The Knowledgeable Wino: Six holiday wines under $20

Need a good bottle of wine for a Christmas dinner, or perhaps just a way to unwind during the hectic holidays? The Knowledgeable Wino has six suggestions for deliciously affordable wines. Get thee to an SAQ!

Photo by Giancarlo Rivera

Like it or not, holiday gatherings and hibernation-mode meals are coming your way. For the wine to your dine, here a few cozy old-world styles to help you shimmy through the winter months. Each one is world class, special in its own way and can usually be picked up for under $20.

Valpolicella Ripasso
A newcomer to the international wine market, this succulent red hails from the Veneto region in northern Italy. Lying somewhere between robust big brother amarone and easy-sipper little brother Valpolicella, ripasso has velvety-smooth character and pleasing fruit flavours. Most bottles hover around the $20 mark, and anything in the teens is a bargain. Recommended: 2010 Folonari (SAQ code: 10669189, $19.10). Pair with any Italian pasta, pizza or meat dish.

Rioja Reserva
This powerhouse region in Spain produces Tempranillo-rich reds based on aging time and how long they’ve sat in oak barrels. Crianzas sit for a short time and are sold at a young age, while gran reservas spend the most time in the barrel and are usually the oldest and most expensive on the shelf. The reservas are a great choice, as they are aged long enough to develop sophisticated aromas of herbs, spices and berries and won’t empty your wallet. Recommended: 2007 Ijalba (SAQ code: 00478743, $19.55). Pair with your holiday ham or tourtière.

A small freckle on the southern French wine-producing monster Languedoc-Roussillon, Minervois has recently earned its own official appellation status. The splendid reds are based on the Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache grapes. They are usually stacked with alluring fruity and floral aromas and meant to be consumed within a few years of production. A great alternative to Bordeaux or Rhône reds, it’s not uncommon to find most on the shelf at under $20. Recommended: 2007 Château Tour Boisée Marie-Claude (SAQ code: 00395012, $19.90). Pair with gamey meat dishes, stews and soft cheese.

You’ve probably heard of Burgundy, France’s famous pinot noir mecca, or perhaps even Beaujolais, which is just south of it. Morgon is one of the 10 sub-appellations of Beaujolais, whose accessible reds, produced mainly from the Gamay grape, are lively, fruity and smooth and intended for young consumption. Recommended: 2010 Les Charmes Joseph Faiveley (SAQ code: 00969220, $19). Pair with your holiday roast turkey or pan-roasted fish. Can be served slightly chilled.

White Rhône
Often in the shadows of their red counterparts, the whites of the Rhône valley are usually yummy blends based on aromatic grapes such as Viognier and Roussanne. They are tongue-huggers that have a fair amount of body as well as deep fruity and floral flavours that will thrill your taste buds. Recommended: 2011 Guigal (SAQ code: 00290296, $18.25). Pair with baked fish or seafood dishes. Serve chilled.

Not Connie Chung’s husband, this port-like Grenache-based vin doux naturel hails from a land where southern France meets up with Spain and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s chock-full of black fruit, raisin and spice flavours and fortified, so expect some punch. Recommended: 2009 Mas Amiel Vintage (SAQ code: 00733808, $19.65 for 375 mL). Pair with your bûche de Noël or any chocolate dessert. Serve slightly chilled in small glasses.

Mayan wha? Santé! 

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