20 under $20 – February 2019

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

The polar Vortex may be getting you down but the days are getting longer. It might not seem like much consolation but its only a few weeks till March.  So wether you are full of hope or in need of a little solace, there’s no need to spend a fortune. Here’s our 20 under $20 for February.

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

Bill’s Selections

I won’t deny it, winter has me bummin’ a bit. However, when I do get a night in front of the fireplace, cozying up on the sofa with a good glass of vino, it helps. Here’s a few wines that will help us collectively get through February.

I have never been a big cabernet fan but the 2015 Powers cabernet sauvignon is impressive. Lots of power, an equal amount of finesse, and very juicy fruit. Killer with lamb chops!

In a similar vein, though a touch more rustic, is Casa Silva’s 2016 Carmenere. Better with beef than lamb due its darker fruit and richer texture, this is the perfect wine for a winter stew. Hearty food with a generous wine.

If you are one to just laze about with a glass of red, then Thymiopoulos’ 2017, Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro is perfect. Light and fresh, chock full of florals and red fruits, keep this at 15C and the bottle will be gone in no time.

But I would prefer to drink white, especially sitting around “sofa-ing.” If you want a great wine under $15, then the Meia Encosta 2017 Douro is a great little wine that is both interesting and drinks with ease. A blend of classic Portuguese varieties: malvasia fina, encruzado, bical, fernao pires. As it warms it gains texture,so feel free to leave it on the table.

Bubbles are fun, in both a bath and in your glass. Hey why not do both? My choice would be the Pink Cava from Pares Balta. Full of fruit, nicely dry on the finish, and organic to boot! For under $20, it will make any bubble time extra delicious.

Powers Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2016 Thymiopoulos Young Vines Xinomavro 2017 Meia Encosta Dão Blanc 2017 Parés Baltà Pink Cava

Marc’s Choices

Fontanafredda Raimonda Barbera D’alba 2016 – Excellent value for the money. This Piedmont red offers up classic Barbera nervosity but is actually quite generous in texture. Just a slight hint of residual sugar (2.6 g) that you barely notice. A true “comfort wine”, not complicated, very tasty [$15.85].

Espelt Saulo 2017 – A Spanish red hailing from Catalonia. Rich and silky, with impressive fruit, and slight pastry notes. Very grenache. Not unlike some Priorats though with less minerality and tension [$16.75].

Mouton Cadet Rouge 2016 – Impeccable in the 2016 vintage. This classic among the classics. It’s often snubbed due to its very wide distribution and, unfairly, referred  to as “industrial” wine, without soul, or without vice and without virtue. Not true. This 2016 is not big, far from it. There are generous oak notes but the freshness and balance carry the wine.  It is very Bordeaux and for under $16, a good buy [$16.35].

Jean Paul Brun L’ancien Beaujolais 2017 – Fleshier and with more spice than last vintage (2016), while showing the same irreproachable purity of fruit. A simple Beaujolais, perhaps, but thanks to the old vines and Burgundy-styled vinification it shows a silkier texture. Like always, it has good acidity despite the warm vintage [$20.25].

Château Mourgues Du Grès Les Galets Dorés 2017 – A delicious white from the south-western Rhône Valley, at the gates of Languedoc. Full-bodied, generous yet with the necessary acidity to maintain a certain freshness. A blend of roussanne (40%), grenache blanc (25%) and vermentino (25%) for the most part, with also a little marsanne and a hint (2%) of viognier [$19.00].

Fontanafredda Raimonda Barbera D'alba 2016 Espelt Saulo 2017 Mouton Cadet Rouge 2016 Jean Paul Brun L'ancien Beaujolais 2017  Château Mourgues Du Grès Les Galets Dorés 2017

Nadia Suggests

I’ve just returned from a working holiday in Chile. It’s a beautiful country and I’ll go into finer detail in a few weeks. In the meantime, here are five affordable recommendations to whet your appetite.

After spending a few years in studying the relationship between vineyards and soils, Pedro Parra returned home in 2003 and has gone on to become one of the leaders in the Chilean wine revolution. He’s a man of great character and conviction, which can be tasted in the Clos des Fous Itata 2017. Smoky accents and fine grainy tannins tickle the taste buds. A nice bottle to serve cool, around 15 °C [$17.95].

Part of this “revolution” is that even classic re-invent themselves. While Errazuriz’s Max Reserva 2016 [$18.65] has always been steady, it now shows greater freshness and less alcohol alongside classic black fruit flavors and the tannic structure of the varietal. That said, to better capture the freshness of that cold Pacific breeze, I recommend the Cabernet Aconcagua Alto 2016 [$20.65]; it’s more complete and more complex and well worth the extra $2. A great buy!

While I’m inching over the $20 limit, pay the extra 25¢ for the Chardonnay 2016, Marques de Casa Concha. The fruit comes from the Limari Valley and more precisely the Quebrada Seca, where the cool climate and calcium carbonate in the  soils give this white its vibrancy and its salty and thirst quenching finish [$20.25].

Finally, to keep the average price of my selections well under the $20 bar, the  Syrah 2017 Araucano from Bordelais François Lurton comes in under $10. Discrete aromatics but with good texture and a core of perfectly ripe fruit and fine tannins. Impeccable balance and a great wine considering the price [$9.75].

Clos Des Fous Itata 2017  Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Concha Y Toro Marqués De Casa Concha Chardonnay 2016 Hacienda Araucano Syrah Reserva 2017

Rémy’s Recommendations

This month, all my picks are on the red side of things. I wanted heartwarming, simple wines – and found plenty of nice and affordable ones.

My first pick is the Young Vines of Xinomavro by Thymiopoulos Estate, a wine that regularly makes me very happy. The 2017 is a bit broader and tannic than my recollection of previous vintages, so the usual freshness and bright red fruit is framed a little tighter than usual. It’s still as distinctive and delicious, otherwise.

The rest of my picks played with Rhône grapes like grenache, syrah, carignan and mourvèdre, in variable doses, for a pretty wide range of profiles.

Two of those wines are from the Southern Rhône. Chapoutier’s Belleruche 2017 has good energy, with a smoky note up front that gives it character, especially because there’s also generous fruit and a bit of dried herbs around it. The 2016 Terrasses from Château Pesquié takes another direction, with the generous, ripe fruit that you can expect from Ventoux wines, as well as a little spice, lots of fun and no heaviness.

Heading further to the southwest, in the Corbières appellation, the Château St. Jean de la Gineste 2016 has the crunch and pretty tannins drawn from a good dose of carignan. Fun and pretty fresh.

Finally, across the Spanish border, I was once again happy with the personality that the monastrell (mourvèdre) grape takes on in appellations like Jumilla : generous, ripe and heady, but with a structure that keeps everything together quite well. The 2017 Comoloco, an organic wine from the Jumilla appellation, has everything to keep you warm while waiting for spring to come back.

Thymiopoulos Young Vines Xinomavro 2017  M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes Du Rhône 2017 Château Pesquié Terrasses 2016 Domaine St Jean De La Gineste Corbières Carte Blanche 2016 Comoloco Organico 2017


The complete list: 20 under $20

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