2015 Vurria from Di Giovanna is a beautiful, more playful version of the nero mascalese grape. Organically grown, it is softer and fruitier than what you find from Mount Etna, but a great introduction to what is Sicily’s most exceptional red grape variety.

Rémy Charest’s Recommendations

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the first International Volcanic Wines Conference, organized in New York City by our WineAlign colleague and Master Sommelier John Szabo. It was a fascinating overview of a very peculiar and distinctive terroir that creates unique wines with a savory character and full of energy. Santorini, formed by a volcanic explosion 3,700 years ago, was featured prominently. Its organically-poor but mineral-rich soils, combined with solar heat and low precipitations, produce wines, mainly from the assyrtiko grape, that show great ripeness and concentration yet with a strong and refreshing acidity. The Atlantis by Argyros Estate is always a perfect introduction to this unique terroir, and the 2016 is particularly satisfying, even these days which are far from a Mediterranean climate.

Speaking of satisfying, what a pleasure to drink the 2016 Rioja Tempranillo from Bodegas Moraza. The youthful style is pleasantly fruit-forward, with great balance and drinkability. Their grenache, a bit above this column’s price range, is also very much worth checking out.

Argyros Atlantis 2016Bodegas Moraza Tempranillo Bio 2016A A Badenhorst The Drifter Cinsault 2017Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Rosé 2017Pelee Island Eco 2016

South Africa once again had a couple of hits on my tasting table this month, particularly Adi Badenhorst’s 2017 Drifter. It’s bigger than the previous vintage, but still well-balanced and highly drinkable, thanks to the fresh nature of its grape, cinsault. I also had fun with the rosé version of the Wolftrap, a cinsault, syrah and grenache blend that keeps in line with the remarkable quality-price ratio this brand has been showing for years.

Finally, for under 10$, the vidal-chardonnay Eco blend from Pelee Island Winery is a simple and fun white that shows well in its category. Its fruity yet fresh profile will be lovely on the patio, once spring finally shows up in full.

Marc Chapleau’s Mix

Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016 – Enticing aromas of cherry and bitter herbs alongside more barrel driven notes. In the mouth, good power, with refreshing acids, despite the 5 grams of residual sugar, and a solid tannic structure. At just under $20, a very good deal.

Yalumba The Strapper GSM 2016 – Very well done. A GSM blend (grenache, shiraz mourvèdre/mataro) from Australia, loaded with fruit without any oak to take away from the joy. Shows good power and ripeness, and while it gives the notion of sweetness, it is perfectly dry at 2 grams of residual sugar.

Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2016Yalumba The Strapper GSM 2016Château La Mothe Du Barry Bordeaux Supérieur 2016Terrazas Reserva Chardonnay 2016Bonpas Grande Réserve des Challières Côtes du Rhône 2016

Château La Mothe du Barry Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 – An organically grown red Bordeaux at a very reasonable price. Despite being 100% merlot, it doesn’t show any sweetness, rather has that classic merlot suppleness, fine tannins, and surprising freshness for its 14% alcohol.

Terrazas de Los Andes Chardonnay Reserva 2016 – An Argentine white wine with an attractive barrel-driven smokey note, dynamic fruit and a rich texture. A white with power at just under $20.

Réserve de Bonpas Côtes-du-Rhône 2016 – A great buy for under $14. A Côtes-du-Rhône that is full of fruit and spice, just enough edge and flesh. Typical grenache-syrah-mourvèdre with no oak. Alongside the equally well done Ventoux, a dynamic duo.

Nadia Fournier’s Selections

Springtime, for me, is a bit like the New Year. I want to start on the right foot, eating well, local etc. And why not drink local as well? This month, I’ve chosen three Quebec-made wines that are highly recommendable, and not just because they are made ‘chez-nous’.

To the surprise of some friends, I served, blind, the 2016 Versant Blanc from Coteau Rougemont, to which a few thought it was an albariño from Spain. I’ll admit that the texture and ripe peach fruit would not lead you to think that this was made less than an hour’s drive from Montreal. Of equal surprise was the price, under $15!

Staying in the Monteregie, the Domaine St-Jacques has been testing vinifera grape vines, but much of the winery is still planted with hybrids like lucy kuhlmann and maréchal foch, which together are the grapes behind the 2017 Rosé. A wine with a pale colour but that shows delicate aromatics of red field fruits and without any residual sugar. At $15.45, you may want to stock up with this wine for the summer.  

Versant Blanc Coteau Rougemont 2016Domaine St Jacques Rosé St Jacques 2017Le Rosé Gabrielle Vignoble Rivière du Chêne Vin Rosé 2017Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2016Castell d'Agly Maury Sec 2015

On the north shore, the Vignoble de la Rivière du Chêne also produces an equally delicate and dry rosé. Always recommendable, the 2017 Le Rosé de Gabrielle is a product of a blend of white and red grapes showing a complex tapestry of fruit, as well as an enticing floral note.

While not local, but equally fresh, the 2016 Pinot Bianco from Alois Lageder is soft on the attack but offers an excellent tension in the mouth with a finish that is both mineral and thirst-quenching. It’s a vacation in the Italian Dolomites for a bargain price.

To finish, a wine with more torque to accompany the first barbecues of the season: the Castell d’Agly 2015 Maury Sec from Domaine Cazes. Made with old vine grenache noir and carignan, this red from the Roussillon offers up a satiny texture, sun-drenched fruit that shows so much freshness you aren’t sure whether you are drinking wine or chomping into the grapes.

The complete list: 20 under $20

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