We can’t all buy 20$ + wines on a regular basis. Especially if you are like me, and enjoy a glass of wine most evenings. Fortunately, it is possible to find good, affordable wine that drinks well above its modest price tag.
At a recent tasting, I was impressed to see the pride with which a producer of mainly premium wines presented his sub-15$, entry-level wine. This was his introductory wine – as much of a flagship for the estate as his icon wine.
Not so long ago, wineries producing both every day wines and fine wine would take great pains to disassociate the two. The cheaper wines were sold under separate brand names. If the estate name was given, it was buried in the legal mentions on the back label.
While this practice still exists, it seems that an increasing number of vintners are reclaiming their “little wines”. Producing a good, affordable wine has become a point of honour, and a testament to the winemaker’s skill.
With sufficient expertise, and the right equipment, it is comparably easy to make high quality wine from a superior vineyard plot of optimally ripened grapes. However low priced wines are generally made from young vines and/ or high yielding vineyard sites. The grapes aren’t always in pristine condition and haven’t necessarily reached ideal ripeness levels. Their flavours are simpler, and more dilute.
Any number of winemaking tricks can be deployed in an attempt to hide the inadequacies of inferior grapes, but – much like the adage of putting lipstick on a pig – the resultant wines are often disappointing. The flavours and structural elements (acidity, tannins, body, etc.) seem disjointed.
To me, the definition of a good, affordable wine is one that tastes balanced. It likely isn’t a marvel of complexity or concentration, but it appears harmonious on the palate.
As fine wine prices continue to source (see recent article), many wine lovers are obliged to trade down and estates are increasingly being judged on their lower tier offerings. Producing a good, affordable wine is therefore the gateway to trial, to consumer loyalty, and hopefully, to instilling the confidence necessary for an occasional splurge on the estate’s fine wines.
The past couple of months have brought a handful of these little beauties my way. Top picks include:
Lykos Winery “Pop Art” White 2017, IGP Peloponnese (Greece)
Bright lemon, green apple, flinty aromas on the nose give way to a crisp, light-bodied, dry palate, with subtle nutty flavours, and a clean, refreshing finish.
Where to Buy: SAQ (15.80$)
Kir-Yianni Paranga Roditis Malagousia 2018, IGP Macedonia (Greece)
Discreet nose featuring lemon, pear, and wild herbs. Fresh and light-bodied, with a bright citrus-driven mid-palate, and dry, herbal finish.
Where to Buy: SAQ (13.90$)
Aranleon Blés Valencia Crianza 2017, DO Valencia (Spain)
This vibrant, organic red is a blend of Montastrell (aka Mourvèdre), Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe, brambly red and black berry notes feature on the nose and palate. Light and silky with soft tannins.
Where to Buy: SAQ (14.55$)
The Wolftrap Syrah, Mourvèdre, Viognier 2017, Western Cape (South Africa)
Attractive aromas of baked red cherry, with underlying floral, spiced nuances. Smooth and easy drinking on on the medium weight palate, with soft tannins, and a pleasantly warming finish.
Where to Buy: SAQ (14$), LCBO (14.95$)
Bacalhoa “Catarina Tinto” 2015, Setúbal Peninsula (Portugal)
Made from the native Castelão grape (aka Periquita) blended with Alicante Bouschet. Deep, brooding ruby colour, with matching intensity of ultra-ripe dark plum and black cherry aromas. Rich, full-bodied, and velvetty smooth on the palate, with hints of dark chocolate and vanilla spice on the finish.
Where to Buy: SAQ (14.55$)
Rocca delle Macie “Sasyr” 2015, IGT Toscana (Italy)
Sangiovese is blended with Syrah on this rich, spicy Tuscan red. The nose is redolent with baked red cherries and black pepper. The palate boasts fresh acidity that underscores the ripe fruit flavours nicely. Subtly chalky tannins provide fine structure for this good value every day red.
Where to buy: SAQ (15.80$)