FOOD AND DRINK
Bottle Shop: Great Wines Under $20 for Cheapskate January
Ho ho no … you're broke. Not to worry, these affordable wines are terrific buys
The expression “You get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply to wine. Just as some coveted labels can’t possibly live up to their insane price tags, there are a number of big-value bottles that work hard for your money. Here are five gems under $20 (prices are from Ontario, and links lead to LCBO product listing).
MAN Free-run Steen Chenin Blanc 2015
The grape Chenin Blanc originated in France’s Loire Valley, where it stars in Vouvray wines. It has found a new spiritual home in South Africa, where it’s most widely planted grape varietal. This terrific example from the Agter-Paarl region is completely unoaked and was aged on its lees (sediment) for three months. Starting off with aromas of citrus and melon, it delivers intense flavours and uncommon complexity for 14 bucks. Pair this lip-smacking, high-acid white with sushi, fish and chips, or fettuccini alfredo.
Gérard Talmard Mâcon-Uchizy 2015
A bargain from Burgundy, you say? I’ll take a case! In a region rapidly catering to the 1%, Mâcon still produces affordable Chardonnays for the weekday dinner table. This bottle from Gérard Talmard is fruity and fleshy with ripe pear flavours and a touch of bitterness on the finish. It tastes more New World than Old, but in a good way. Open with a roasted carrot salad or pork chops with sautéed apples.
Château du Chatelard Les Chalandières Beaujolais 2014
For those of you new to Beaujolais, it’s a region just west of Lyon that produces light-bodied reds made from the Gamay Noir grape. An affordable introduction to Beauj, this bottle begins charming you with aromas of strawberry gum and freshly milled pepper. It’s light and zesty with red berry flavours and vibrant acidity. Refrigerate for an hour before opening with a mushroom salad, baked trout, or takeout burgers.
Rio Madre Graciano 2014
In Spain’s Rioja region, Graciano usually plays a supporting role in blends with the workhorse Tempranillo grape. At Bodegas y Viñedos Ilurce, wine magnate Jorge Ordoñez shows that Graciano can be a force on its own. A quick swirl unleashes scents of raspberries, prunes and cigar box; the first sip delivers a juicy, medium-bodied red with a spicy finish. It’s a touch gritty, so let it breathe for an hour or two, then serve with roast chicken or braised lamb shanks.
PIattelli Premium Reserve Malbec 2013
Fruity, dependable and inexpensive, Malbec is the 21st century’s Merlot. But like any popular wine, it can be a bit of a snooze-fest. This bottle is an exciting find bobbing in the sea of banal blackberry juice. The Argentine red still delivers the patented dark berry flavours, but there is an earthy, savoury quality to it that’s as Italian as its name. Try with saucy pork ribs or seared and sliced flank steak.