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Tired of $10 wine? Here are four $20 reds worth the upgrade


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Welcome back. After a month-long respite from writing, I am back.

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February marks many types of returns. Those of you who took part in a Dry January could be parched. Others may have avoided liquor stores as the Christmas bills are paid off. But with the holidays behind us, it’s time to look forward to a year of vinous adventures.

One of the most important factors for many wine buyers is price. In 2019-20, the average price paid for a bottle of wine in Alberta was $10.31, according to Statistics Canada. There are certainly a lot of wines out there for $10 or less. Mainly jammy and mass-produced, these bargain wines deliver alcohol but not a ton of character.

If you are thinking about an upgrade, the difference between $10 wines and $20 bottles is a huge quality jump. That’s not saying every wine that sells for 20 bucks is spectacular, but you can find some very good bottles that show the character of the grape and the region they came from.

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Here are a few reds you should be able to purchase for $20 or less. Give them a try.

Gerard Bertrand

2020

Change Merlot

Pays d’Oc, France

Gerard Bertrand, a former top French rugby player, has built a bit of a wine empire in the south of France since taking over the family wine business in 1987 following the sudden death of his father.

Bertrand has purchased wineries throughout the large Languedoc region, in many cases raising the quality of the wines produced. His portfolio from 11 estates boasts a growing array of reds, whites and rosés, and many are organic or biodynamic.

The Change merlot, made from the broad Pays d’Oc region, is certified organic. It’s fruity and fresh, with flavours of red licorice, mocha, plum, vanilla, cherry and strawberry. It’s a very approachable crowd pleaser.

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Price: About $18. Stores that have featured it include Craft Cellars, Great Canadian Liquor in Cochrane, Quick Stop Liquor and Rocky Mountain Wine Spirits & Beer.

Drink: Now. Try it with pizza, roast ham or pork chops. Screwcap; 14 per cent alc./vol.

Masi

2020

Bonacosta

Valpolicella Classico, Italy

Since 1772, Masi has been producing wines in Italy’s Valpolicella region, north of Verona and east of Lake Garda.

The winery is probably best known for producing spectacular Amarones that can age for decades. Officially known as Amarone della Valpolicella, these wines are made from partially dried grapes, giving intense, ripe flavours and hefty alcohol levels around 15 per cent. The price is up there, too. The Masi Costasera Amarone starts around $50.

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The winery’s entry-level Valpolicella, though, sells for about $18. It’s made with the same native grapes as Amarone — corvina, rondinella, molinara — but the grapes aren’t dried. It’s a fresh, medium-bodied wine with lively fruit flavours of black cherry, black raspberry, violet and an intriguing menthol/dill note.

Price: About $18. It has wide distribution. Ask about it at your nearest liquor store.

Drink: Now. Pizza, spaghetti and meat sauce or risotto would pair well with this wine. Cork; 12 per cent alc./vol.

Famille Perrin

2019

Cotes du Rhone Reserve

Rhone Valley, France

The Perrin family makes some of the top wines in France’s Rhone Valley, particularly their Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Papes.

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But the family produces many styles of wine from areas across the valley that runs south to the Mediterranean Sea west of Marseille. Brother Marc Perrin even makes wine with Hollywood star Brad Pitt at Chateau de Miraval.

Made from an even split of Grenache and Mourvedre, plus 20 per cent Syrah, from vineyards in Prébois and Vinsobres, this red Cotes du Rhone blend is medium-full bodied, with dark ruby and purple colours and flavours of plum, blackberry, black cherry, violet, black raspberry, vanilla and black pepper.

It’s ripe, with a long finish and moderate tannins.

Price: About $18. It’s available at many larger retailers.

Drink: In the next two years. Enjoy it with grilled beef, bison or elk. Screwcap; 14.5 per cent alc./vol.

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Underraga

2018

Sibaris Gran Reserva Carmenere

Colchagua Valley, Chile

Chile and Argentina are great spots to find wines that deliver above their price points. With cheaper land and labour costs than most spots in Europe, South American wineries can make quality wine for less.

From the warm and dry Colchagua Valley, known for producing some of Chile’s top red wines, the Sibaris Carmenere offers trademark notes of mint and green pepper to go with cherry, raspberry, plum and vanilla flavours. It’s medium-bodied and dry, with the acid, tannin and fruit in balance.

Price: About $20. Look for it at Applewood Liquor Store, The Cellar, Craft Cellars, Kensington Wine Market, Safeway Liquor, Sobeys Liquor, Spirits of Kensington, Wine and Beyond at Deerfoot City and Zyn the Wine Market.

Drink: In the next couple of years. Grilled steak with chimichurri sauce or tomato braised chicken would be great matches. Cork; 14 per cent alc./vol.

Contact Darren Oleksyn at dm.oleksyn@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter or Instagram. Looking for a specific wine? Because wine inventories are always in flux, it’s a good idea to call a store to confirm they have it. A search on Liquorconnect.com can give you an idea of stores that have carried the wines.

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