Winter is officially over. Rejoice! Before you'll know it, you'll get flooded with BBQ invites, late-night munchies and other festive social gatherings. Your parents raised you well, so you'll probably bring something to each of those invitations. And that something will most likely be a bottle of wine. But the increased number of required gifted bottles may put a strain on your wallet. Don't worry, I've got you. Here's is a list of excellent wines for under $20. Wonderful in a glass and light on the credit card, these gems are sure to make you the best sought after the guest of the summer season. Are you ready? Grab this article and run to your closest LCBO. To make sure there are no confusions, I've even put down for your the LCBO code number for fast identification. You are very welcome.
BBQs are all about meat (obvi)! But what if you're grilling fish or other seafood? Don't despair, reds aren't just meant for meat!
Luigi Bosca Malbec
Let's start with this delicious Malbec from Argentina. Unlike their French counterparts, Argentinian Malbecs are more fruit-forward, with almost a velvety feel in the mouth. Their tannins* are a bit softer, which makes them really lovely to drink with a leaner cut of meat. Either it is a nice burger or a few lamb chops; use one hand to grill your meats and free the other to hold the wine! * What's a tannin? It's the taste that comes from a grape's skins and seeds. Remember the feeling of chewing on an old bag of black tea? How pasty your mouth felt afterwards? Yup, that's the feeling of tannins.
Montes Alpha Syrah 2015
Craving a fat dripping-slow-cooked-bbq-pork-shoulder? You'll also crave this Syrah, deemed one of the best from the Chilean Colchagua Valley. On the bolder end of the Syrah spectrum (the variety goes from light and tasting a little more tart, to bolder bodies with in-your-face characters), this wine was given a score of 90+ by James Suckling. If the name doesn't ring a bell, know that Mr. Suckling is the Anna Wintour of wine (and a cigar!). His seal of approval is somewhat the equivalent of getting the front page of Vogue magazine. But back to the wine: Montes is known for creating some of the finest Chilean bottles, which obviously come at a much higher price. This Alpha Syrah is a great entryway to their wine world without burning all your bills.
Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques 2017
Don't give me that frowning look. Whatever you heard about Beaujolais is wrong. Easy to drink and even faster to produce; Beaujolais started as a vineyard worker's favourite to mark the end of harvest. Yet that doesn't mean that these wines are of any lesser quality nor that they haven't evolved since the 50s.Beaujolais are a bit higher in acidity and lower in tannins; which means they can chameleon their way into any type of BBQ party.This specific bottle will taste a bit spicy with touches of licorice, grey pepper and rose flower. So again, equally perfect with a low-fat-grilled-white-fish, or smokey beef brisket.This bottle was recommended to us by Chris Faubert, from Halpern from @halpernwine.
Château Ksara Réserve du Couvent 2015
How about trying something different? You are special, and it's time you let it shine through your choice of bottles. Next time you're at the LCBO, pick a Lebanese wine from the shelves. These bad boys are incredibly underrated and are a great conversation starter.For instance, this Cabernet Sauvignon blend is full-bodied, strong in tannins, and will simply be amazing with your red meats. Ksara is Lebanon's oldest wine producer still operational. Maybe if you play it well, this little tasting could inspire a future sightseeing trip to see the supply in real.
As we're contemplating maybes: maybe you're trying to cut down on meat, or maybe your friends simply don't own a BBQ. In which case, picnics are more likely to play a bigger part in your life.
Here are two delicious options that are easy to carry and open. Yup, both bottles are twist caps and will help you avoid the daunting "oh Mother Theresa, I forgot the wine opener".
Balthasar Ress Von Unserm Rheingau Trocken Riesling 2015
Taller and slender, have you ever wonder why Riesling wines look so elegant? According to the internet, Riesling uses to be transported by water on smaller ships. Their stretched physique allowed for more of them to be stacked at once. Also, they could afford to be a bit more delicate since they seldom travelled beyond the Rhine River - and I can understand why! Who wouldn't hold on to a boat full of Riesling?Especially when they taste like this babe from the Rheingau region. This bottle was suggested by Christian from @agencecalibre. In his words, this wine has "great minerality, very light petroleum nose that is, somehow very pleasant, a sign of quality Riesling." I'm a real sucker for a good beurré wine (translation: butter) and highly suggest you pop open a bottle with your next platter of cocktail shrimps (or salad, whatever your picnic party fancies).
Thierry Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2017
You'd be a fool to leave this bottle on the shelf. It's under $15, yet won a gold medal at the Concours de Vins Macon, one of France most established wine competition (and God knows how much the French are fussy about their wines).In the "entry level" categorization of wines produced in the French Rhône Valley, this Domaine Autrand is a terrific, easy-drinking, bottle that will please all. You'll taste bits of spices and an earthy finish, which will come together nicely combined to a selection of Mediterranean mezze.
Sneaky office cabinets
For most of us, summer will mean brighter office space, but not necessarily an absence of office time. To lighten up those hump days, I have a couple of suggestions for your secret office cabinet.
