(the not quite every) Weekly Wine Picks

Finally got my act together to come with a reds list as partner to the white picks I posted a while back. Once again the emphasis is on wines that over-deliver in the under $25 price category. Once again, my focus is on wines from the Old World – for no other reason other than this is where the most interesting, balanced, food friendly wines are produced. There are many wines I could have included that didn’t make this list so check out my earlier posts for some other suggestions. Anyhow, for brevity’s sake, here’s ten of the best:

DFJ Vinhos ‘Portada’ 2009, Portugal                                   $13-15

When I was at school in Brighton, learning about wine, I remember drinking buckets of this. Portada was one of our two fave student budget reds (the other was Spain’s Viña Albali) and I still reckon the brand more than holds its own (amazed that it doesn’t have a general listing!). Portada, from a blend of five indigenous grapes, offers up the kind of  smoky, resinous, herb-tinged, brambly flavours that makes Portuguese wine so interesting & distinctive. Hate to say BBQ red. But. BBQ red… (Selected Private Stores)

Cave Saint Désirat 2009  Syrah, France                             $14.99

I still cannot believe how this mid-weight,  Rhône Valley red manages to deliver such expressive, terroir driven fruit for the price. It’s made from Syrah grapes grown in the Ardèche region (which must surely be one of France’s best kept secrets) and shows all the savoury, peppery character that you’d expect from slightly grander, more expensive wines in the Rhône Valley proper. A classically styled red to go with classically styled roast meats. (BC Liquor Stores)

Illuminati ‘Riparosso’ 2009                                                    $16.99  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy

I am really loving the current trend in Italy for cleaner, more modern-styled red wines from indigenous grapes. Riparosso has been a mainstay of rustic Italian pizza reds in our market for many years now but this vintage has really stepped it up a gear. The 2009 is super-fleshy and has an extra depth to its ripe, velvety, plummy cherry fruit. Gluggable ‘n good! (BC Liquor Stores)

Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2009Parallèle 45′                               $17.99    Côtes du Rhône, France

I love the new eye-catching, modern label make-over that this iconic Côtes du Rhône brand has recently undergone. It also magically seems to represent a similar makeover for the liquid in the bottle (though I’m not entirely convinced that this is more than just stellar vintage at play). Whatever the reasoning, the 2009 Parallèle 45 is a perfectly pitched un-oaked blend of 60: 40 Grenache to Syrah and chock full of delicious spicy, fleshy fruit. Would effortlessly accompany everything on a plate of Mezze. (BC Liquor Stores)

Fontanafredda ‘Briccotondo’ 2010 Barbera, Italy            $17.99

Speaking of the quality revolution in Italian wine, here’s another great example made from the crisp and juicy Barbera grape.  Briccotondo is a modern fruit forward expression of the style but still manages to maintain authenticity – there can be no doubt to it’s Piemontese origins. In fact, I think Briccotondo is currently the best $20 Barbera in our market and it’s tangy, savoury red fruits are surprisingly concentrated & persistent. Anything involving tomatoes, salumi, cheese or veggies. (BC Liquor Stores)

JM da Fonseca 2008 Periquita Reserva, Portugal             $17.99

This is the big brother to the famous $10 Periquita label and for me, well worth the extra $8 on the tag. This might just be my second favourite wine on this list but I can be a bit of a sucker for a softer, oakier red if its done well (which this is). Periquita hails from the Setúbal Peninsula on the Atlantic coast just south of Lisbon, an up and coming region for quality wine. This one certainly has some richness and complexity without feeling either heavy or cumbersome and has enough structure to work with not-too-fatty meat dishes.  (BC Liquor Stores, Specialty Listing)

Quinta do Crasto 2009 ‘Crasto’ Douro, Portugal               $19.99

If you are looking for a powerful, structured red that matches perfectly with your braised lamb shanks or grilled strip-loins then go further! The high quality to price ratio of Crasto is not exactly a secret and this is a wine that gets positive reviews time & time again.  I think that this, the 2009 vintage, does however deserve special mention as it shows a concentration and fine balance I cannot remember tasting in Crasto before. This wine sees no wood and is all the more food friendly for it. (BC Liquor Stores)

Bodegas Artadi 2010 ‘Artazuri’ Navarra, Spain                  $20-23

I once cheekily suggested that drinking Grenache or Garnache was akin to being beaten over the head by a large muddy stick. After tasting Artazuri, I will happily retract that statement as this is as elegant and refreshing as any wine I’ve tasted recently. From low yielding vines grown at high elevation, Artazuri is beautifully aromatic with great purity of raspberry scented fruit underpinned by warm spice, minerality and fine structural elements. At home with pork n beans, pan roasted salmon or Rogan Josh. (Selected Private Stores)

Christophe Pacalet 2010 Beaujolais-Villages, France     $22.90

I feel that a wine like this should come probably come a the back label warning informing consumers about the impending palate confusion they are may be subject to upon tasting an old school,  light-bodied red like this! However, rest assured, you will be able to take it to your Gastown Sommelier chum’s house for dinner and instantly appear extremely cool. So, if wine is about context then the context here is beach, baguette and saucisson sec. Though equally some steak tartare or a pulled pork sandwich would work a treat. Gamay never tasted so good! (BC Liquor Stores, Specialty Listing)

Celler Acústic 2008 Montsant, Spain                                    $24.99

Top honours in my list this week go to Spain for this rich, spicy, complex red from the up and coming Montsant region located in Catalunya. If the mark of quality wine is its ability to express origin, then this wine has it in spades with one sip enough to transport you to the barren, rocky, schistous foothills of the Montsant mountains where these gnarly old vines grow. A blend of roughly 50:50 Cariñena grapes for structure and Garnacha grapes for flesh and given support by some top quality restrained French oak, this really is cracking stuff.  I like to drink it with Fleur de Sel and dried herb rubbed lamb chops, medium rare off the grill. (BC Liquor Stores, Specialty Listing)


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