Marcel Cabelier Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay 2014
Everybody loooooveess Chardonnay, which almost makes it sound like the most basic option one could go for. Well, no.
This bottle is complex and refreshing. With a nutty nose, hints of caramel, and touches of citrus; it sounds serious, but is actually a lot of fun, just like how you'd want a work environment to be.
Mas des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2017
Yes way, Rosé!
I'm pretty sure this was a saying before an IG account coined the term (smart ladies). Regardless, Rosé is always a good option to keep at arm's length for those rainy office days.
Try this excellent easy rose with plenty of fruit flavour. Half of it is made of Grenache, which could explain its strawberry notes. Some online critics recommend to pair it with a rich platter of seafood or scrumptious paella.
I say, call Patrick next door and pour you two a glass when wine o'clock calls.
Say Patrick and you really hit it off over that Rosé. You had so much fun that even Samantha had to drag her chair from across the hall to join the fun. This is how the office wine club was born and every week, one of you agreed to host in rotation happy hour. What do you bring?
Primus Carmenère 2017
You don't want to be drinking crappy wine all summer, so make sure to set the bar high right off the bat.
This wine was recommended by Carolyn Thorpe from Rogers & Company. She says, "this Primus Carmenère is sophisticated enough to be a suitable gift for SO's parents", so it's definitely good enough for your colleagues.
I mean just the name. Have you ever heard of a Carmenère? It's a French variety that got imported to Chile, where it is mostly grown now. Strong on red berry aromas, it was a texture similar to that of a Merlot which makes it easy to adopt.
This specific Carmenère brings out the plums and cherries of this world, with a hint of spice.
Domaine Autrand Côtes du Rhône 2016
You'd be a fool to leave this bottle on the shelf. It's under $15, yet won a gold medal at the Concours de Vins Macon, one of France most established wine competition (and God knows how much the French are fussy about their wines).
In the "entry level" categorization of wines produced in the French Rhône Valley, this Domaine Autrand is a terrific, easy-drinking, bottle that will please all. You'll taste bits of spices and an earthy finish, which will come together nicely combined to a selection of Mediterranean mezze.
Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant d'Alsace
Since it all started with a Rosé, what better way to go full circle than with a... Bubbly Rosé!
OK, but what's a Crémant? It's a sparkling wine made with the same technique used to produce Champagne, but outside of the Champagne region. So technically, you're drinking Champagne, with another name, from a different place.
Back to the Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé. It'll make you feel fabulous not only because of its affordability, but it's exceptional taste. Coated in a beautiful light salmon pink colour, this bubble has just a tiny bit of acidity and bright strawberries notes (I know. Seems like I see strawberries everywhere. But I'm not the only one. The internet concurs with me.)
Quiet Nights In
You've been quite the perfect social butterfly. Now, time to reward yourself with some quality time with your favourite self and newly-found favourite bottles.
Chenin Blanc Jardin Inspector Peringuey 2016
In the past years, South Africa has turned into a Chenin Blanc powerhouse, yet kept its prices rather competitive. So do look their way for a great value.
This bottle from the Jordan Wines Estate got multiple accolades from the online experts. Including Françoise from Abconwine.com who recommended it to us. You're looking here at a pear and pineapple experience that would pair up fantastically with an Asian takeaway. Order a kung pao chicken or a Yuxiang shredded pork, and watch the wine do its magic with your sweet and sour dinner.
This Chardonnay would be a great follow up a bottle if you enjoy the vibrancy of tropical fruits. However, expect a more creamy texture than the previous one. With hints of buttercream and caramel, you're looking here at a sunset-patio type of wine glass. Put on some Nina Simone (or Ariana Grande, whatever your jam is) and just let it soak in.
La Vieille Ferme Luberon White
You know the saying: if it's a front shelf and so cheap, something's fishy about it. Wrong. Whoever is in charge of selling this wine in Canada just knows how to do excellent product placement, for a product of excellent value.
I first picked up this La Vieille Ferme when I was a starving student and years later, still grab it on my way home from work. The juice is made of a funky blend: Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino. Try pronouncing them after two full glasses: lots of fun guaranteed.
Do they taste notes of bananas? Nuts? Fresh herbs? Throw in the mix a plate of creamy mushroom fettuccine and the pairing will convert the skeptics.
Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne
Last but not least, this Crémant from Burgundy is a real showstopper. It's so delicious, I know you won't want to share it.
This bottle gives the feels to even the most serious wine snobs. Proofs? Beppi Crosariol, from the Globe and Mail, compared the wine subtle sweetness to the comforting feeling of eating a McDonald's apple pie.
I won't say more about this gem and will simply let you figure out for yourself.
And that's a wrap! Is your favourite bottle missing? Did one of the listings above blow your mind? Let me know your feels and vibes @mtlfoodsnob. On this, I wish you a fantastic patio season and remember to drink responsibly.